• Useful information

Useful information

Here you will find answers to the most common questions about the support and care of children

For relatives and caregivers

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For relatives and caregivers

What shelter providers need to know and information on how to communicate with traumatized children

Requirements for people who will provide shelter to a child during martial law

  • Ukrainian citizenship;
  • staying in a safe place on the territory of Ukraine;
  • ability to ensure safety of the child, provide him/her with food, clothes, access to medical and educational services according to age and individual needs;
  • financial capacity to meet the needs of the child;
  • availability of housing with no strategic or military facilities nearby;
  • availability of a place in the apartment where the child will sleep and rest.

We also recommend undertaking a short online course on child’s safety, which outlines the specifics of care and adaptation.

Rights and responsibilities of the family (or person) that will provide shelter to a child during martial law

A family (or person) that provides temporary shelter to a child during martial law in Ukraine is obliged to:

  • provide care and bring up the child, take care of his/her health, mental condition, physical and spiritual development;
  • take the child's opinion into account when making decisions about them;
  • facilitate reconnection and communication with the child's parents, other official representatives or relatives;
  • immediately pass the child to parents/official representatives/relatives in case of a relevant decision by the authorized institutions (children's affairs service, court);
  • inform the children's affairs service about the child's condition at least once a month; in case of circumstances endangering the child’s life or health, or necessitating relocation — report immediately.
  • help the child to receive medical, educational and, if necessary, rehabilitation services, which includes the organisation of the child's education in a relevant educational institution, examination by a family doctor and organisation of the child’s medical treatment, if necessary, etc.;

Period for which a family (or person) may provide shelter to a child

Shelter is provided for the period leading up to the moment when either the child is reunited with his/her family or the child is granted the status of an orphan or a child deprived of parental care. It is determined by taking into account the best interests of the child, the form of care and upbringing (adoption, guardianship, care, foster family).

Period for which a foreign organisation may provide shelter to children

As a rule, the proposal should include a period of martial law, or at least six months. However, in each case, these terms may be specified (shortened in case of cessation of martial law and the availability of conditions for the return of children, or extended).

Control from the children's affairs service

The Children's Affairs Service will provide support and control over the living conditions, education and upbringing of the child. Representatives of the service can communicate with the family and the child by phone, as well as by visiting the family. The service has the right to request information about the child's condition from educators or family doctors.

Children's documents that the family (or person) providing shelter receives

The family (or person) who has temporarily sheltered a child during martial law in Ukraine receives the act of transfer of the child, a copy of the child's birth certificate and the child's medical card (if any).

The basis for the temporary stay of the child with the family (or person) is the order of the Children's Affairs Service on the temporary placement of the child.

How to establish contact with a child who has lived through a traumatic experience

Relatives or representatives of the host party must follow certain rules of contact while building a connection with children who have experienced a stressful situation. This will help to respect the child's boundaries and restore a sense of security. Due to the war, they may have been deprived of essentials – such as food or sleep – and some of them may have lost their loved ones.

How to establish contact with a child:

  • Acquaintance
    Get down to the child's level (for example, sit down to be physically on the same level). Tell them about yourself, what you do and how you can relate to the child. Ask how you may refer to him/her. Explain how long you will be together with the child.
  • Assessment of the child's needs
    Ask your child how he/she is feeling – maybe he/she needs something at the moment? Is he/she hungry/thirsty or does he/she need to go to the toilet? Are they cold? Maybe they are sick and need treatment? Does he/she want to play (perhaps with other children)?
  • Familiarity with surroundings
    Show the child his/her room, toilet, bathroom, the place where they will sleep, where he/she will eat and play. Explain to the child the rules of their stay (for example, what time you eat dinner and what time you all go to bed). Tell him/her about the area where the child finds himself/herself (about the city, village, other specifics of the area that the child should know).
  • Support
    Tell the child that if he/she wants to talk, you are ready to listen. Ask the child which topics he/she likes to talk about and which they do not. Ask him/her what he/she likes to do (for example, drawing, crafting, dancing, singing, building Lego, etc.). Tell the child that if he/she needs something, he/she can ask you.

The following is not recommended while talking to a child:

  • Inquiring about any hostilities the child may have seen, how he/she felt when sirens, explosions and gunshots were heard.
  • Asking the child about his/her relatives who died or remained in the area of hostilities.
  • Violating the child's personal boundaries. Be sure to ask if you can hold their hand or hug them before doing so.
  • Displaying insincere emotions. You are also a person with your own inner turmoil and if you are not in the mood, you should not «fake» a smile just for the child. Children feel the insincerity of adults, which can negatively affect your relationship.
  • Discussing traumatic events related to hostilities in the presence of the child.
  • Using obscene words in the presence of the child.

Important! Asking a child about traumatic events can lead to negative emotions or distress. It is better for the child to talk about it when he/she is ready.

How to talk to children about the war

War brings loss, uncertainty, fear and anxiety to children's lives. Here are some recommendations on how to have a conversation about the war with a child.

