We've had fires, floods, two years of ups and downs in a global pandemic and now the war in Ukraine means more images of fighting, displacement and horror are splashed across the news.
It's been a hard time lately to be an adult, let alone a child who is just learning to understand the world and your place in it.
University of Wollongong Professor Marc de Rosnay, whose research focuses on emotional development in early childhood and the ways that young children understand emotions, says it's understandable that parents are worried about getting it right when trying to talk to their kids.
"I think people are very fragile, we've come out of COVID, bushfires, and we keep hoping that everything is going to be alright, but it doesn't feel like everything is alright," he said.
"It's a very stressful time."
"It's important to acknowledge that it's difficult to be a parent, and that you don't have to get everything right," he said.
"But it's much better to be available for engagement and have a go, than to not allow things to be talked about or discussed."
Address their fears
"It's really important not to overwhelm children with distressing imagery, because it works a way in their conception of the world and their imagination, and it can eat away at them and make them feel overwhelmed and terrified.
He said the main emotion parents would be dealing with was fear.
"It can be quite specific fears, that maybe we're going to to get flooded, or our house is going to burn down, or maybe 'daddy might have to go to war' or 'I might have to go to war'," he said.
"There'd also quite general existential fears, like the environment.
"We owe it to children, even if things are frightening, to give them a sense of hope, but also to be realistic."
Listen to their questions
"In terms of responding to children, it matters how old they are, but also what they bring to the conversation," Prof de Rosnay said.
"Information is much more meaningful when it results for a child asking a question than when we skim though stuff.
"We need to hear their questions, and respond when there's time to have a discussion."
He said this may be at a quiet time, after dinner, or even while driving in a car.
To allow questions to arise, he said parents should avoid the temptation of trying to district their children at these times - through screen time, for example - to give space for conversations.
"You have to leave the door open - because the questions could come when you least expect them," he said.
"And that's gold for parent - because if that question comes, it means they are coming to you for information.
"We don't think very well about children's information needs, we often think about their needs for safety and security, but children need information too."
He advised parents to give themselves time to think about their answers, and set aside time to properly explain.
"Kids have a knack for asking the most difficult questions at the most inopportune time, and you almost wonder as parent whether you are being tested," he said.
"If it's not the right time to respond, you could say 'that's a really important question and I want to discuss it properly but I can't do that now'. Then you might set aside time after dinner or something."
Give a sense of hope and action
When conversations about things like COVID or floods arise, he suggested focusing on ways to help other people.
"The key is what can we give them in terms of their development to help them make sense of it?", he said.
"We can't control the world, but understanding it gives a sense of control and reduces fear. For a young child it might be as simple as reassuring them that they are safe, or that we have to help people when they are in trouble.
"That gives a sense of activity and action, which is very reassuring to a child."
Prof de Rosnay said examples of this might as simple as reaching out to someone affected, drawing or writing letters, or collecting things for people who have been displaced by floods.
"So you could say, 'let's ring grandma and see if she's alright if she lives in the country' because it's the idea we can do something that's relevant to this situation, but is specific and within our control," he said.
"It gives the child a feeling that their actions matter, reduces their fear and gives them a sense of autonomy and independence.
"Another thing you can do is about representation. So you might want to draw something nice for someone you know and send it to them. It's about caring, and the child is able to integrate what is happening with some positive action on their behalf."
Respond in an age appropriate way
Prof de Rosney acknowledged that explaining the war in Ukraine poses a much more difficult challenge that floods or COVID, and that, for very little kids, there isn't really a context that adults will be able to explain what is happening.
Like many experts, he said parents might want to avoid exposing very young children to any distressing images, videos or words that cannot be explained.
"What we want to do as parents is protect children from imagery and content that will be distressing and that they wont have any ability to integrate or think about," he said.
"But we also want to be careful with that, because overprotection sends a message to older children that something is too fearful, or too bad to be talked about. This is where it gets really difficult as a parents."
He said simple age appropriate messages, which were not too technical and descriptive, would help children process something as complex as the war.
"You can acknowledge the truth of the situation, but be fuzzy about the details," he said.
"It might be about saying that sometimes the world is isn't nice, and bad things happen, but that all the countries of the world as doing their best to stop this.
"You have to give a level of explanation, where the child understands that there is some basis for hope, that doesn't negate the child's distress that bad things are happening to people, but that doesn't bleed into their own sense of safety and security."
"Maybe one of your elderly relatives was involved in a war, so immediately it becomes contextualised and they can make sense of it in terms of their own lives.
"Or maybe you could say - the world has to act now to stop this terrible thing and support these other people in this other country, and that people are doing the best that they can to make it stop. And that it could take a little while."
He said older children and adolescents might want to know in-depth details, or be analytical about the war and suggested parents could sit down and engage with various media with their children.
Exposing them to appropriate conversation between adults, and introducing them to the news in an age appropriate way was also a good way to prompt discussions.
"You could go on YouTube and find a documentary about the Second World War," he said.
"Or depending on their age, sit down with them and watch Behind The News on ABC iView, but don't show them people running through the streets being shot at by Russian soldiers.
"That is not going to lead anywhere where the kid is going to feel safe and secure and able to think critically about what is going in the world."
He said it was also important not to give too much information all at once, and not be afraid to stop talking about difficult topics if children become distressed.
"When I give an explanation of something to a very sophisticated young adult, who knows the geopolitical history of the world I can quickly jump to the idea that this has its roots in the creation of the Soviet Union and they have a framework for making sense of that stuff," he said.
"But if you go down that path with a 13-year-old, they will be completely overwhelmed and that information won't help them."
"It's good for parents to take a longer view about how children build up their view of the world.
"So your initial conversation might seem too small and unsatisfactory as an adult, but it may perfectly meet the needs of a young child."
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