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How to support your child during the Ukraine crisis

Young people especially are feeling frightened as they deal with the possibility of war and nuclear threat following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We speak to Alicia Drummond, our in-house mental health expert and founder of Teen Tips and The Wellbeing Hub, for some advice on what you can do to help children and young people manage their anxiety levels during these worrying times.

The trouble with uncertainty is that it fuels the hypothetical “what if” thinking that feeds anxiety, and can leave us feeling hopeless and helpless. We can offer reassurance to our kids; we can remind them that every country in the world is working to prevent the escalation of the problem, but we can’t give them absolute assurance that things won’t get worse.

What we can do, is:

  • Listen carefully and show empathy which will help them feel connected, understood, and soothed
  • Encourage them to limit their consumption of news – doom scrolling through social media newsfeeds can contribute to feelings of anxiety. Be aware that your children will be absorbing the news if you have the TV on as a background to family life

Answer their questions truthfully but keep conversations brief – don’t ignore the subject, but try not to dwell on it either. Keep your answers age appropriate. Younger children may just need to know that countries fight from time to time. Older children will need more detail, but stick to known facts from reputable sources

  • Remind them that whilst we can’t always choose what happens, we can choose how we respond. For example, if they get caught up in anxious thoughts, encourage them to stop, breathe and focus on what is happening right now – what can you see, hear, smell, or touch around you?
  • Give younger children something that reminds them of you which they can pop in their pocket and hold on to when they feel frightened. A snippet of your clothing which smells of you, a stone or shell you found together, or a photograph of a happy family moment can all help to make them feel safe if you are not around for a hug
  • Encourage older children to find an anchor and a mantra. The anchor needs to be something they always wear such as a watch or piece of jewellery and the mantra needs to be one they chose, for example, “this feeling will pass” or “right now I am safe”. When they feel anxious, they can touch the anchor and repeat the mantra to remind themselves that this a temporary feeling
  • Encourage them to do things that make them feel calm, like exercising, playing music, creating dance videos on TikTok, cooking, or reading, as these boost production of our happy hormones, serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine

Remember that you are your child’s primary role model and they will follow your lead. If you are calm and positive you will help them stay calm and positive too. They should be allowed to feel their feelings if they are to learn to manage them

  • Remember that whilst we are all designed to cope with significant stress, we all have a breaking point. If you feel that you, or another member of your family is not coping, please don’t be afraid to seek professional help

Even though we all feel a little helpless, we all want to know what we can do to help. We know that many schools are doing their bit, but here’s how you can help, too! At this stage, the best thing to do is to make cash donation.

Here’s a few examples of charities that you can donate to:

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