  • Information according to age
    Children from the youngest age have the right to know what is happening in their country. Provide information according to the age of the child. Speak to children in a language they understand, through fairy tales and stories where, for example, the cossacks fought against evil, defended their land («Kotygoroshko», «Magic stories about the cossacks», etc.). During the conversation, keep watching the child's reactions and remain sensitive to his/her level of anxiety. Remember that children perceive emotional signals from adults, so while talking to a child, try to control your emotions. Recall that many people are working hard, not only in Ukraine but around the world, to end the war.
  • Media hygiene of the child
    Take care of the child's media hygiene and media literacy during the war. Be attentive to what information children receive, listen to their conversations, analyse their questions. It is important to ascertain where the child learned information from and that, if it is inaccurate or untrue, you correct it. You can start with the following questions: «This is an interesting idea. Tell me why you think so?»; «It is important for me to hear your opinion about this…»; «Where do you think we can get more information about this?». Teach your child to think critically, and about how and why fake news can spread. It is good when a child asks questions, forms hypotheses, looks for reasons — it means he/she thinks. It is important to guide the child and learn to check the information found in different sources. Remind your child that he/she can talk to you whenever he/she wants.
  • Restrict the flow of news
    Consider turning off the news for preschool or primary school-age children. News content is traumatic for them right now – it can increase anxiety and fear. With secondary school-age children and teenagers, you can transform news-watching into an opportunity to discuss what is happening in the country and in your community, in particular using the aforementioned pieces of advice. Also, think about how and what you say about the situation to other adults, especially when the child can hear or be present during the conversation. In the evening, instead of watching the news with children, try to do some relaxation exercises with them, play games, watch cartoons or read fairy tales together.
  • Concentrate on the helpers 
    It is important for children to know that people help each other. For example, tell them about the work of volunteers who provide support to anyone who needs it, or about what the Territorial Defence Forces do. If a preschooler or child of primary school-age wants to support those who help by drawing a picture, a poster or writing a poem — support him/her in this. Teenagers may want to take part in humanitarian work or other activities. Tell them how to do it, and remember that your teen's safety comes first. The feeling that we are all doing something to bring the victory closer provides a sense of unity and brings calm and psychological comfort.
  • Pay attention to the child's condition
    Despite the fact that news about military events surrounds us everywhere, it is very important to be interested in news from the child's own life. Continue to observe his/her condition, asking from time to time: «How are you?»; «How are you feeling?»; «What's new with you?»; «Do you have any questions you would like to discuss?»
  • Take care of yourself 
    Limit your online presence and reading of the news as much as possible. Do things that help you to relax and recover. Children will understand the reaction of adults to the news, so if you can cope with the situation it helps children. 

Stages of adaptation of adults and children to new conditions

During the war, people are forced to leave their homes and go into the unknown to find a safe place. Both adults and children must adapt to new conditions. This process can include the following stages:

  • Arranging the household 
    At this stage, it is important to organise household activities, ensure basic needs and get one’s bearings (where things are, whether there is hot water, where each family member will sleep, where to eat, whether there is cookware, etc.). Initially, adults will pay attention to this, without clearly understanding that the change (or movement) has already happened.
  •  Comparing differences 
    «It is not like at home.» At this stage, there may be irritation, dismay, fatigue, apathy. When you start comparing the differences, you realise where you are — not at home.
  • Feelings of uncertainty
    A person may feel helplessness and confusion in situations of uncertainty. Questions may include «what to do next», «where to find schools and kindergartens», «what to do about work», «how to continue medical treatment» and so on.
  • Planning
    At this stage, there are plans for short-term and long-term actions. This is because you now know the area (where the shop is, what is needed to visit a doctor, where children will study, how you will work, etc.) and your current experience proves that you are safe (there are no or almost no threats) — this is primary adaptation.
  • Assimilation (integration) of experience
    At this stage, children will begin to process their traumatic experience associated with hostilities or parting with loved ones.
  • Acceptance
    At this stage, there are two processes: the first is to live through the events connected with the war, and the second is to accept the changes that have taken place, and to adapt to new conditions and find resources.

How to comfort children who are homesick 

First of all, the emotional state of a child depends on the emotional state of the inner circle and it is important to remember this. When a child asks you, «When will I come back home?», «When will I see my daddy?» or «When will I see my friends?» and so on, it is normal not to know the answer to these questions. Do not give children promises and information that you are not sure about.

How to support a preschool child:

  • Explain to the child why you are here now: «There are no sirens/loud noises, it is quiet here.»
  • Explain why their father/mother/other significant adult is not with you.
  • To help the child cope with sadness, suggest that he/she draws a picture of his/her feelings.
  • If possible, give the child a chance to see other relatives: show photos/videos or communicate via video call.
  • Offer the child to play a game he/she played with a loved one.
  • If the child misses a toy left at home, try to find another one. Ask the child what this might be.
  • If the child is sad and crying for home, give him/her an opportunity to grieve for a while and cry. Say, «I understand you and why you're sad, I'm sad too,» or suggest, «You can draw a sad smiley and tell me what that smiley would like to do to make him feel good, or what can calm him down.» Then help your child stabilise by engaging him/her in a familiar or favourite activity.
  • If a child cries for a long time and is stuck in this state, it is important to switch to a simple action and encourage the child to talk about the reasons for his/her crying. For example: «Let me be a kangaroo mother and you can jump into a blanket pocket and stay there to cry, and when you are ready to calm down, you will jump out of this pocket.» It is necessary to create a safe place where the child can hide, cry, remember the house, father or other relatives. If the child's condition does not change within three weeks, it is extremely important to seek the help of a professional psychologist.
  • Try to follow the routine of the day and rituals that were common at home: morning procedures, walks, bedtime stories, sleep, etc.
  • Give your child a hug if he/she wants one.

