The ongoing invasion of Ukraine is a tragic situation that affects us all emotionally and psychologically. At the moment, it’s nearly impossible to go anywhere without seeing gruesome headlines, shouting grim statistics. Amid the stress, anxiety and emotion surrounding such a tragic event, it’s easy to forget that not all of us receive and process information in the same way, or at the same pace. Young people with an intellectual disability or autism may process something this traumatic differently than others, especially considering that, thankfully, most of our young people have not experienced anything like the situation in Ukraine.
Inclusion Ireland has created an overview of the situation in Ukraine in an easy-to-read format – it’s a great resource to share directly with your young person.
Please find below some tips on how to discuss the ongoing situation with your young person:
1. Questions & Answers
- Don’t be afraid to answer questions your young person may have. You don’t have to bring up the crisis, but don’t feel that you need to shy away from a discussion on it.
- Use active listening while your young person is sharing their point of view, utilising body language to confirm your full attention.
- Ask open-ended questions rather than ‘yes/no’ ones; this can lead to better understanding of one’s own feelings and a more meaningful conversation.
- Be sure to speak clearly using relatively simple language, steering away from more complex terminology.
- If appropriate for your young person, use visual aids to ensure your message is being communicated. Take care with the images used as many images from this conflict are graphic.
- Break information and questions into shorter, ‘bite-sized’ bits of information with time to process in-between.
- If using unfamiliar or new terminology, be sure to ask if it’s been understood. Without full understanding, your young person may use imagination to fill in these gaps which can be a trigger for negative emotions.
- If your young person is using new phrasing relating to the conflict, don’t assume that it’s been entirely understood as they may be using language overheard from media sources.
- Be careful not to use stereotypes or hateful language when describing the situation.
3. Expression & Processing
- Support your young person to express their feelings about the situation. It’s normal to feel sad, angry, confused or upset about what’s going on – it’s a terrible, tragic event.
- Your young person may want to express themselves through art, play or other hands-on means. Support them through this process as we all work through emotions differently.
- Your young person may feel worried, which is completely normal. Support them through these feelings and provide reassurance that it’s not going to involve them directly.
- If your young person feels driven to take action, consider supporting them with this. Organising a fundraiser for a Ukrainian charity can be a great idea and gives a sense of control over the situation.
- No two people process emotions the same way. Leave the door open to future conversations about this topic and encourage further sharing of feelings.
- Make sure you’re minding yourself! This situation affects us all differently and provokes different emotional reactions from each of us. Be sure that you’re checking-in with yourself, seeking out the support you need so that you can continue being a carer to your young person.
- Check-in with other parents and share information on your conversations – you may get a few good tips!
- Reduce your family’s exposure to media. While it’s important to stay informed, there’s a point at which extended exposure to these events can negatively affect mental health. Be sure you’re taking these breaks to give yourself time to process.
Please feel free to get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org if there is any support we can offer you and your family during this difficult time.
Some information in this post contains resources provided by our friends at Barnardos and Inclusion Ireland.