Sunflowers for Peace – Talking to Young People About Ukraine

by Robin Mitzcavitch, Director of Religious Exploration & Education

We want to shield our young people from the ugliness of the world. Protect our young, that’s what we do. But information seeps through, and rumors and rogue news turn out to be more damaging than the truth. The truth can be delivered in ways that inform your young person, yet protect them from feeling excess fear and anxiety. I have been reading up on some resources and I’d like to share what I know with you.

  1. Ask your young one what they already know about the situation.
  2. Know your facts about the Ukrainian war. And, remember, you can’t know everything, so give yourself a break and feel ok with saying, “I know don’t, let’s find out.”
  3. Check your own anxiety and unease. Be the non-anxious presence without being a fake version of yourself.
  4. Validate that things like this seem scary and out of control. It’s ok to feel concern for other humans. We should feel concerned. Also acknowledge that this situation will not hurt your young one, and that you are here to give them information that they need and that you’ll protect them.
  5. Listen to concerns, don’t minimize them, but don’t let them blow up into unfounded worrying over a situation in which they cannot control.
  6. Point out the people who are the helpers in the situation:  The Red Cross, other countries, charitable organizations, doctors.
  7. Brainstorm ways to be the helpers too. Helping others in times of crises puts a bit of control back into young people’s lives, redirecting worry into something useful like volunteering time and raising funds to help another.
  8. Find organizations that you can trust to give to.

I like this organization, based in Cambridge, MA,  the Sunflower of Peace who describe their charitable work as such:

                Due to the current crisis in Ukraine, Sunflower of Peace started a new fundraiser to provide medical and humanitarian aid that will be used by the paramedics and doctors in the areas that are affected by the violence in Ukraine. We are acquiring and distributing first-aid backpacks, medicine, medical instruments, and other means of survival that are saving hundreds of lives. 

And there are many other charities doing great work. Do your research, think of an activity or a way to raise funds with your family and know that these actions may help quell any heightened worry…. even if just a little bit.

Some things that can be helpful:  sign-making, attending a vigil, speaking words of hope or prayer at mealtime or bed-time for people who are suffering.  Raising funds for a charity can feel empowering. Try doing an arts and crafts sale at your church or school.  A bake sale can work as well. Get your young ones involved with counting the money, writing the check, and knowing what their money can help with. You and your child can get together and write a letter to your senator, representative, president, or to the editor of your local paper.

This Sunday, the children and I will be involved in making a Peace Vigil Display for the Ukrainian people. We also are doing a “Change for Change” collection in the church and bringing in our own change to collect, count, and write a check to “Sunflower of Peace” charity.

We know that in many instances, disagreements can be solved by discussion and compromise.  But there are some times when the need for power, control, and money can trump any peaceful negotiation. Wars and other acts of terror are avoidable, but peace is never guaranteed. That’s when we, as caregivers and guides for the young, can be present and nurturing. Life can be scary at times, for all of us. Community, coming together to engage in healthy, positive, and peaceful activities can send out a counter-wave that will butt heads with hate. Love eventually wins…and when people are hurt in the name of terror and war, we who are on the outside looking in, can help with just that: our love and compassion for people we do not even know.  

I see this kind of work happening all around me everyday at UUCW.  I am proud of our community filled with open-hearted people. I wish we could grow all the children in the world to be compassionate like you. Here is a good place to begin.

Peace to You,

Peace to Ukraine,