Doctors break down how to talk to children about the conflict in Ukraine

Pediatric psychologists say open up a dialogue, find reputable internet sources

ORLANDO, Fla. – The world has witnessed this past week the conflict happening in Ukraine which may cause children to worry and need an adult to help make sense of what’s happening. For some children in today’s generation, it’s probably the first time they are seeing a crisis like the one unfolding between Russian forces and Ukraine’s military.

“When you’re talking to children about world events, whether it’s a shooting somewhere at a school or whether it’s a war, (it’s important) to make sure that you start by asking them what they have already heard,” said Dr. Michael Westerveld, director of the neuropsychology program at Advent Health in Orlando. “This way you can get a couple of things. One you can find out if they’ve been given misinformation but also if you let them start, it gives you an idea about how they’re feeling it.”

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Among the many questions children have is, “Will that conflict happening more than 5,700 miles away hit home?”

“You can emphasize the difference between where this conflict is happening both culturally and politically and that’s easier to do for, you know, middle school and high school kids,” Westerveld said. “And for younger kids, you just let them know, it is very far away and it’s scary but we have a lot of protection, a lot of people that are in the military whose job it is to make us be safe and secure.”

According to Monica Barreto, a pediatric psychologist for Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital, searching with your child for reputable sources online is also helpful.

“This can be a perfect opportunity to teach our children and teens how to search through everything that’s on the internet to really see what is some valid information and what may be kind of changing as it rotates through social platforms,” Barreto said.

Barreto added that when kids are exposed to these violent events, parents should look out for changes in their sleep patterns and behavior.

“If they’re becoming more irritable, more isolated, even if they don’t want to talk about it in detail, just letting them know as parents, this has been going on you may have been hearing this at school or in the news, and I’m here to listen,” Barreto said.

For more information on how to talk to children about conflicts and world events, click here.

To find resources and ways to help or donate to people in Ukraine, visit Care.org or Project C.U.R.E.


About the Author:

Carolina Cardona highlights all Central Florida has to offer in her stories on News 6 at Nine. She joined News 6 in June 2018 from the Telemundo station in Philadelphia.