Best Practice

How do we talk about Ukraine? Engaging with young people over the war

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues and the international crisis grows, students will be filled with questions and concerns. Just how should school staff approach these challenging conversations? Dr Stephanie Thornton looks at the likely impact of the war on young people and what we can say when they ask about it

Black news for some time now: climate change, the ghastly pandemic, and now the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The young are negatively affected by adverse news cycles like this (Douglas et al, 2009; Otto et al, 2007; Whalley & Brewin, 2007). Whether too young to understand much, or old enough to have some insight, terrible news creates anxiety in the young, in some cases amounting to serious problems of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Anxiety is greatest in those directly affected by the adverse events reported, but a percentage of individuals (maybe 5%) with no exposure other than through reportage in the media suffer anxiety severe enough to amount to a clinical diagnosis of PTSD.

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