How to support a child of primary school-age:

  • Explain to the child why you are here now: «It is safe here now, there are no sirens/loud noises, it is quiet here.»
  • Explain the rules to the child: «When the war is going on, there are men and women who defend the state, so they have to stay at home. At the same time, when fighting is going on, it is important for children to go to a safe place. You can go back home only when the war is over.» Stress that Ukraine and the world are doing everything possible to end the war.
  • Children can play war games with other children — this is normal and their way of living through these events. Expressing aggression during games is a typical way of dealing with traumatic experiences. It is important to watch and teach the child that it is normal to be angry, but there are two rules about expression of anger: (1) you can't direct anger at yourself and; (2) you can't direct anger at others. Children can shout together, throw stones into the water, fight jokingly, but it is important for adults to ensure that children do not harm each other and do not offend others. If a child finds it difficult to cope with aggression and he/she directs it at himself/herself and/or others, it is important to seek the professional help of a psychologist.
  • Suggest that the child writes a letter/postcard or draws a picture for relatives who are not around. Help to make a story about the events he/she has experienced (do it together with the child, helping him/her to make a story).
  • If possible, give the child a chance to see other relatives: show photos/videos or communicate via video call.
  • If feasible, encourage your child to communicate with peers.
  • Limit reading and discussion of the news in the presence of the child.
  • Assure your child that he/she is not guilty for what happened, as children tend to take the blame, so it is important to explain that this is not the case.
  • If the child is sad and crying for home, give him/her an opportunity to grieve for a while and cry, saying: «I understand you and why you're sad, I'm sad too.» Then help your child stabilise by engaging him/her in a familiar or favourite activity.
  • Try to follow the routine of the day and rituals that were common at home: morning procedures, walks, time for studying, bedtime stories, sleep, etc.
  • If you followed the recommendations, but you are still worried about the child's condition, it is important to seek the professional help of a psychologist.
  • Give your child a hug if he/she wants one.

How to support a teenager:

  • Explain to the child why you are here now: «It is safe here now, there is no fighting, you can return to normal here and think about how to proceed.»
  • Discuss together what happened. Pay special attention to the importance of keeping children safe. Stress that Ukraine and the world are doing everything possible to end the war.
  • Establish a time for news and discuss with children what you hear or see if they are watching.
  • Facilitate your teen's communication with peers via video and offline.
  • Create a space for conversations where the child can talk to you, share concerns and ask questions. Listen to his/her opinion, do not criticise his/her statements, do not devalue the questions and together find answers to them.
  • Reproduce home traditions and rituals or create new ones: walking or having tea together, reading together or watching a movie.
  • Support the teenager when he/she shares his/her feelings or may cry, do not try to stop him/her immediately. Avoid statements like «don't cry, hold on,» «don't think about it now» or «stop talking about it», etc.), and ask what kind of support the child needs
  • Offer the teenager the chance to take part in a psychological support group for teenagers (you can read more about such groups and how to join them here: https://poruch.me/).
  • Give your child a hug if he/she wants one.

What you need to know about post-traumatic stress disorder in children

The war in Ukraine has fundamentally disrupted children’s sense of safety and led to stress, the psychological consequences of which can threaten the healthy future for both adults and children. Traumatic experiences may cause the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

What is PTSD
PTSD is an extreme reaction to a severe, life-threatening stressor. The rate of PTSD at this moment of the emergency is low. PTSD usually starts manifesting itself about six months after the traumatic event. However, if the stressor has a strong long-term effect (for example, living under occupation, constant shelling and air-raid sirens, etc.), the probability of rapid development of PTSD increases.

Who is most vulnerable to PTSD
Why do some people who face a situation connected with the negative effects of severe stress end up suffering from PTSD, while others do not? There are three groups of factors, the combination of which leads to PTSD:

  • intensity of the traumatic event, its duration, unexpectedness and uncontrollability;
  • power of the protective mechanisms of the individual and the availability of social support;
  • personal risk factors: age at the moment of traumatic events, the presence of traumatic events and mental disorders in previous periods of life.

The most vulnerable people are those under the age of 22 or over 30. Regarding gender, researchers note that 8 per cent of men and 20 per cent of women have developed PTSD after traumatic events. Children and adolescents are also at risk for developing PTSD.

At the same time, everyone affected by the war has his/her own experience and reactions, which is absolutely normal in response to an abnormal situation.

