Opinion

We should not hide from children what is happening in Ukraine

Children's commissioner says pupils can 'find solace in community that is comprehending and responding to these events'

Children's commissioner says pupils can 'find solace in community that is comprehending and responding to these events'

25 Feb 2022, 10:04

This week a generation of children saw war in Europe for the first time. Children in England will be acutely aware that on the other side of Europe a country full of children just like them will be waking up and going to school in fear.

War in Europe is an experience that has shaped generations before, from the ‘baby boomers’ growing up in the aftermath of World War Two to the ‘millennials’ who watched the siege of Sarajevo on BBC Newsround. We all hoped this spectre had been consigned to history.

Children today are a generation who feel connected across the world through social media. Whether it is through the Champions League, the Eurovision Song Contest or parkour videos on YouTube, children in England and Ukraine have a set of shared experiences and cultural reference points.

Having worked with children for 30-years, I know how keenly children will feel this. If there is one thing that came out of the Big Ask survey I ran last year, it is that children care passionately about the world around them, especially other children.

We should not hide what is happening, but support children in understanding it. We must remember that children can find solace in being part of a wider community that is comprehending and responding to these events.

Children can use these experiences to find their voice and become empowered members of society.

Growing up in Scunthorpe, my first civic act was writing – in Ukrainian – a letter to the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher about jailed Ukrainian dissident Valentyn Moroz who I had learnt about from my Ukrainian grandfather.

de Souza’s Ukranian grandfather, Simon Romanovich Teleweny

Her response – also in Ukrainian – made me feel that my actions could count, and six months later he was free!

I hope today that a generation of children will be able to feel similarly empowered by showing their support for the children of Ukraine.

They might want to write to their MP or to the Ukrainian Embassy, children may want to use art or music to express their feelings.

I have today reached out to my Ukrainian counterpart to let him know that the thoughts of England’s children are with the children of Ukraine, and I want to use this opportunity to send them a direct message:

діти Англії думають про вас (the children of England are thinking of you)



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4 Comments

  1. Dr Mick Walker

    This is such a thoughtful and sincere take on the challenges faced by children trying to make sense of the horrors of war. Seeing images of young children in their Covid masks filing in to air raid shelters is heartbreaking. We are all thinking about you children of Ukraine.

    • Geraldine Clarke

      This is truly a heart breaking situation which seems to have no easy answer to it at all. I hope somehow that I can help support the people of Ukraine by thinking of them, championing them and believing in them. It seems so little when they are suffering so, so much.

  2. Vesna

    Horror for children didn’t start now. It’s been going on last 30 years. Let me remind you Vietnam, Irak, Afghanistan, Libia, Yemen, Siria, Palestine, Bosnia Serbia, Cuba, Iran.. under sanction… Dear Parents in all this countries children’s are seeing horror and died . Are they less important or when your bombs or your government is bombing is different because they are doing under democracy flag?
    My heart is bleeding seeing all this images from Ukraine , again we didn’t learn anything from history.

  3. Hi,
    Thanks for your article. I agree with you that we need to educate our kids and show them the reality of life rather than keeping them in a bubble. One day they will face all this reality so it won’t be a shock. I was always telling my 6 years old how privileged she is living in Europe compared to other girls in the world who have no food, no toys, no choice and no freedom. Unfortunately life is not fair and sometimes not easy to understand why things happen in a way that shouldn’t. I wish Europe showed the same solidarity when other kids in the world in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan were also affected and in some cases because of the actions of the west so similar to what Russia is doing now by looking after their own interest. We should not only care when the war is so close to us.