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Posted: March 3, 2022

Talking to Kids About the War in Ukraine

After two years of helping students cope with the challenges and complexities of the pandemic comes a new hurdle for educators and families: Supporting our young people through the biggest attack on a European state since World War II.

 From the San Diego County Office of Education

Russian forces invaded the country of Ukraine on Feb. 23, and Ukrainian officials are reporting casualties. The attack is being broadcast on TV but also on social media as Ukraine residents share images of explosions and damage. The effects are far-reaching with economic impacts that could be felt at home by all, especially by our young people and other vulnerable populations. 

In our county, there are staff and students with U.S. military family members, and we also have staff and students with family or cultural ties to Ukraine and Russia. We must make sure that we are helping keep a safe space for all community members.

It's likely that students have also been following these events or have overheard conversations. To help students better understand this event and place it in a broader context, we've gathered history-social science, mental health, and social and emotional learning resources to support teachers and families in helping students process these current events. 

Teaching Resources for Educators 

Students want and need to talk about what they see, remember, and are feeling now; they need the guidance and safety of adults in their schools to navigate their own emotions and trauma in a healthy, safe, and productive way. Classrooms are powerful places to help children process current events, provided educators give renewed energy to creating safe spaces for students. 

As with all difficult topics, educators should be keenly aware of the emotional impact these events have on students. Teachers should pay close attention to students who may have family members in the regions and students who might be worried about how this crisis might impact them here in the United States. Before beginning a discussion, teachers are encouraged to consult resources for class discussions such as Facing History and Ourselves' Fostering Civil Discourse (PDF). 

Some topics educators may consider adapting for students include:

  • The impact of geopolitical issues on the United States and the extent of its obligation to respond.
  • The president's role and authority (and other institutions such as Congress, the media, etc.) in shaping foreign policy.
  • The policy options the president has for responding to this type of crisis.
  • The lasting impacts of significant historical events such as the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union.
  • The human costs of war and conflict.

Links to Learn From

The resources contained below are intended solely to provide access to information. Educators know their students and school community best and should determine whether the resource best fits the need.

  • The Choices Program from Brown University —The Ukraine Crisis: This resource provides information, resources, and lessons to engage students in a comprehensive analysis of the lead-up to the Russian invasion.
  • Origins — The Collapse of the Soviet Union: To provide a deeper understanding of the crisis in Ukraine, teachers may want to provide more historical context. This source provides a brief overview of the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union.
  • C-SPAN Classroom: Educators can access video clips of reactions to the Russian invasion of Ukraine from various sources.
  • AllSides: Dedicated to presenting current events from multiple perspectives, this resource provides the latest news on Ukraine from news sources that lean right, centrist, and left.
  • The Stanford History Education Group: Civic Online Reasoning: In addition to the information students learn in the classroom, they will likely also be following this event through different forms of media. Teachers may want to remind students to utilize media literacy skills such as those described through these resources. 

Social and Emotional Learning Resources for Families, Educators & Support Staff 

Our students want and need to talk about what they see, remember, and are feeling now; they need the guidance and safety of adults in their homes and their schools to navigate their own emotions and trauma in a healthy, safe, and productive way.

For All Ages

For Elementary/Middle School Students

For Military Families

Trauma-Informed Resources for School Systems

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network provides resources that can be filtered by topic or keyword and by audience, focusing on how adults can identify traumatic responses in young people and how to support them. 

More Resources