It is important to remember that the psyche of adults and especially children and adolescents has huge potential for recovery and self-regulation. Thanks to the support of relatives and, if necessary, psychological support from specialists, a person can recover from a traumatic experience. For more details read below.

Manifestations of PTSD
In order not to prematurely frighten yourself with various negative consequences of traumatic events, it is necessary to understand what determines the presence of PTSD in humans. It is important to note that the manifestations of PTSD may persist for a long time. 

The main features that determine PTSD in adults include:

  • an influx of obsessive memories of life-threatening situations the person has lived through;
  • traumatic dreams with nightmare scenes of the experienced events, sleep disorders;
  • aspiration to avoid emotional stress;
  • uncertainty because of fear and, as a consequence, postponing decision making, uncooperativeness with others;
  • excessive fatigue, irritability, depression, headaches, inability to focus on something, etc.
  • as a consequence of all the above — a tendency to antisocial behaviour (alcoholism, narcotics, excessive cynicism).

Manifestations of PTSD in children

  • constant flashbacks to the experienced events (obsessive memories that the child may not share with adults), still avoiding anything that reminds the child of the past;
  • emotional stress, manifestations of aggression or vice versa – apathy, depression, emotional alienation;
  • sleep disorders, nightmares that cause a child to wake up at night, preschool and primary school-age children may cry at night;
  • increase of anxiety level, expectation of recurrence of events;
  • constant replay of the experience in a game (for children of preschool and primary school age);
  • self-destructive behaviour (particularly in adolescents: self-harm, alcoholism, narcotics).
  • impairment of memory, attention, ability to learn;

Phases of PTSD

  • Despair — acute anxiety without a clear understanding of the importance of what happened.
  • Denial — insomnia, amnesia, numbness, somatic symptoms.
  • Obsession — explosive reactions, mood swings, chronic hyperexcitability with sleep disorders.
  • Processing — understanding the reasons for trauma and grief.
  • Completion — new plans for the future.

What reduces the risk of PTSD and fosters healing
In order to reduce the risk of PTSD and foster healing, it is necessary to:

For adults:

  • psychologically stabilise yourself following the steps described below. Only when we are emotionally stable can we support children. At the same time, it is important to remember that parents have a right to emotions. It is important to explain to the children why you react this way, but you should stress that it will become easier over time and your family will handle it;
  • adjust the routine of the day and bring back, if possible, part of the regular activities
  • enlist the support of loved ones — establish communication with important people, if it gives you support and makes you positive;
  • engage in physical activity (do physical exercises or at least walk in the fresh air);
  • limit watching news and sort the information you receive: choose only reliable channels that do not publish bloodshed and other extremely negative content;
  • get involved in helping others, as volunteering provides a huge resource;
  • seek help from a psychologist/psychotherapist who will teach you to master techniques to emotionally stabilise yourself and your loved ones and prevent or stop the development of PTSD.

For children:

  • provide (restore) a sense of safety;
  • involve the child in physical activity (physical training, dancing, regular walks in the fresh air, etc.);
  • restore the daily routine as much as possible (schooling, if available; performing certain tasks; physical activity; timely sleep, etc.), which gives children a sense of security, resources and the hope of returning to a normal, peaceful life;
  • give the child a sense of unity and support (primarily from parents or caregivers); the child should know that close people are nearby and they love him/her; safe physical contact will also be important here — hugs with close adults, holding hands, etc.;
  • listen to the child when he/she wants to talk, give answers to their questions;
  • allow the child to express his/her emotions and feelings (you cannot say «don’t mention it» or «forget about it» — on the contrary, it is important to give them the opportunity to speak out and display emotions as much as possible);
  • explain to the child what happened: true information, age-appropriate words, understanding of the situation in general and the reasons for what happened are important and help to heal;
  • involve the child in social activities: communication with peers, age-appropriate volunteering in the community, etc.;
  • direct the child's aggression and form a healthy behavioural framework: despite the fact that the child may find it difficult to cope with emotions, he/she must understand that offending others, weaker people or animals, is unacceptable;
  • provide the child with access to professional psychological/psychotherapeutic support: specialists will advise the child and adults on how to deal with emotions, how to learn relaxation, how to control negative memories, which will help prevent or stop the development of PTSD.

So, it is important not to neglect mental health and, if you find signs that may indicate post-traumatic stress disorder in yourself, your children or loved ones, immediately seek the help of specialists — psychologists and psychotherapists – to avoid serious consequences after the experienced events.

