There is no ‘one way’ approach, as all children are different, but it is important that the subject is approached with sensitivity and with understanding of what children need to know, weighed against what they are hearing from other sources.
News like this can be scary to children if not handled in the right way, and it will be different for different ages.
Children are always watching and learning from their parents and if you are displaying anxiety about the situation, it will make your child feel anxious too. Parents are children’s ‘safe space’, they need to feel reassured.
Children of all ages will also feel more worried when they think that no one is willing to talk about things that are worrying to them – they will think that it is too scary or upsetting to talk about, which then adds to their worries.
I think it is unlikely for this age group to properly pick up on what is going on but, if they do overhear your conversations or see the news and ask questions, it is important to make sure they know they are safe and that what is happening is not in our country – perhaps showing them on a map or globe, so they can grasp the distance. This will be the thing that they are most worried about. If you are talking about planes dropping bombs, for instance, they may worry that the planes going over their house will drop bombs, so understanding that it isn’t happening here is helpful.
Kids of this age don’t need to be burdened with news that they are unable to understand, so if they don’t mention it, don’t bring it up. Let them be blissfully unaware.
Tweens are at an impressionable age and are more aware of the world around them. They will have learned about war and conflict in history lessons at school, and so they will have preconceived ideas of what it is all about.
Their minds could wonder, and they could make scenarios up in their heads as to what could or could not happen, so it is important to reassure them that they are safe and not to overload them with information. Keep it appropriate to their level of understanding and to what they can cope with, as all children have differing thresholds.
Newsround is a brilliant programme for children age 6-12 which explains things in an appropriate way, so if you are worried how to go about things, watch it with your child and then have a discussion about what you have watched.
Ask them what they already know and then give them lots of reassurance if they are worried, and let them know that you are there to talk through things. I think it is important that they know that what they are seeing on social media, won’t all be accurate and suggest that they watch the news or read reliable news sources online, instead.