Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine is making many Canadians feel uncomfortable, but the country’s youngest are also feeling that unease.
Amy Van Vliet, principal of Wheatland Elementary School explained that it can be tough to talk to the youngest members of the community about current political climates.
“I'm not sure that bringing up the topic directly with very young children who don't have questions about the conflict is the best idea but if you do have young children come to you with a question, it can be appropriate to discuss their questions.”
She recommends sticking to the basics with young children. She calls this tactic “naming it to tame it,”
“You can ensure them there are countries around the world that are working together to achieve peace for the Ukrainian people. Having a caring, supportive conversation provides parents with the opportunity to help their children make sense of how they might be feeling and to provide reassurance.”
Van Vliet explained that there are going to be questions asked from children due to the saturation of the situation in the media.
“Starting by stating the simple facts when trying to address complex situations, so for example, Russian troops have invaded Ukraine. Explain to them that the word invaded means entered or attacked with its military. The Russian leader is President Vladimir Putin and most people believe that President Putin is invading Ukraine to help make Russia more powerful.”
“You can explain to them that there is a group called NATO that includes Canada who is against Russia’s actions towards Ukraine and they are working together to restore peace.”
She explained that older students may be more interested in the why of the situation and suggests talking about imposed sanctions and other ways countries are working together to solve the conflict in Ukraine.
“One way parents can help their children with this information is they can help guide their exposure to the information on the traditional news, TV, and radio, as well as on social media platforms. Less is more in many of these complex political worlds. It's important to watch out for misinformation, like fake news or lies. It's important to avoid sharing news unless you know it's from a credible source.”
Van Vliet said that situations of political issues are a great example that not everything seen on TV is true. She urges all caregivers to help their children understand this.
“I would tell children that this news might be upsetting and if you're worried about how it makes you feel, discuss it with an adult you trust.”
The principal advised that if parents are having trouble talking to their children about the situation to reach out to their children’s school and teachers for more support on the situation.