- Partner in Parenting
As educators, parents, and care givers, having real conversations about local and global events provide an opportunity for us to partner and support the connection between home and school. In the classroom, we may talk to students about democracy, resiliency, and responsibility and provide context that allows them to work toward learning critical thinking and ethical decision-making. But at home, this may be a bigger challenge. How do we talk to our children about what is happening in the world?
The newsfeed format
The emotions and visual images of the crisis in Ukraine are extreme and quite different from how parents may have experienced conflict in the past.
The CNN era of 24-hour news has been replaced by citizen journalists and social media. In the 90s, we watched grainy footage of the Gulf War narrated by journalist Bernard Shaw. Today, we see the aftermath of a Russian missile attack shared on TikTok by a young Ukrainian citizen.
As we enter the third year of a global pandemic, emotions are already running high, and stress and uncertainty has become the norm. Our children have been asked to be resilient for a long time, and while we celebrate the moments of growth and gratitude, the reality is there are also moments of anger, disconnection, and confusion.
So what can we do to ease children’s minds, help them manage their stress, and feel confident in our discussions? Perkiomen’s leadership team recently held a “Partnering in Parenting” session where they shared the following tips for talking with your children about Ukraine, incorporating empathy, information, and sharing techniques.
Ask about empathy. Ask your children if they are familiar with the concept of empathy – the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of another -- and if they are open to experiencing another person’s point of view, rather than just one’s own. Remind them to always have empathy for the people involved and to differentiate the formal words of leaders from their actions, their values, and the human experience. No matter what happens, empathy is key to greater understanding.
Examine perspective. Events are often told from the perspective of leaders, but we know the real story is about the people, the citizens of each country, the troops, and their families. There will be economic ripples that will be felt around the world, lives and communities lost, and waves felt in other conflict areas that will impact people directly.
Seek several sources. Ask your children to gather information before creating an opinion. Information should be gathered from several sources, taken in, and then thought about.
Find answers together. If you don’t know an answer, be a guide to find an answer. Sometimes students ask questions that we just aren’t sure about, or they may have more information than we do! Find out the answer together.
Keep healthy boundaries. Remind your children that they may know Ukrainian community members – classmates, neighbors, or friends – and that while they should be supportive of that person and their experiences, they should not expect them to be an expert on the situation or expect that they want to discuss the situation regularly.
Be a listener. Ask your children to share what they are learning about at school or seeing on social media. Too much information often can produce anxiety and can affect students in ways we don’t even realize. Simply listening to their thoughts, opinions, and feelings can be helpful.
Offer ideas for sharing feelings. Journaling is a great resource. Putting their thoughts and feelings out of their heads and onto paper, can be a healthy release. There are even apps for this, like the 5 Minute Journal App, which kids can take with them anywhere, providing writing prompts, a mood tracker, and reminders.
Help them to name their feelings. Sometimes students can’t find the right words to describe how they are feeling. In her book Atlas of the Heart, researcher and author Dr. Brené Brown recalls a quote from the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein which reads, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” Her book is an excellent resource that breaks down and names more than 80 emotions and experiences, giving the reader the power of understanding, meaning, and choice. Reviewing a book like this together, can spark meaningful conversation and help kids understand themselves and their reactions.
Suggest performing a random act of kindness. Sometimes when students are feeling helpless, doing something kind for someone else may help them feel better. Spreading some joy into the world may replace some of the sorrow they are feeling.
This is a challenging time for both children and adults, however, with a plan for communicating at home, parents can feel more confident that their conversations will be more natural and productive.
Perkiomen School is a boarding and day school, for grades 6-12 and post-graduates, dedicated to fostering a diverse and talented student body. We challenge each other to work and rework in pursuit of excellence each day.
Our school affords the best of a liberal arts education while cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit in our students. We promote active inquiry and problem-solving, making education relevant and exportable to a future we cannot predict.
Perkiomen students embrace global citizenship. Our students join together from different countries, races, socio-economic backgrounds, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities, and world views to be the heart of campus life.
We embrace our motto of Solvitur vivendo - it is solved by living. We believe that experience is the best teacher and that the challenges of modern life are only solved through engaged and thoughtful living.