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Helping Children Process the Conflict in Ukraine

How can we help children process today’s headlines about war and conflict? These five simple tips will guide you as you help and comfort children.

As news of the Russia-Ukraine war intensifies, children are paying attention. They’re listening to the news, noticing the images on your screens, and overhearing conversations and comments. Even when far removed from the crisis, kids today are encountering the conflict at school, on the playground, and as they scroll through social media (or watch you scroll away). As trusted grown-ups in their lives, we need to help children process, understand, and find hope.

So, together, let’s take a deep breath, and ask the Holy Spirit to bring peace to our troubled hearts and minds. This will prepare us to help and comfort kids in these hard times.

God is with us. Though terrible, this is not an unprecedented catastrophe. Throughout the Bible and human history, God has always loved his people through the most difficult times. His faithful love endures forever (Psalm 136).

So let’s allow God’s love to guide our conversations and consider how to help and comfort the kids in our care.

First, let’s PREPARE.

We don’t need to be experts on foreign affairs, but we do need to be aware of what’s going on. That way, we’re able stay calm and correct misinformation.

Rather than social media, it’s best to rely on seasoned journalists and reputable relief organizations for real-time information. For example, World Vision has put together some helpful information about the impact of the conflict on children and families. Click here to read the facts they’ve collected about the Ukraine crisis along with frequently asked questions.

Next, let’s ASK.

Ask simple questions to gauge kids’ age-specific understanding of what’s going on. Open-ended questions help create space for kids to share what’s on their minds, so you know how to help and comfort them. For example:

  • What have you heard about what’s happening?
  • Where have you heard these things?
  • What questions do you have?

Then, let’s help and COMFORT.

There is much we don’t understand, and yet truth remains. Share those facts in simple, kid-friendly language. You don’t need to be an expert, just reassure children with truth about God and the situation at hand. For example:

  • It’s true that people are fighting.
  • It’s happening far away.
  • You are safe.
  • I am with you.
  • God is with us.
  • And God is with kids and families everywhere.
  • God is in charge.
  • And God is stronger than anything.

The Bible offers help and comfort, too. So let’s point children to truth from the Bible to help us navigate feelings, find peace, and pray for people in need. For example:

  • “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7).
  • “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7).
  • “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” (Romans 8:26-27).

Next, let’s PRAY.

Together, talk with God about it. Perhaps you’ve seen a prayer shared online that you could read together. For example, the Archbishop of Canterbury shared this prayer for peace and justice. Or offer a simple prayer from the heart. For example, you could pray something like:

“Dear Jesus, we need you. Please bring peace to this scary time. Help the fighting to stop, and love to win. Comfort people who are sad and scared today. Thank you for your presence with us right now and thank you that you are with people everywhere. In your name, amen.”

Finally, let’s PLAY.

Play? Yes, play. Play does not trivialize the situation or distract from what really matters. Rather, it gives children a much-needed way to de-stress and cope with difficult circumstances.

So pull out a board game. Go swing on the swing set. Kick a soccer ball around. You may find that kids want to talk some more as they continue to process feelings and information. Or you’ll find they’re ready move onto other subjects and discoveries.

As you play, you’re showing kids that sadness and happiness sometimes exist together. You’ll find that smiles and joy are good for your heart, too.

Let’s help and comfort kids when they need it the most.

Kids need help and comfort. Times of conflict and crisis affect children near and far in big and small ways. You can’t promise that nothing bad will ever happen, but you can point them to Jesus, the Rock they can depend on. Thank you for being Jesus’ hands and feet as you shepherd children through scary and difficult times. Through the power of the Holy Spirit living in you, be ready to offer help and comfort when they need it the most.

Remember, we’re all in this together. Here at Group, we’re praying for you, trusting Jesus’ power to pull us all through.

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