After two long years, it's hard to believe that we are still in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Anxiety and stress levels are still rising and now add the recent, devastating Russian assault on Ukraine. It’s difficult enough for adult to make sense of the Russian-Ukraine war, so just imagine a child trying to understand.
So how can we help our kids try to make sense of the world today and deal with their anxiety and emotions. According to health professionals who have given past talks about kids and their emotions for Markham Public Library, there are some few different ways that we can help our kids when they are faced with stressful situations:
1. Ask questions and encourage conversation:
More than likely your child has been exposed to information about the war through school and friends, through social media and on tv and asking them open ended questions can create a safe space that encourages kids to ask questions and have conversations. Encouraging your child to ask questions can help parents gauge just how much or how little their child's understanding of the war is and sometimes just by listening to your child and giving them the opportunity to tell you what is concerning them can help them feel better.
2. Help them to find the positives:
Encourage kids to share their feelings and talk about the good things that other countries, including Canada, are doing to help - from gatherings of support to efforts to send help of all kinds, there are many stories that can be shared.
3. Validate and Normalize their Feelings:
Some kids may not even realize they are feeling anxious or stressed, but tummy aches, headaches, changes in sleeping or eating habits are all warning signs. If you are feel that your child may be getting stressed, ask them to tell you how they feel and ask whether they know why they may be feeling that way. If you child is beginning to worry about similar situations happening closer to home, help them to reframe their negative thoughts into positive ones. Telling kids that the war is far away or “you have no reason to worry” can make kids feel like their feelings don't matter and may potentially shut down future lines of communication.
Markham Public Library has many books that can help a parent help a young child deal with their worries about the war and about their worries in general. Here's a list that may help.
These picture books will help kids understand and manage worry, stress and anxiety in words they can relate to.