How to give first psychological aid to a child

According to specialists, every child who has witnessed hostilities is considered to be traumatised. As not everyone is able to seek professional help under the current circumstances, it is the parents or caregivers who need to provide the first psychological aid to the child. Here are several pieces of advice to help your child prevent deterioration of his/her psycho-emotional state:

  •  Daily routine
    Return the child to the usual routine of the day, it accelerates the «healing» of trauma. Unfortunately, not everyone has the opportunity to return to their previous routine, so you can create a new routine for your child based on the opportunities you have. The child's daily routine should include: hygienic procedures, meals, learning, games with adults, free play, time for conversations and fairy tales, and sleep.
  • Discussion of worrying events
    Such conversations are very useful for emotional release. This method allows the child to react emotionally, to realise that his/her feelings may match the feelings of adults, and to feel that he/she is not alone, as well as helping to release emotional stress.
  • New rituals 
    Create new rituals that will help your child feel the unity and strength of the family. It can be reading aloud, evening hugs with the whole family, prayers together or singing.
  • Daily communication on different topics
    Communication is a basic need of every person. In order for a child not to become isolated, constant communication and emotional involvement with adults is required. You can choose different topics for conversation without focusing on traumatic events.
  • Emotional connection
    One of the psychological components crucial to a child's survival is emotional connection with the parents. To strengthen and preserve it, you need to: hug the child, say that you love him/her, admire him/her (for courage, self-restraint, for certain skills that the child demonstrates), play with him/her, laugh, share emotions.
  • Sense of humour
    Try to joke and smile, encourage the child to smile. Humour has a therapeutic effect, it supports and heals.

For journalists

Media coverage of sensitive topics and crimes against children

How to interview a child who has lived through a traumatic experience

It is important to understand how to properly interview children who have suffered during the hostilities, lost parental care, have suffered from sexual abuse or experienced other psychological trauma during the war. It can be difficult to talk about this experience so, while communicating with a child, you should follow a number of recommendations in order not to harm them.

Get to know them
Choose a quiet place for the interview where the child can feel safe. Before you start a conversation, be sure to tell the child who you are and where you work. Show them your camera or microphone. This will let the child know that you do not pose a threat. Explain what you are going to talk about so that the child does not worry. Ask how it is best to refer to him/her. Some forms of their name may evoke special emotions and memories, so it is better for the child to choose.

Be on the same level
Get down to the child's height level. Make sure your eyes are on the same level and listen carefully to what he/she says.

Don’t ask too many questions
You should not start with questions. Offer to talk about what he/she prefers. Remember that a child can be deeply traumatised or frightened, so he/she needs to learn to trust again. Let the child talk

No pressure
Do not interview a child immediately after the experienced trauma. It is best to wait for a while. The child's psyche may be agitated, so they may have memory problems. Be careful while digging deep — the child may invent a fact, trying to meet your expectations. Pay attention!

Secure structure
Before inquiring about the traumatic event, ask about the child’s life «before», where the child studied, what he/she did, general topics. This will create a secure basis for the interview.

Ask about the facts
Ask about the facts, not details. By restoring details, a child may get stuck in the lived experience and it may lead to retraumatization. Don't ask about emotions and don't add your own reaction. Instead of «Were you scared?» it is better to ask, «What did you see?». If the child bursts into tears, take a pause, tell them that crying is normal and give them the opportunity to do so. Before hugging a child, check that he/she does not mind.

Bring the child back to the present
At the end of the conversation, do not leave the child in the memories. Ask about his/her current life, what is he/she going to do next week. Always end the interview on a good note and thank the child for his/her time and efforts. 

Important! Always ask yourself if you really need to ask the child a certain question. Maybe one of the adults can help you with this. Avoid sensational reports in which children are portrayed as victims.

10 rules: «Don'ts» during an interview with a traumatised child

  • ❌ Don’t ask about emotions and how the child was feeling at one point or another. This can lead to re-trauma.
  • ❌ Don’t put pressure on the child. If you dig deep, the child may invent a fact, trying to meet your expectations. Pay attention to this!
  • ❌ If, during the interview, the child bursts into tears, do not hug him/her immediately. Before doing so — ask if he/she does not mind it and whether they give permission.
  • ❌ Avoid the question «Why?». It provokes a sense of guilt or shame. For example, «Why didn't you hide?» or «Why didn't you shout?».
  • ❌ Don’t ask questions about decisions. For example, «Do you want to go back home?» or «Where are your parents now?» These questions are in the anxiety zone, the child himself/herself may not know the answers to them. It is better to ask who the child is with now and ask them to show his/her toys.
  • ❌ Don’t put time limits for your interview with the child. Don't rush to finish the interview. You might even need to have several meetings.
  • ❌ Don’t appeal for justice. For example, don’t mention that after the material is published, everything will be resolved, the perpetrators will be punished and the war will end soon. Do not make excessive promises to the child that you are unsure about. 
  • ❌ Don’t interrupt the child — let him/her tell the story in his/her own words.
  • ❌ Don't let your emotions take over — your task is to listen. Empathise, but do not feel pity.
  • ❌ Sometimes you don't have to start with questions. Offer to talk about what he/she prefers. Let the child talk.

Ethical rules of media coverage of children's rights violations

The main task of a journalist covering the topic of children is to avoid causing any harm to a child. A child’s interests should prevail over everything. If the interview or publication of the material may somehow endanger the physical or psychological wellbeing of a child, journalistic ethics prohibits conducting interviews and publishing it in the media. But if you still decide to involve the child in media materials, you need to be especially sensitive and strictly adhere to professional standards. We have prepared some recommendations on how to draw public attention to the problem of children's rights violations, but to do it correctly, without harming them further.

