Resources for teachers & parents
The advice below is aimed at children aged eight or above (Key Stage 2 and upwards) as that is considered the age that children may have some understanding of global events.
Whether you are a teacher or a parent the key is to ensure that any discussion you have with a child is age appropriate. It’s important not to dismiss their comments but to try to understand their point of view. It’s also important to understand what they already know about the conflict and what they are unsure about, so you can correct any misconceptions and fill in gaps in knowledge.
Support for teachers
All schools and teachers should now be familiar with their statutory duties under the new political impartiality guidance issued by the government.
The guidance is that younger students (those in primary school) should be taught ‘general factual content’. For the Russian-Ukrainian conflict this would probably cover:
- When the conflict started and what has happened so far
- What the conflict means for the world
Teachers should not give students views on solutions and must not express personal opinions. The class should not become politically biased and not devolve into an anti-Russian lesson.
Many primary school teachers use Twinkl as a source for teaching materials and there is some excellent material on their website for how teachers can look at the conflict for children in Key Stage 2.
The guidance for secondary school pupils is that asking students to explain their understanding of the conflict will help teachers (and parents) discover what information the student is getting, and importantly, from where. Misinformation or ‘fake news’ is common so these discussions allow you to correct any biased information the students have seen or heard. Make sure students understand the importance of fact checking information they have heard or seen with a trusted source.
The Oak National Academy has translated some of its online lessons into Ukrainian and gives information about how to use automatic translators.
Support for parents
For primary aged children, Newsround offers lots of child-friendly videos and information for children, with advice to help them when they feel upset by the news. In view of the nature of the current news, you may wish to watch first to make sure that you are happy for your child to watch. Sit with them while they watch and help answer their questions afterwards.
For older children and teenagers, the Department for Education has published a blog to help everyone have access to the facts, not misinformation.
Dame Rachel de Souza, who is the Children’s Commissioner, has written a blog with some advice on how to empower children, helping them to respond in a positive way to the current situation.
As a parent you may have already had lots of questions about what is happening in Ukraine. If you are going to be a host you may need to spend more time talking with your family about the conflict and what they should, and shouldn’t, discuss with your guests.
Below are some tips for handling these sensitive discussions whatever age your children are:
Acknowledge how they’re feeling
If your child has been upset or made anxious by what is happening give them time to express those feelings. This is normal behaviour for children and the key is to let your child talk about their response to events so they can better manage their emotions. It’s good to let them know that you feel sad or worried too, as do many people, so they understand they are not alone in feeling that way.
If they can't express themselves properly in a conversation with you, suggest that they draw or maybe paint a picture about how they’re feeling or think of a story or book that might help them explain how they feel. With teenagers you may find it better to talk to them when you are out on an errand or walking the dog so they do not feel pressured by a face-to-face conversation.
Take time to make sure they understand facts. Look at a map of Ukraine together and explain which other countries are taking steps to stop the conflict. Find out about NATO together and understand more about its role in this conflict.
Don’t avoid difficult questions
Your child needs to know that you are taking their questions seriously, so do take time to respond to their questions sensitively, honestly, and in an age-appropriate manner. If you don’t know the answer to one of their questions then say so. Just explain that it is a difficult situation and there are not always easy answers but there are lots of people trying very hard to find solutions.
You can say that although it can be difficult to talk about events like this, it is really important that your child does ask you questions and you will do your best to tell them what they need to know. Emphasise that you will help them find answers and avoid misinformation. Check in with your child to find out where they are getting their information from.
Focus on the helpers - positive news is good to hear
Make sure they do hear about the support from countries and charities sending food and supplies to the people taking in refugees. There are lots of examples of people who are helping those affected by the war.
Discuss what you can do to support the refugees and if you have already applied to be a sponsor, talk to your child about what it will be like for someone coming to Tunbridge Wells from the conflict in Ukraine. Discuss what your children would like to do to help and support them with their plans.