Talking to children about the war in Ukraine: the clear words of Gard psychologist Sophie Marinopoulos

The psychologist offers keys, by no means a pre-formatted guide.

There’s this little girl who focuses her worries on Putin before she goes to bed. She fears “thathe comes to his house at night and digs a tunnel under the ground”.

There’s this little girl who accuses her mother of lying to her by telling her her father wouldn’t risk anything if war came to France. “because there are professionals in the army who are trained to do that “Only, the school for the little ones takes in Ukrainian children whose father, who wasn’t a soldier at all, is now at war.”What can I say?‘ Blames his mother.

There’s this pro from a convalescent center who watches guys play war between Russians and Ukrainians. A sentence from one of the children made her react: “All Russians were born to kill!” “Je couldn’t pass. I said: not all Russians! But I wasn’t too happy with my answer.” emphasizes the moderator.

There are many of them, parents or early childhood professionals, who are trying to unravel all these underlying questions and fears that children face in the face of war. An event that takes place in an already fragile context, after two years of a fear-inducing pandemic for adults and children alike.

Don’t go beyond that the question of the child

“Being a parent isn’t easy, it’s a constant challenge”, smiles the psychologist and psychoanalyst Sophie Marinopoulos, specialist in support for parents and families, founder of the Pasta with Butter structure, of which a branch is open in Uzès.

Sophie Marinopoulos is also an elected member of the Pays d’Uzès community. The CCPU therefore wanted to use its skills to discuss an issue that has been at the center of the news: how to talk to children about the war.

With a revealing word, the psychologist offers keys. But by no means a pre-formatted manual. “You must use your own words, your own vocabulary, using ready-made phrases would be useless”, warns Sophie Marinopoulos. And above all, adapt to the child: what works for some does not work for others.

“On can talk to a child, but not necessarily say everything. Because a child has to hear, but not hear either. The idea is to answer his question and not go beyond that if that’s enough for him. Talking to a kid is one hell of a balancing act.” states the psychologist.

“For them, Ukraine is in the house”

Avoiding exposing children to constant news channels and repetitive images is a no-brainer. But that’s not enough “because the messages often come from school friends”.

Don’t hesitate to question the child to find out what’s on their mind. What do you want to know? Or let him explain what he meant. The answers may surprise, because the children construct scenarios, films, theories and find very personal interpretations of what is happening in Ukraine.

Related to fears related to age (death, illness, etc.) or experience (death of a loved one, separation from parents, problems at school, etc.)

The Ukraine breaks into the soul life of the child, into what it is going through. The answer that Ukraine is far away will not reassure them. For them, Ukraine is in the house. Concerned parents worry them.”

Sophie Marinopoulos states that we can talk to a child of any age, even a baby. There is no magic recipe to try to decipher what the child is saying, other than listening and paying attention. “Don’t hesitate to pass the baton to another adult when you feel in trouble or overwhelmed by your emotions. Or get advice, because Les Pâtes au Beurre offers advice in Uzès and a national hotline.

Anonymous and free consultations on Thursdays from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Intercommunal House of Families and Young People in Uzès (04 48 21 20 43). National hotline on Monday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and Friday from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.: on 02 40 16 90 50.

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