How to talk to your child in tough times – Mental Health Minute

The world’s news has been difficult for adults to understand and even more challenging for parents and guardians to explain to children. The latest news regarding the military invasion of Ukraine makes the questions and the answers even more complex.

Reaction to tragic events will vary significantly from person to person. One child in the same family may not register the events. In contrast, others may suffer from everything from anxiety to anger.

Common reactions to tragic events such as what we are experiencing can include sadness, anxiety, fatigue, lack of focus, anger or irritability, social distancing, physical complaints, absenteeism, troubles with re-engagement, etc.

What you can do to help

Our jobs as adults are to let children and youth talk through their feelings, reassure them they are safe and protected and help them gain perspective. We need to remain calm and available and seek support if necessary.

Tips to help younger children 

  • Repeated exposure to media coverage can confuse children and further exaggerate the event, so do your best to reduce their exposure to coverage of the event.
  • Avoid discussing the details of the tragedy with other adults or listening to/watching media reports when children are present. 
  • Younger children cannot process the complexities of violence (i.e., the situation in Ukraine) in the same way as adolescents and young adults. They often gauge how threatening an event is by adult reactions (i.e., if caregivers act frightened, young children will view it as scary and frightening). More specifically, Junior students might attempt to question a teacher and ask, is this the beginning of a third world war? 
  • An appropriate response would be to validate your child’s feelings and let them know that there are things far away from Canada that we can’t control. 

Tips to help all children and youth

  • Encourage limits on our students’ exposure to social media and minimize over-exposure to other media details on news sources occurring in Ukraine regarding the disruptions occurring in a conflict zone (i.e., Ukraine or any other area).
  • Focus on positive mental health and well-being avenue to all take together (i.e., families, students and staff) through these more challenging times.

5 things you can do to take care of yourself

Take care of yourself – so you will have the energy to be there for your children. Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. Recognizing grief reactions can last a while, especially when violent events persist, such as we are witnessing in Europe. Here are five practical things you can to do care for yourself:

  1. Take the opportunity to process the situation and your feelings with your friends, family and colleagues.
  2. Keep regular schedules and routines.
  3. Remember to eat well, sleep, play, and exercise.
  4. Practice positive ways of coping with sadness, fear, anger, and worry.
  5. Ask for help. You don’t have to face this experience alone. 

Helpful resources

Community resources and supports 

For services and support available to help, please reach out to the following community resources or contact your school administrator.

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