If you’ve been feeling anxious, worried, stressed or upset about the war in Ukraine, chances are your students are too. Like many of us, kids may be struggling to make sense of what they are hearing from peers and what they are seeing on television and social media.
Caregivers and educators play a key role in helping students navigate and cope through events such as war and civil unrest. Below you’ll find some key considerations and guidance to keep in mind, followed by resources from our partners at the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and a few more resources from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN).
- Like school safety education, keep explanations developmentally appropriate. Individual levels may vary due to unique developmental, cultural, educational, and psychological factors.
- Keep in mind that some students and their families may be more vulnerable. These groups include those with connections to Ukraine, those that are refugees or have experienced violent conflict/war, those who have a loved one in the military, those that have experienced traumatic events or loss, and those with a preexisting mental health condition.
- Consider how media exposure can affect mental health. War coverage and its aftermath can be upsetting and graphic, and can trigger feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. Consider limiting media exposure, discussing healthy social media habits, and providing opportunities to discuss media coverage if appropriate.
- Provide reassurance, support, and reaffirm safety to help foster resilience. Begin by clearing up any misconceptions and misunderstandings. Remember to be patient and empathetic. It is critical that students are provided with a safe space for discussion as well tools and services to support social connectedness and resilience.
- Practice self-care and be kind to yourself. Modeling self-care and optimism can play a significant role in a child’s wellbeing. Unfortunately, sometimes we forget to acknowledge and address our own needs. This can lead to stress and burnout. Adults are encouraged to seek support services and take care of their physical and mental health so they’re better equipped to support the students they care for.
As you navigate this ongoing crisis and continue to monitor student reactions and behavior, don’t forget to keep the lines of communication open between home and school so students are better served and supported.
Resources by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)
- Supporting Youth Affected by the War in Ukraine: Tips for Caregivers and Educators
- Care for Caregiver: Tips for Families and Educators
- Promoting Compassion and Acceptance in Crisis
- Responding to Civil Unrest in Schools: Prevention to Response
- Addressing Grief: Brief Facts and Tips
- Supporting Children’s Mental Health: Tips for Parents and Educators
- Anxiety: Helping Handout for School and Home
- Supporting Vulnerable Students in Stressful Times: Tips for Parents
Resources by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NSTSN)
- Talking to Children About War
- Age-Related Reactions to a Traumatic Events
- Assisting Parents/Caregivers in Coping with Collective Traumas
Sources: National Association of School Psychologist (NASP), National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), How to Cope with Election Stress, Dr. Scott Poland, Helping Kids Through Tough Times: 7 Simple Steps, Dr. Stephen Sroka