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“My fear is to communicate my anxiety to him”: how to talk to children about the war in Ukraine



Elias, 10, plays with the innocence of children his age, but as soon as he hears the words “war in Ukraine”, his face darkens. “ I would like Ukrainians to get away with it, but my mother told me that Putin would not reconsider his decisionhe says. It worries me a little, because the Russians may be going to bomb us one day. Fortunately, we know that we can take refuge in the metro”.

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At his side, Catia, his mother, gazes at him but recognizes that she does not seek to preserve him from the news. “We tell him things in a very factual way because it’s a conflict that is not far from home, but we don’t overexpose it either. At home, we don’t watch TV, we only listen to the radio and if he thinks it’s too anxiety-provoking, we turn it off. »

Talk about it as a child

Diana, mother of a 7 year old girl and a 4 year old boy, does not even listen to the radio in the presence of her children. She prefers to talk to her daughter about the conflict with resources she finds herself. “I try to explain to him what is happening and answer his questions with documents and a map of the world, testifies the young woman. My fear is to communicate my anxiety to him. I was born in Romania where we experienced the Ceausescu regime and the fight for freedom, so I am very touched by what is happening in Ukraine. » If Diana manages to ” to master “ when she does pedagogy, she admits that it is less easy when she discusses with her husband.

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Wanting to preserve children at all costs is not the right solution, according to child psychiatrist Marie-Rose Moro (1). ” They are going to hear about this war, in one way or another, and form a more or less fair representation of it, which risks worrying them because the conflict is in Europe and could affect us. It is therefore important to talk to them about it from a child’s perspective, without being alarmist or falsely reassuring.”she advises.

Sometimes they imagine things worse than reality

With children under three years old, “very sensitive to intraverbal language”it’s necessary “putting parents’ concerns into words” and, later, at kindergarten age, to give them vocabularyto help them express their feelings. continues the child psychiatrist. ” Sometimes they imagine things worse than reality. A young boy told me that the Ukrainian babies were “starved and that the Russians had already used the nuclear weapon which was going to affect everyone and make ice cream”, she says. Parents need to talk about it with children and even look at pictures, interpreting them, so that they can tell a true story, but not worse than war. »

From the age of six, children have more vocabularies and representations, but it is necessary “ensure the intensity of the information that reaches them”. The TV on a continuous news channel is not “not a good idea” according to Marie-Rose Moro, who suggests that parents “save time when they are not too worried to answer their questions and inform them”. If the anxiety is difficult to control, it is better to let it express itself than to pretend, she recommends. “What will reassure the children is the sharing of information and the authenticity of the exchanges with the parents”.

Use “adult words”

At Frédérique, father of two boys aged 6 and 13, the subject is discussed in the evening, in front of the television news. “We take this opportunity to answer their questions, especially those of the grown-up, who understands this news rather well. We pay attention to the images and we try to play it down, but we prefer that they know about it rather than telling them that nothing is happening. »

Teenagers feel particularly concerned by these events because “It’s about values ​​and justice”, recalls Marie-Rose Moro, also director of the Maison de Solenn. With them, it is necessary to use “adult words” and engage a “reflection on war” because they have things to say. The child psychiatrist even estimates that they are sometimes “better informed than adults”thanks in particular to the social networks on which they follow young Ukrainians who testify to their daily lives in videos.

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