The haunting images are hard to escape ... and impossible to forget. As adults, the news out of Ukraine is painful and hard to understand. Imagine just how hard it is to process all of this as a child. Add to that the recent news about just how bad global warming really is and, well, it can almost feel like doomsday is actually here.
My own 13-year-old daughter was recently crying about everything she hears at school. "Mom, will there even be a future for me?" My heart broke right then and there. I'm very careful to edit what she sees, but let's face it: kids are exposed in ways that we can't always control. We all know we should limit our kids' exposure to media, but its trickier and trickier to do so.
At the same time, you don't want to hide under a rock either. Children should start to develop a sense of the wider world and their place in it. I suggest news sources that are kid-oriented such as Time for Kids or KidNuz, a podcast for kids developed by an American journalist living in Singapore.
And then, talk with your children about what they see and hear.
Helping kids make sense of the world
So how do you help kids understand everything? For starters, be with your kids. Talk to your kids. Listen to your kids. Let them share their hope and dreams – and fears. There is not one single more important thing you can do than just being there for your children. Don't force them to talk, but be there when they're ready to do so. There are many great articles that can help you guide conversations with children.
Beyond that, there are other tangible things you can do to help children process things.
Talk about the good
What?! How can there be a silver lining when you look at burning buildings? Oh, but there is. Mr Rogers taught me a very important lesson that he learned from his mother. "Look for the helpers." And so I spend a lot of my time with my own kids pointing out the people who are doing good when bad things happen. Just look at the outpouring of support for the refugees. The thought of all the generosity makes me tear up. There is more good in the world than bad. Help your kids see it.
Empower your children
Whenever there is a tragedy in the world of any sort – a typhoon, earthquake, war, whatever – we all just sit there feeling terrible and powerless. It's when you do something to help that you start to feel better, no matter how small. This is true whether you're an adult or a child. I'm not saying you have to jump on a plane and help on the frontlines or that you need wade in flood waters to rescue victims of a typhoon, but even a small act helps not only the people on the receiving end, but those giving, too.
For children, it can be trickier to find ways to help, but there are ways kids can pitch in whether it's a lemonade stand or a beach clean up, kids can do something to help. And that act of doing something helps their own souls, too.
I have been a Girl Scout leader for nine years. A big tenant of Scouting is community service and my troop has always left me in awe at some of the things they've done over the years. Wow. Kids are so very capable, much more than I think we adults realize. But it's their very first Take Action project that always stuck with me and has honestly been one of the reasons I've kept leading all these years.
There was a typhoon in the Philippines. Many of the girls had a Filipino helper and they were all very concerned about people in the Philippines, even at their tender age of five years. We talked about what we could do to help and they decided to do a bake sale. Those tiny little girls raised $400! We looked at how we could do the most good with that money and ended up donating it to World Wildlife Fund who used it to buy a boat for a fisherman who had lost everything in the typhoon. The pride on their faces has always stuck with me – and the knowledge they helped others stuck with them. It also made them realize they weren't powerless.
Where to volunteer
If you do your own lemonade stand for Ukraine or another foreign humanitarian crisis, just remember that donating overseas is tricky in Singapore. There are many rules about sending money out of the country. So if you are going to do something, send the money to an organization here that has the government's permission to help, such as the Singapore Red Cross. You are also only allowed to fundraise within your own community.
I'm also very proud that the American Association of Singapore offers many volunteer opportunities throughout the year whether it's a beach clean up, a day at ACRES or Art for Ukraine. We have many more opportunities coming up. All of these are designed to embrace the American ethos of giving back and most of the opportunities are family oriented. My chest always bursts with pride when I see these events sell out. Americans help.
I'm particularly proud of our Art for Ukraine initiative. AAS is working with Ukrainian Embassy Singapore and the Singapore Red Cross on this special project. Children are encouraged to make A4 artwork which will be made into a giant collage and turned into a NFT to raise funds. Original artwork will be sent to the people of Ukraine.
Watch for signs
Of course, some kids get really mired in the bad news and end up battling depression. Watch for the signs and, if your child is really having trouble coping, seek help immediately.