Ukraine: the effect on our children and what parents can do

31 March 2022

As a Ukrainian living in London with a 9 year old child, I know first-hand how much our children are affected by the recent developments.My father was in Kyiv when the war started. It was a very difficult decision to leave everything behind…and go. They left in day five after an oil plant was shot just outside of Kyiv. There were five of them in the car, with only one backpack per person: a scared cat, an oil tank, ropes and blankets took priority over personal belongings. Having only had less than five hours of sleep in the four days prior to that, they drove to the border through the very many checkpoints with armed military, in the dark and in the snow to reach the Carpathian mountains and then to cross the border. There is no right or wrong about staying or leaving. Many decide to leave because they are afraid their house will be caught in the cross-fire or that criminals will invade their house. Others stay behind because they cannot leave their sons, husbands or elderly parents.

Whilst my father was making this difficult decision (and while mother and I were  helping many other families make their own decision), my daughter overheard many difficult conversations with the family. Whether your family is from Ukraine or not, hearing the news and conversations that adults are having can be overwhelming. Older children will also be feeling the pressure of scrolling through and keeping up with the news. They are asking if there is going to be World War Three. The younger ones will undoubtedly pick up on their parents’ or guardians’ stress and absorb their worries and emotions. What can we do to reassure them?  

Firstly, my view is that we should not try and hide what is happening, but instead support our children in understanding the events. Be gentle but factual, explain things in simple terms and answer their questions without overloading them with information. I found a recent article from 5 March 2022 in The Week Junior factual, accurate and easy for my daughter to understand.

Children just want to know that their parents or guardians are there for them. They want to be reassured that they will be fine. As a mother, I’ve found that, just like during the pandemic, this is the time to have lots of cuddles and family games, walks in the parks or cycle rides, creating a real emotional bond with your children. Ask children what they already know and how they know it and discuss what worries them and why. Older children may be worried about keeping up with the posts their friends are sharing on social media, understanding the developments and what to post them. Parents can use this time to do some research together and maybe create a post together (and/ or explain to them that it’s absolutely fine not to share anything). If needed, explain that this is a conflict between governments and that children of any nationalities should not be caught up in it.

Children may feel helpless and may wish to do something for the children of Ukraine and their families. Some suggestions my daughter and I have discussed include:

  • Donating toys and clothes to a charity (or better directly to a newly arrived Ukrainian family);
  • Writing to a local MP and suggesting additional things that the council can do and organise;
  • Drawing a picture with a Ukrainian flag and put in your window – be sure Ukrainians passing by will smile and feel the warmth;  
  • Organising some Tea & Biscuit mornings (a children’s version of ‘coffee mornings’) at a local church;
  • Creating English learning groups for children (possibly with the help of a local MP or a church) to help Ukrainian children learn English through play;
  • Trying to read age-appropriate news (with parents or guardians) and understanding how Ukrainian children are feeling;
  • Generally being patient and supportive in relation to children that have recently arrived in the UK. These children will have often lost their favourite toys, warm beds and potentially even their fathers, uncles or older brothers. They are vulnerable and are hoping to have some sort of normality and to go back to enjoying life at some point in the future.

Ultimately, reaching out to any Ukrainian contacts is a good idea, they will certainly be able to point you in the right direction and suggest local groups and centres that accept donations.

Finally, I found the following resources helpful:


If you have any questions about the issues raised in this blog, please contact Yuliya Osudina or a member of our family and divorce team.



Yuliya Osudina is an Associate in the Family Team. Yuliya advises on a wide range of issues arising out of family or relationship breakdown. Yuliya is multilingual and speaks Russian, Ukrainian and advanced French.


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