How to talk to your kids about
conflict and emergencies
How to talk to your kids about conflict and emergencies
Right now there are many crises across the globe which are affecting tamariki and rangatahi in unimaginable ways.
As much as parents want to protect their kids from the news cycle, it is inevitable that they will find out about conflict and emergencies.
UNICEF’s years of experience providing counselling and emotional support to tamariki and their families impacted by disasters and humanitarian crises shows us time and again that tamariki and rangatahi respond differently to adults.
Even if not directly, many parents are absorbing the news which can affect their own emotional and mental health - something that the little people in our lives are well attuned to, no matter how much parents try to push it aside.
Whether your young person has been directly or indirectly affected, the below tools and strategies on how to talk to your kids about crisis will help you navigate this time with patience, understanding and empathy.
FOCUS ON YOUR CHILD
Find out where they are at and how much they know. Most importantly acknowledge how they may be feeling. If they don’t want to talk, reassure them that that’s ok too. Offer them support and assurance that when they are ready, you and any trusted adults (relatives and teachers) are there for them and will answer any questions they have as best as you can.
BE HONEST WITHOUT CAUSING DISTRESS
Tamariki have the right to factual information to help them understand what is happening. But parents have a responsibility to not cause distress. Communication of info should be age-appropriate. Hold space for their questions and if you don’t have the answers, it’s perfectly ok to admit that you don’t know. Be mindful of their reactions and body language.
OFFER REASSURANCE AND CONNECTION
Remind them that you and the other adults in their lives will keep them safe. Put some time aside to spend with your tamariki doing something they love. Connection through play or activities is a great way for young kids to process feelings of anxiety and worry.
For kids whose families are impacted by conflict whether immediate or secondary because of extended whānau or communities, instilling normalcy and routine is important. Encourage them to continue with their learning and play activities as much as possible.
SEEKING PROFESSIONAL HELP IS NOT JUST OK, BUT NECESSARY
If you feel your kid is not coping, it’s in their and your best interest to seek professional help. Contact your local GP to get a referral for a mental health professional who specialises in helping children. Reassure them that you will be with them every step of the way.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
Just as you show your kids compassion and empathy, it’s in everyone’s best interest for you do the same for yourself. If you are struggling emotionally and mentally reach out to loved ones or professionals for extra support.
SHOW THEM ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE WHO ARE HELPING
Positive stories of those helping the victims of conflict are very impactful. Whether it’s first responders, community leaders or everyday people in your community. Sharing acts of bravery, kindness and compassion from everyday people is comforting for kids. Getting involved in local support efforts also sets a great example for tamariki.