Public importance and permission to publish
Before creating material about children, make sure that it is socially important, that you have serious and reasonable grounds for covering the child's private life, and that publishing his/her story will not harm him/her — neither today nor in the future. 

According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, everyone under the age of 18 is considered to be a child. For a publication where the central figure is a minor, it is mandatory to obtain permission for the material from the child's parents or legal caregivers, even if other media have already published this information. Such permission is sometimes difficult to obtain, especially in written form and during hostilities. The journalist's task is also to inform parents or caregivers in the best way possible about the purpose and content of the interview with the child.

While preparing the material, one should take all possible measures to prevent the identification of the child – for example, by blurring their face on photos, hiding it in scenes or taking pictures in a dark room. Even if parents post photos or videos of their children online, do not use these materials. The voice should also be changed. This should be done not only with victims of crimes, but also with minors accused of wrongdoing. 

It is unacceptable to reveal the names and indicate the signs by which children who were involved in illegal actions or became participants in events related to violence can be identified, as stated in the Code of Ethics of Ukrainian Journalists

Minimization of details
When describing the story of a child or a crime committed against him/her, think carefully about how many details should be included in the material. Ask yourself if all these details are important to the main idea you want to convey. 

A detailed description of the traumatic experience may cause discomfort to the child and his/her parents if they encounter it. If the material is about violence, you should consult with a psychologist about the consequences for the child as a result of publishing such a story.

Each media outlet has full legal responsibility for the published material. Parents of minors can file a lawsuit against the media for disclosing details and confidential information about the child.

Avoid excessive emotionality
A journalist needs to describe what is difficult for the victims to put into words. And here it is important to separate your own emotions from the emotions of the children about whom you are preparing material. Emotional ties to the character narrow your consciousness. To avoid this, ask yourself what the material you are preparing is about, what is the purpose and what you want to say. Describe what you’ve heard, not what you felt after talking to the child.

As you prepare for the interview, think about the emotions you may face — grief, pain, loss, fear and so on. It is important to keep your distance and understand that this is someone's suffering, not your own. You need to hear, not feel pity. And you will be able to hear them better if you separate your own emotions from those of others. 

Wider context and consequences
Each case needs to be presented in a broader context, rather than just a single story. Follow the trend and then you will understand the importance of the topic for society. This is what will distinguish deep, meaningful material from the usual breaking news or sensation.

Despite everything that has happened to the child, he/she should appear dignified in the journalistic material. You should not forget that he/she had a normal life. And this life will continue after the traumatic event, and after the release of your material. Always think about the consequences of what you are covering.

Checklist for preparing material where children are heroes

When preparing material based on an interview with a child, a journalist should:

  • check for the permission of the parents or caregivers to photograph the child;
  • check that the face of minors in the material is blurred;
  • check whether any medical diagnosis of the child is mentioned in the material – such information, without prior consent to its dissemination, is confidential;
  • make sure you avoid excessive emotionality in the material;
  • if you cover negative events in the life of the child or his/her family, and this may endanger them or cause society to have a negative attitude towards them, the child's face, name, surname, place of residence and study should be hidden and voices changed.

For psychologists

Psychological support for children in trauma and without parental care

Formula of effective interaction with the child

Children don’t talk about violence for several reasons:

  • a child lacks life experience and understanding that violence is not the norm;
  • a child’s critical thinking is not developed enough (its development begins at 7 years);
  • dependence of the survival and development of the child on the adult (especially in preschool age);
  • lack of strength and ability to resist violence;
  • children take the blame;
  • normalisation of violence.

For effective communication with a child, a specialist should follow the «formula of effective interaction with a child»:
Safe Place + Safe Adult = Child in safety

«Safe place»:

  • the place is predictable for the child; the child has received full information about what will happen to him/her, who will be present and what the role is of those presents. The child also understands what is expected of him/her;
  • the place where there is no violence against the child;
  • the place is physically safe for the child;
  • the place that is best prepared for interaction (available furniture according to the child's age, pencils, paper, toys, etc.).

«Safe Adult» means: 

  • an adult who knows and takes into account the age and individual characteristics of the child, as well as his/her psychological state;
  • an adult who interacts with the child «at their level»;
  • an adult who is able to recognize the needs of the child and ensures protection of the child’s rights and interests;
  • an adult who is friendly to the child and shows empathy.

«Child in safety» means:

  • a child who feels protected and at rest;
  • a child has control over his/her own life, and also understands what will happen, whom he/she can address for help; can control his/her own emotions and reproduce events that happened before;
  • a child has an attentive and caring adult nearby;
  • absence of objective and subjective threats.

When a child feels safe, their levels of anxiety reduce and the frontal lobes in the centre of the brain, which are responsible for reproducing information and establishing cause-and-effect relationships, are «switched on». Only in this state will the child be able to talk about the case of violence.

Features of communication with a child who has suffered from sexual abuse

It is important to communicate with the child by getting down to the level of the child's height and not to talk «top down». Do not raise your voice, do not make quick movements, do not put pressure on them, do not hurry the child, do not criticise and be careful with tactile touches.

