What shelter providers need to know and information on how to communicate with traumatized children
We also recommend undertaking a short online course on child’s safety, which outlines the specifics of care and adaptation.
A family (or person) that provides temporary shelter to a child during martial law in Ukraine is obliged to:
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).
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).
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.
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.
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:
The following is not recommended while talking to a 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.
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.
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:
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:
How to support a child of primary school-age:
How to support a teenager:
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:
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:
Manifestations of PTSD in children
Phases of PTSD
What reduces the risk of PTSD and fosters healing
In order to reduce the risk of PTSD and foster healing, it is necessary to:
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.
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:
Media coverage of sensitive topics and crimes against children
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
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!
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.
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.
When preparing material based on an interview with a child, a journalist should:
Children don’t talk about violence for several reasons:
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 Adult» means:
«Child in safety» means:
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.
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:
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:
Important! A child, first of all, needs the involvement of a «safe adult» who can provide a «safe place».
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
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
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.
+38 095 327 1521
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)
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)
If you have witnessed child trafficking in Ukraine or abroad — call the following numbers.
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
International public organization A21 Ukraine
+38 044 338 3381
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)
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
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
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,
+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
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
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
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
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