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Utah child psychologist on discussing war, conflict with children

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Posted at 10:16 PM, Mar 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-02 00:16:09-05

As conflict and destruction continue to unfold in Ukraine, many Utahns are turning on the TV to stay up-to-date with what’s going on. The exposure to violence and emotional moments can be confusing for young children as they try to piece it all together.

Child and family psychologist Dr. Douglas Goldsmith wants to advise parents to be careful about what’s shown at home and to not unintentionally cast anxieties on children.

He said he’s had a number of patients who’ve brought up Ukraine and have asked if the country is on the brink of World War III.

Children have already dealt with so many changes over the past two years. He said more discussion of uncertainty and death continues to add to existing stress. Obviously, conversations about the crisis in Ukraine vary based on age, but he said it’s important to be aware of the toll it takes on their mental health.

“There’s really some exhaustion, especially from the kids. There’s now a pessimism of, ‘Are things ever really going to get better?’” said Goldsmith.

He warns parents to be aware that just because you’re not bringing it up at home doesn’t mean kids won’t pick things up on the playground.

“First of all, find out what children are hearing. Because if they say, ‘Yes, we’re all going to die,’ that’s a starting point by the parent to say, ‘We’re not going to die. It’s very, very far away,'" Goldsmith sait.

He said re-assuring young kids is key. Promise them that if there is something to worry about, you’ll tell them.

“That if this was going to be World War III, we will tell you that right away. That’s very comforting for kids to hear,” said Goldsmith.

The psychiatrist said another way to talk about it visually is to pull up a map of the world and show kids just how far away Ukraine is from Utah.