It is important to follow these rules:

  • call the child by his/her first name as often as possible;
  • try to create a safe environment by expressing your good attitude towards the child;
  • speak slowly, clearly, in a calm voice;
  • use simple, child-friendly language;
  • often demonstrate interest in the child with a gesture (nodding your head) or intonation;
  • reassure the child that he/she is a partner in the conversation, stressing that everything he/she says is important;
  • maintain appropriate eye contact, but without excessive, continuous monitoring of the child;
  • interrupt the child's story only when it is absolutely necessary;
  • ask the child if you do not understand some of his/her statements;
  • if the child does not answer the question for a while, try to formulate it differently;
  • appreciate adequately the efforts of the child who testifies, but do not praise for specific answers, do not promise rewards;
  • if the child is anxious, emphasise the validity of his/her feelings;
  • in order for the child to start talking about himself/herself, show readiness to share a part of your personal life (what you like, what you admire, etc.).

Mistakes to be avoided in communication with a child

It is important during the interaction to provide space for individual communication with the child, to limit the presence and intervention of other people. It is important to ensure silence and tools to help establish contact with the child (pencils, paper, toys, etc.).

The following errors should be avoided:

  • don’t break into the physical space of the child, stay at a safe distance from him/her;
  • don’t push the child, give him/her time to think over the answers;
  • don’t evaluate the child and his/her statements;
  • don’t react to the child's statements with surprise, even if they shock you;
  • don’t comment on the situations described by the child in accordance with the views of adults;
  • don’t force the child to answer by saying that he/she should know or remember something;
  • don't make promises to the child that you can't keep;
  • don’t ask the child whether the offender should be punished and how;
  • don’t judge the child’s loved ones;
  • don’t panic if the child expresses his/her negative emotions; in this case, don’t say «do not cry» or «do not be nervous».

Important! A child, first of all, needs the involvement of a «safe adult» who can provide a «safe place».

Working with childhood sexual abuse

Coordination of professionals’ work is important when assisting children who have been sexually abused. A clear algorithm of actions will help to ensure the interests of the child and provide him/her with qualified psychological assistance. Therefore, if psychologists receive information about a case of sexual violence, their actions should be as follows:

    1. Collection of information about the case

    First of all, it is necessary to collect information about the case (Annex 1) and make sure that the person who contacted you is really the «original source» of this request. Then find out data about the child's age, location, people who are his/her legal representatives and the story of what happened to the child. 

    2. ​​Consultations with parents or caregivers

    When dealing with a case, psychologists begin their work with parents or caregivers. The meeting can be online or offline. At this meeting, the psychologist: (1) informs the parents or caregivers about the principles of work and the procedure for responding to cases of violence against children; (2) helps to stabilize the parents' condition and provides recommendations for the child’s support (Annex 2); (3) agrees on further work with the child (Annex 3), which may involve the following areas – first aid, interviewing the child and preparing to testify, organising further psychological work with the child on the consequences of sexual violence.

    3. Meeting with the child

    The first meeting of the psychologist with the child is held to assess his/her condition and provide first aid, if necessary. When working with a child, it is important to keep protocols* of consultations. If requested by parents or law enforcement agencies, the psychologist may provide a certificate/conclusion on the results of work with the child

    *Psychologists keep documentation and working protocols in accordance with the organisation where they work. If the psychologist has a private practice, he/she can independently develop the necessary documentation for the work.

    4. Psychological support and preparation of the child for investigative (search) activities

    If there is a process of recording evidence within criminal proceedings, the specialists can carry out psychological education, informing parents and children about the process (Guidelines for the organisation of work with children according to the «Green Room» methodology for investigators and juvenile police: https://cutt.ly/cTWBhar). 

    5. Peculiarities of investigative (search) activities with the participation of the child

    During the investigative (search) activities with the child, psychologists, with the consent of the parents, may provide information about the child's condition, the protocol of consultations to other psychologists who will conduct the survey/interrogation. If the parents do not agree to provide information about the child, then, upon request from the law enforcement agencies, psychologists will be obliged to provide it (Article 93 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).

    Important! It is not recommended that psychologists who work with the child and parents participate in investigative (search) actions involving the child, as the combination of functional roles may complicate either the provision of evidence or further psychological work with the child. 

    6. Psychological rehabilitation of a child regarding the consequences of sexual violence

    The processing of a traumatic experience is only possible when the child is present in a safe and stable environment.


    Phone numbers for services and agencies that work to protect and support children

    Violation of children's rights

    If you are aware of a violation of a child's rights, call the following numbers:

    Office of the Prosecutor General
    If you have been a victim or witness of Russian war crimes - record and send evidence

    National hotline for children and youth «La Strada - Ukraine»
    0 800 500 225 or 116 111 (from mobile)

    National Hotline for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Human Trafficking and Gender Discrimination «La Strada-Ukraine»
    0 800 500 335 or 116 123 (from mobile)

    Hotline for Children's Rights Protection
    0 800 500 225 or 772 (from mobile)

    Hotline number of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine
    0 800 501 720 or +38 044 253 75 89 (from mobile)

    Legal Aid Coordination Center
    0 800 213 103

    Psychological support

    If you find it difficult to cope with your own experiences, or your child's fears or anxieties, check out a list of hotlines that provide psychological support to adults, youth and children.

