How to talk to children about the Ukrainian conflict

Total war, military invasion, nuclear threat … A few days ago, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine broke out at the European Gate. Faced with such anxiety-causing situations, asked teachers and pediatric psychiatrists how to grow the subject at the youngest age without astonishing them.

Questions have been circulated in the classroom since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began. “This morning, a student asked me,’Sir, is this World War III?’,” He confesses to Yann Latour, a teacher at the Jean-Mace School in Clermont-Ferrand (Puy de Dome).

Citizenship bombing, army advancement, total war or nuclear war threats: If some of them can move this subject away, this tension context can create concern or even real anxiety for others. I have. Yann Latour had the habit of discussing current issues with classes aged 9-10 and was preparing to answer them.

“In the face of their concerns, I tried to downplay the situation while keeping my remarks relatively neutral, but the situation because they need to be aware that something is really happening. Did not minimize, “explains this teacher at the Auvergne school.

“This problem is almost inevitable,” confirms Cindy Simonin, a CM2 class teacher at Notre Dame Dubon Conceal School in Amiens (Somme). “When I arrived at school.” I feel I need to talk about it, even if the reaction is different. Some people are really worried when others bring it into the game. “

Ask them what they understood about the situation

“On the other hand, there are people who have difficulty distinguishing between fiction and reality. Remember that these are images of reality and real people like them,” she continues. “The fact that the images are from television makes it difficult to distinguish the difference from the movie they were watching 15 minutes ago, and to imagine that it could be a reality. . “

“And there are others who are more worried, wondering about the potential impact this has on their daily lives. What if it was me? We have to go to war, right? Is our father our big man? Do our brothers have to go to Ukraine? From what age? “

“Climate is very disturbing because it has a close impact on France,” says Caroline Tual, an intern in child and adolescent psychiatry at the Public Mental Health Facility (EPSM) in Somme. According to her, this is why it is necessary to “ensure that children have the right information.”

For example, in her class, Cindy Simonin was able to observe that “her students had very different levels of information at home.” I was barely listening … “

According to Caroline Tual, the best thing to do in this case is to “get the children to ask their own questions” and “ask the children what they understand from the situation and bounce back.” To be able to do it. “

“You may find that there is a world between what they understand and reality. This can lead to situations where students repeat false or exaggerated information to their classmates, which is in the playground. Causes a panic. “And” if they are misunderstanding “, you” avoid rushing to them and within their reach, what they say is wrong or keeps water I have to try to explain in simple words what I haven’t done. “

Peace of mind without minimizing

This is exactly what was chosen by Emily Martin, a CM1 class teacher at Amiens Elementary School. She said, “When I raised the issue on Monday, I tried subtle nuances to reassure them, but it wasn’t easy.”

“There was a map of Europe in the class, and a few people began to imagine World War III and counted the number of countries that separated France and Russia,” she says. “So I tried to shorten it and reassure them to tell them that we weren’t there.”

“This problem is subtle because we are facing an event of a certain scale. Europe has never experienced such a level of political tension in decades,” Bron’s child said. Dr. Sophie Laub, a psychiatrist, emphasizes. So, for example, you need to pay attention to “reassuring children and capturing danger in perspective” by reminding them of “geographical distance” from the war zone.

In short, she summarizes, adults “relieve, but above all you need to have a real tone. Parents, or at least adults, are convinced of what he is saying. Is important. In front of children. “

Caroline Tual tends to think that if you need to keep your kids away from the most eccentric speculations and, of course, avoid catastrophic scenarios, “you should suppress difficult information and save them, but it’s actually bad. It’s an idea. ” She “can, if necessary, bring in subjects through mediation such as games, books, cartoons, pictures, etc., to support discussions about their emotions and encourage them to try to put their emotions into words. “

Match your words to the age of your child

An idea shared by Dr. Thierry Delcourt, a pediatric psychiatrist at Reims. According to him, one of the mistakes was not answering their question, hiding things from them, or answering “it’s not their age”. He advises his parents and teachers to “adapt their speech to the age of the child in front of them.” According to him, “We can start working on the problem in the’era of reason’, about seven years old.” Anyway, he recalls, “Children of this generation have just escaped from the pandemic and are accustomed to the bad news.”

Finally, getting the key to understanding what is in the hands of children can be a wise way to “alleviate their anxiety.” Small everyday.. The newspaper will publish a four-page special file on the war in Ukraine this Tuesday.

“Our readers are 6 to 10 years old,” explains Pauline Leroy on “Therefore, they do not have enough historical and geographical background to know what is happening, so in writing this issue we will get a rough overview of this conflict. I tried to provide a simple and visual tool to help you. “

This special issue shows that the Deputy Editor-in-Chief has made available the “Dictionary Section Explaining Conflict Keywords and Concepts, such as NATO, National Independence, and General Mobilization.” “And we also made a lot of bets on the map to visualize where Ukraine and Russia are in relation to France, Europe and the world,” she continues.

“We put ourselves at the heights of our children,” rather than “painting the news pink,” concludes journalists who recognize the problem as “more dense and difficult than usual.” .. Therefore, she recommends that her parents “accompany the children’s reading” and “adapt the speech according to the child’s personality.”

Jeanne Brandt BFMTV journalist