Guidance for Families to Discuss the Situation in Ukraine

Guidance for Families to Discuss the Situation in Ukraine
Posted on 03/03/2022
Guidance for Families to Discuss the Situation in Ukraine

Guidance for Families to Discuss the Situation in Ukraine

In the past week, we have seen a dramatic increase in violence in Ukraine. These events may be deeply upsetting for many students, families, and staff members, particularly those who may have loved ones affected. Our thoughts are with all of those impacted at this time.

We recognize that our community includes members who may be from the various countries involved in this conflict or individuals with lived experience with war or conflict elsewhere. At the OCDSB, our schools and virtual learning environments are places for students and staff to receive support, a calm environment and a connection to caring adults or peers. 

We have provided guidance to staff to help them navigate conversations that may arise in class about this conflict, in an age-appropriate manner, with compassion and care. As always, we remain committed to ensuring a sense of belonging for all of our students and valuing the dignity of all of our communities.  

How Parents/Guardians can approach these issues

Many parents and families may also be grappling with how to navigate these conversations with their children. The situation is currently prominent in the media and on social media, and the imagery is becoming increasingly graphic. It is important for families to connect with their children and listen to how they are understanding what is going on and consider the potential impact on their wellbeing.  

The OCDSB mental health team has compiled for you a few suggestions to keep in mind as you navigate these conversations with your child:

Take time to check in with your child.  

  • Find out what your child knows. Don’t be afraid to ask them what they may have heard. This allows them to lead the conversation, not you. 
  • Follow your child’s cues. Some may want to talk about it and others will not, either way is fine. Let them know you’re available if they have questions or want to talk. 
  • Take time to listen and hear their perspective. Simply talking and naming emotions can help to create a sense of relief and safety. 
  • When asked questions, be honest, simple and clear. It’s ok if you don’t know all of the answers, no one does.  
  • This conversation will look different at different ages so tailor your response to their developmental level and be mindful of providing too much information that may cause undue stress.  

Validate emotions and provide reassurance

  • There is no one way to feel so create space for all emotions. Provide reassurance and comfort to your child as well as opportunities to process how they are feeling without dismissing them.     
  • Recognize your child may express their emotions in different ways (ie.talking, drawing, play, etc).  
  • For younger children, it is essential to let them know that they are safe. Even for older children, exposure to social media can make it feel that it is happening in their own backyard.  
  • Reassure them that people all over the world are working to resolve this and this is not their problem to solve.  

Model calm and take care of yourself

  • Children are perceptive, they pick up on our stress and worries and will gauge how scary this situation is based on adult reactions.  
  • Reach out to your support systems so that you are able to model calm for your children even when talking about big and frightening events. 
  • Engage in practices aimed at managing your own stress responses. This will help you to be ready to engage in these conversations with your child. 

Limit exposure to news and social media

  • Be mindful of exposure to news and media and minimize what children overhear of adult conversations that they are not directly engaged in.  
  • Exposure to graphic and frightening images are difficult for anyone to process, but this may be particularly upsetting for children.  
  • Model healthy media intake and talk with your older children about where they are accessing information. Encourage them to seek information from reputable information sources while being mindful of the amount of time spent on social media and the potential impact.   

Encourage kindness and compassion towards others

  • Reinforce the importance of coming together as a community. We know that we have students, families and staff with varying backgrounds in our classrooms and communities. 
  • Talk with your child about the importance of kindness and care for one another.  
  • Share what others are doing around the world to support affected communities and discuss what they can do to make a difference.  

If you have questions or concerns about what is happening and how your child is managing, please reach out to your school for assistance. For further resource information, please click here to find community support available for you and your family.

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