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Whether through social media, television news or conversations in school or with friends, your kids are likely hearing about the Russia-Ukraine crisis and Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. It’s natural that children and teenagers are growing increasingly worried about the conflict, what it means for kids and families in Ukraine and how it will impact the rest of the world.

Because of social media platforms like Tik Tok, kids are hearing about Ukrainian students their age learning about the importance of bulletproof vests, helmets and evacuation drills. Seeing such scary news unfold is bound to increase fears about widespread conflict. How can parents explain the news in an honest way without scaring their kids?

Answer Questions Honestly and Calmly
We asked Andrea Barbalich, editor-in-chief of The Week Junior US, a weekly news magazine for kids ages 8-14, how best to explain the news to our kids. “Children count on adults to help them make sense of world events and feel safe when the events are frightening,” Barbalich told New Jersey Family, adding that it’s understandable that they would worry and ask questions about Ukraine given the widespread media coverage. The news magazine for children ran a story explaining the conflict to kids in its latest issue en route to subscribers. You can read the story here. “It’s important for parents to answer questions honestly and calmly, without providing more detail than is appropriate for their maturity level.”

Barbalich suggests starting a conversation with your kids by looking at a map together and showing them where Russia and Ukraine are. “Tell them the truth—that Russia made a decision to send military troops into Ukraine, which is an independent, democratic nation and not part of Russia,” she says. “Many countries around the world, including the United States, do not support this action. They worked together to prevent it, and they are now taking steps to stop the conflict. There is an organization called NATO that works to protect countries in Europe, and they are also trying to stop the fighting.”

Ask Your Kids What They Know
She also suggests making the conversation two-way by asking kids what they know. “Giving them a chance to share their thoughts helps them feel empowered and letting them know you are there to listen is reassuring,” she says. “If they are worried about something that is inaccurate, you’ll have a chance to correct it.”

The news is changing rapidly and there is much uncertainty following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It’s important for parents to follow the news themselves so they can answer their children’s questions. But it’s also okay to say we don’t know all the answers now, but we may know more later this week or next, Barbalich says.

Use the News as a Teachable Moment
“You can also use the discussion as an opportunity to reinforce your family’s values. You can say you are concerned for the Ukrainian people and any members of the military who are involved, for example, or that you hope for peace,” she says. “Above all, children want to feel safe. Reassure them that thousands of experts around the world are working together to end the fighting and to keep everyone in the United States safe. Your family is together and strong.”