PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With gruesome videos and reports coming out of the Russia-Ukraine war, parents might be wondering how to speak to their children about the ongoing conflict.

Ruth Ellingsen, a licensed psychologist, and clinical assistant professor at the University of Oregon, spoke to KOIN 6 News to share some tips on how to speak to children when they have questions about the war.

Ellingsen said one of the first things parents should do is simply check in with their kids regarding the invasion.

“Particularly, most school-aged kids and teens have heard something from media outlets, social media, teachers, peers,” said Ellingsen. “So, the best place to start is just checking in. Don’t presume that you know what they’re thinking or feeling. Just kind of asking how they’re feeling about the situation, validate those feelings and respond to the concerns that they share.”

Parents can also expect to have multiple conversations about the matter considering the situation in Ukraine is evolving daily.

While talking to children, Ellingsen said parents should take the time to clear up any misunderstandings, especially with younger children who might not understand the situation accurately.

“They might think they themselves are at risk when they’re not. There’s a fair amount of misinformation out there,” she noted. “Especially with younger kids, really emphasizing that they are safe, and you can even go and pull out a map and show them where Ukraine is.”

You can also take it a step further, Ellingsen added, and emphasize the people who are working to keep people safe in Ukraine. This can help younger kids feel a sense of hope, along with donating to charities.

What about older children?

The psychologist said it’s OK to dig a bit deeper and discuss some of the complexities of the current situation and its potential impacts.

If your children ask you a question and you don’t know the answer, “That’s OK. Just say you appreciate the question (and) that you’re not sure but that you can figure it out together.”

Ellingsen also suggests controlling the amount of media consumption along with not forcing your child to talk about the Ukraine-Russia war.

“I would leave it there,” if your child does not have questions, she said. “It’s possible they’re not thinking about it that much, and that’s OK.”

Ellingsen noted that kids have been through a lot these past couple of years, including the pandemic and discussing social justice issues. She said it’s important to acknowledge that it has been a difficult time for them.

“’Let’s stick together as a family,’ especially when there’s chaos in the world,” added Ellingsen. “Sticking to routines can be really comforting for kids.”