    Hotline from UNICEF and the Ukrainian Child Rights Network 
    Consultations for families with children, social workers and employees of other structures that accompany families and care for children.

    Project of psychological support «PORUCH» from the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine and UNICEF
    Online and offline groups offering psychological support to teenagers and parents whose normal lives have been destroyed by the war.

    National Children's and Youth Hotline «La Strada-Ukraine»
    Here, anonymous psychological support is provided to children and teenagers. Specialists will help them to cope with psychological problems and suggest what to do if a child faces violence or abuse.
    0 800 500 225 or 116 111 (from mobile)

    National Hotline for the prevention of Domestic Violence, Human Trafficking and Gender Discrimination
    Psychological support and counseling for those who have experienced or are experiencing physical, psychological or sexual abuse is provided here.
    0 800 500 335 or 116 123 (from mobile)
    email: hotline@la-strada.gov.ua

    Hotline for victims of domestic violence from the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine
    Providing psychological assistance to child, female and male victims of domestic violence.
    15 47 (from mobile)

    Child trafficking

    If you have witnessed child trafficking in Ukraine or abroad — call the following numbers.

    🇺🇦 Ukraine
    National Toll-Free Counter-Trafficking and Migrant Advice Hotline
    527 (from mobile) or 0 800 505 501 (from landline)

    Representation of the International Organization for Migration in Ukraine
    +38 044 568 5015
    email: iomkievcomm@iom.int

    International public organization A21 Ukraine 
    +38 044 338 3381
    email: info.ua@A21.org

    National hotline for the prevention of domestic violence, human trafficking and gender discrimination «La Strada – Ukraine» 
    0 800 500 335  from landline)
    or 116 123 (from mobile)
    email: hotline@la-strada.gov.ua

    National hotline on combating human trafficking, preventing and combating domestic violence, gender-based violence and violence against children 
    15 47 (from mobile)

    24/7 consular operational service (in cases of emergencies abroad involving citizens of Ukraine)
    +38 044 238 1657
    +38 044 238 1824
    email: cons_or@mfa.gov.ua

    Department for combating crimes related to human trafficking from the national police of Ukraine
    0 800 500 202

    Ukrainian bureau of Interpol
    +38 044 256 1253

    🇵🇱 Poland
    The National Consulting and Intervention Centre for Victims of Trafficking
    +48 22 628 01 20
    +48 22 628 99 99

    Embassy of Ukraine in the Republic of Poland
    Al. J. Ch. Szucha 7, Warszawa
    +48 22 629 34 46 
    +48 22 622 47 97

    Consulate General of Ukraine in Krakow
    Aleja Pułkownika Władysława Beliny-Prażmowskiego 4,
    31-514 Kraków
    +48 12 429 60 66

    Consulate General of Ukraine in Gdansk 
    Bernarda Chrzanowskiego 60a, 80-278 Gdańsk
    +48 58 346 06 90

    Consulate General of Ukraine in Lublin 
    3 Maja 14, 20-078 Lublin 
    +48 81 531 88 89
    +48 81 531 88 01

    International Organization for Migration in Poland
    ul. Wiejska 12, 00-490 Warszawa
    +48 22 623 81 54
    +48 22 490 20 44

    🇷🇴 Romania
    National Anti-Trafficking Agency
    +40 21 313 31 00

    Public organisation Open Door Foundation 
    0 800 800 678 

    Independent Foundation Community Safety and Mediation Center
    +40 78 787 88 06 

    Embassy of Ukraine in Romania
    Bulevardul Aviatorilor 24, București
    +40 21 230 36 60

    International Organization for Migration in Romania
    11th Viitorului Street, Bucharest 
    +40 21 210 30 50

    🇭🇺 Hungary
    National crisis and information line 
    +36 80 20 55 20

    Embassy of Ukraine in Hungary
    Istenhegyi út 84/b, Budapest
    +36 1 422 4120

    International Organization for Migration in Hungary
    8 Falk Miksa Street, H-1055 Budapest 
    +36 1 472 2500

    🇸🇰 Slovakia
    Hotline for the victims of human trafficking 
    +421 800 800 818

    Information hotlines in Slovakia
    0850 211 478 (within Slovakia)
    або +421 252 630 023 (calls from abroad)

    Embassy of Ukraine in Slovakia
    Radvanská 4175/35, 811 01 Staré Mesto
    +421 259 202 810

    International Organization for Migration in Slovakia
    +421 252 631 597

    🇧🇬 Bułgaria
    SOS Families in Risk Foundation 
    +359 526 09 677

    Embassy of Ukraine in Bulgaria 
    GK Ovcha Kupel, 29, Borjana st., Sofia 1618
    +359 281 86 828

    International Organization for Migration in Bulgaria
    77 Tzar Asen str., Sofia 1463 
    +359 293 94 774