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How to Talk to Children about War

It is impossible these days to completely avoid news about the war in Ukraine. Here are some ideas for how to best help children feel protected and safe during these times.

AGE 0-3

Of course, the best we can do is to avoid any television, radio, phones, and other electronic access to war news when the young child is present, to limit following the news of what going on in the world to times when we are alone. A child at this age is very tuned in to the words, actions, and even the emotions of us adults. We cannot, and should not, try to pretend that we are not upset, or way, when a child sees that we are upset, that everything is fine. Such a conflict between body language and facial expressions, and our actual words, is very confusing to the young child. When it is clear that we are upset, the best thing is to tell the child, “I am upset because I don’t like to see people fighting.” That is usually enough. The message is honest and clear, and the child will get the message and feel safe.

Then we can move on to what comes next in the day. Being free from war news in order to spend some of our time together, reading books, drawing pictures, setting the table, going for a walk, and looking at the leaves of the trees, feeding the cat—in essence, being in the present moment—is a gift to ourselves as much as to the child.

AGE 3-6

I would say that everything above applies to this age. The difference is that at this age the child is learning from the rest of the environment as well as from the adult.

If your child has been exposed to a world globe or puzzle maps that can present a concrete understanding of just where the present “fight” that they may have heard about is occurring. Being presented with a real activity, such as putting a world puzzle map together, offers the child a problem (how to get all the pieces in the right place) that can actually be solved.

Concentration on ANY appropriate activity involving the hand and mind working in coordination, such as real activities of daily life in the home or school, and having this concentration protected from interruption, is a healing for anyone. One of the best things we can do is to join our child in these activities, provide activities for our children, or value our own real work, even if it is just a little cooking or housework. An excellent way to stay in the moment and have a break from world events.

AGE 6-12

This is the age of an interest in fairness and justice. These children will be able to reach out into the world, look at maps, and see just where the war is. Montessori studies at this age is full of lessons about migrations, why people settle where they do, why people move, what happens when there is a flood or a drought for example, and populations need to migrate in order to find food. It does no good to divide people into “good” and “bad” persons, but rather to try to figure out why people act the way they do, what could possibly driver a person to violence, greed, anger, and so on.

It is also the time when children want to help, so finding a way to earn money and a place to send it can give these children a feeling of being helpful.

AGE 12-18

This person is not a child, but a young adult. The beginning years of this transition are very sensitive; there are hormonal and other physical changes; there is confusing about the future, person and of the world; there are questions about the meaning of life, and so on. More than even the 6-12 years, this person want and needs to be creative and effective in the world, to change things, to feel safe and believe in the future. It is well known that if this adolescent, ancient, human drive is not met with positive and constructive opportunities for changing things, the young adult might turn to a negative and destructive path.

A positive way to deal with war news, however, does not necessarily mean to do something to end the war in Ukraine, but to help someone in some way. When a young person begins to focus on helping others, and makes this a habit, this is a peace movement

For, as Mother Teresa said:

The way you heal the world is you start with your own family

“Love for Ukraine” Card

Last week-end one member of our family was in Kraków, Poland, preparing and serving food to Ukrainian refugees, and another is preparing to fly to the Ukrainian/Polish border to work a medical volunteer helping refugees.

It is difficult to know how to help, where to contribute, but here is one way. Because many people on social media were touched by “Love for Ukraine” (painting of a sunflower surrounded by international good wishes, the red in the center representing shared pain) we had it made into a 5″x7″ card. In March and April 20% of art sales of this card, and all my other art, will be donated to help the Ukraine situation.

Some of the projects are the Go Dharmic (Scotland) NGO our grandson is working with, projects to help Montessori teachers in training who are unable to travel to complete their studies, and others helping in creative ways. Ours is a small contribution compared to the need, but every little bit helps. If you would like to join us by purchasing cards with the above image on the front, to share with others:

CLICK HERE: ART for Ukraine