1. Let kids lead the way. Don’t push to talk about it. If kids are curious, they’ll bring up the topic. If they’re not, that’s OK too.
2. Reflect, don’t react, by actively listening. Active listening, using eye contact, facing your body toward them, and using verbal acceptance, such as “yes” or “I see” or simply “Mmm,” helps children and teens feel safe and heard by important, trusted adults.
3. To lower anxiety, connect, don’t object. In being available for your kids when they have questions, they feel reassured they can talk to you and, therefore, safe. Don’t tell them not to worry. Instead, normalize their worries so they know it’s natural. In feeling safe to express curiosity, children won’t shut down and withdraw. Just like talking about healthy sexuality, if we can talk about sex and sexual development, we can talk about anything, including war.
4. Don’t fret if you don’t know the answer. If you don’t know the answer to their questions, excellent modeling is to let them know you’ll look into it and get back to them. If developmentally appropriate or age appropriate, you may also offer to look into answers together.
5. Offer concrete options for what they can do to feel better. Offer ways to cope with worry, such as organizing donations or writing letters of support to soldiers or those who are suffering.
6. Support their desire to care for others along with an emphasis on self-care. (It’s the oxygen mask on the airplane). Let them know it’s just as important to help others as it is to self-care. Run around outside, play games, play music and take breaks. Taking breaks helps both kids and adults be more creative and imaginative for improved problem-solving and overall quality of life.
7. Monitor TV and news sources in small doses. Too much negative news raises anxiety and makes it harder to feel mentally healthy.
8. Resilience and remembering: Children are resilient, so as a parent, remember to take care of yourself and your significant other relationship first. It lowers kids’ anxieties because then they don’t have to take care of you. Kids learn so much from watching the trusted adults in their lives.