Ukraine-Russia crisis: Expert shares advice on calming children's worries over war

The worries of war can affect your child even if you don't constantly have news of Ukraine playing on your TV.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The images coming out of Ukraine can even be overwhelming to adults, so imagine how the situation in Ukraine affects children.

They are watching the war unfold in a way no generation ever has.

"What's different right now is the live, real-time unfolding," said Dr. Jessica Kendorski of the psychology department at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The worries can affect your child even if you don't constantly have news of Ukraine playing on your TV.

"Most of your school-aged kids are going to hear something," she said.

Whether it's getting bits and pieces or being bombarded by images of attacks in Ukraine, Kendorski says kids have questions and it's important how adults answer.

"You don't want to just come out and bombard kids with all of the information regarding the war," she said. "Start off slowly asking, 'What have you heard' and 'what questions do you have for me?'"

Kendorski says to focus on developmentally-appropriate answers and know that your child could be experiencing a lot of fear.

"Children are egocentric," Kendorski added. "They will look at these things that are happening in another country and say if it can happen there, it can happen here."

If your child expresses that fear or even if you suspect that they're afraid, Kendorski says it's important to be open.

"Acknowledge that fear in them," she said. "Also, explain your own anxiety and fearfulness."

Often Kendorski says children can sense fear and tension in adults, but without an explanation, they're left to their own imagination to figure out what's bothering the adult.

Both children and adults are witnessing the disturbing images of attacks in Ukraine as they happen on the news or on social media, where videos can pop up without warning.

"A child is scrolling through dances on TikTok and see live real footage of war that they're not expecting to see. They click on it, and they're bombarded with more posts," Kendorski said.

She suggests limiting children's social media exposure when it comes to videos on the war. But Kendorski also believes parents should take advantage of social media to provide comfort to kids.

"Finding the good news, asking what they saw that was good," she said.

Parents can turn that good news into empowerment by linking to local groups that are trying to help people in Ukraine.

Those types of efforts could help children not feel so helpless in the face of war.

"That will help them feel safe and as if there is some predictability," added Kendorski.

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