How to manage your child's anxiety


With the escalating conflict in Ukraine, the British Psychological Society is offering advice and guidance on how best to support children who are anxious about the current situation.

Professor Vivian Hill, of the Division of Educational and Child Psychology, says: ‘Our children are constantly absorbing things they read, see and hear and it’s completely natural for them to be picking up on the situation in Ukraine and feeling anxious, and also asking questions about what is going on.

‘Children and young people have experienced an incredibly difficult two years due to the pandemic, and now they are faced with an even more uncertain world with the threat of conflict and war. It is important that we don’t avoid talking to our children about what is going on, but you might want to try to moderate their exposure to constant rolling news and updates.’

Professor Hill advises:

Give them the basics and don’t avoid the conversation

Listen to their worries and provide honest answers to their questions about what is going on, don’t overcomplicate your responses and try to give details at an age-appropriate level. Don’t avoid answering their questions about the situation as this could promote more anxiety – keep to basic facts.

Ensure they feel supported and safe

It’s important to help children understand the level of threat to them and their friends and family. Explain that this is happening in Ukraine, a different country and show this if appropriate using a globe or map.

Manage your own feelings

Try to deal with your own feelings of stress and distress in a managed way, as your children will be sensitive to your reactions.

Explain that bad things can happen but there’s always a way to help

Plan together how you might deal with this situation through fundraising or other actions to support the Ukrainian community.

Avoid exposure to a constant stream of news

Be mindful if you have the radio or TV on all day, as children will be absorbing news without adults realising it. Try to build in breaks from the news: for example, if you are picking up your children from school, turn off the radio or make sure it isn’t on a news station to provide a break from the constant exposure to worrying rolling news cycles.

Seek advice and support if you are concerned about your child

School staff and educational psychologists can offer specific advice and support if you feel that your child is becoming overly anxious and distressed. Providing support and reassurance and diverting their thoughts through engagement in enjoyable activities can help.