Young people in the UK share their concerns over Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Students at St Benedict's Catholic School in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk have been speaking about the conflict. Credit: ITV Anglia

Children and young people have been speaking of their concerns over the continuing war in Ukraine, as experts laid out techniques for parents to help them youngsters deal with rising anxiety levels.

Schools across the country are reporting many pupils are worried by the events they are seeing and hearing about as Russia's invasion of Ukraine dominates headlines.

Disturbing images appearing unfiltered on social media and the concerning stories shared on the news has led to some charities such as Childline offering advice to young people

At St Benedict's Catholic School in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk students are receiving support from staff if they are affected. The county is home to many people with ties to Eastern Europe, and some feel as though the war is on their own doorstep. 

Louisa Poole, a year 13 student, has family in Lithuania. She said: “a lot of my aunts and uncles have already lived through it [Russian occupation] and are worried about living through it again."

Year 12 student Krzysztof Mikulski, whose family is from Poland, near to the border of Ukraine and Belarus, said he was concerned about the conflict “spreading to the area I call home”. 

Meanwhile, Gagoda Napieraj, who is in year 10, said: "It makes me very sad to see so many children being separated from their families so that they can go to safety.

"They have to run away from their home towns, leaving everything they have behind."

'Is there going to be a World War Three?'

Sixth former George Wall has no connections to the region, but described the situation as "really surreal".

He thinks about the war before going to sleep and he said it had had an effect on him, but he knew "there are people out there suffering way more".

"I've heard stories about World War Two from my grandparents and great grandparents, and the start of that seems similar to now. It's kind of scary.

"There is always talk about 'is there going to be World War Three?', and that thought just lives in my head now."

Students gathered to chat Credit: ITV Anglia

Concerns have been growing about the psychological effect of the war on young people, coming on the back of the coronavirus pandemic which say rates of anxiety and other mental health problems rise among young people.

The school's headteacher, Imogen Senior, said it was important to pupils felt that they could talk.

“I think it's about trying to strike a balance: making it a safe place to talk, but not making it the only thing we talk about," she said. "We’re contacting parents. We’re making sure material is available.”

Fiona Jeffries, a child and family clinical psychologist, spoke to ITV Anglia about some ways of helping children and teenagers.

  • Ask what the young person knows already

Particularly important for younger people, be curious about what they already know. What have they heard, what do they know and what are they worried about. This way you can be led by them in how you answer.

  • Normalise a young persons feelings

Let them know it is okay to feel how they feel. Reassure them that others may also be feeling the same way, and that it is okay to express their emotions.

  • Offer a safe space to ask questions

It can be difficult to speak to young people about things that are scary and difficult, but creating a space where they know they can ask questions is important.

  • Be honest and encourage them to speak out

It’s okay to not know the answers to some of those questions. Reassure them that they are safe with you, and that they can speak to someone they trust about how they feel without being judged.