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How to talk to children about the conflict in Ukraine

The images of the rapidly unfolding events in Ukraine as Russian forces invade are hard to avoid, and it’s important for parents to check in with their children to make sure that they are not anxious.

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Checking in with a child is important no matter what age they are, but the conversations can be brief. “For children under the age of 7, it might just be acknowledging that something is happening between Ukraine and Russia and ask, ‘Have you heard anything?’ Take the child’s lead,” clinical psychologist Janine Domingues told The Associated Press.

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The American Psychological Association suggests caregivers plan out what they want to say in advance, practicing in front of a mirror or with another adult. The APA also said it’s okay to share your feelings with your child, saying, “They see you are human. They also get a chance to see that even though upset, you can pull yourself together and continue on. Parents hear it often: Be a role model. This applies to emotions, too.”

Honesty is very important, no matter what age the child is, the APA said. While that means laying out facts, that doesn’t mean graphic details need to be included.

“They know things are troubled. They know things are problematic. They may ask you if you’re worried. Kids of all ages may ask if you’re worried. And frankly, you’ve got to be honest. You can say, ‘Yes, I am, but we can manage this. We can get through this.’ I would indulge them a little bit,” Dr. Gene Beresin, the executive director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital, told The AP.

Dr. Meg Meeker, a pediatrician and author of the Parenting Great Kids series, told Fox News, “Many parents fall into the trap of overspeaking, of giving too much information that kids can’t handle or understand.”

Even though the fighting is many miles away from the U.S., television coverage and social media can make it seem far closer for children, so some parenting experts, including the APA, recommend making sure to take a break from watching coverage on television or screens, The AP reported.

Dr. Nick Hatzsis, the medical director of child and adolescent programs for the Compass Health Center in Chicago, told The AP the most important thing for parents to do is to “create a space that allows for listening.”

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