The family of Candidate of Physical and Mathematical Sciences Elena Zholiker was registered with the Commission on Juvenile Affairs in January. The director of her daughter's school told the police that the girl hadn't attended "Conversations about the Important" for more than a month and put "Saint Javelina" (a picture depicting the Virgin Mary with an anti-tank missile) in her profile picture. The Commission on Juvenile Affairs ruled that Elena was improperly fulfilling parental responsibilities. In March, a Barnaul resident was accused of parental neglect after her daughter took part in an anti-war rally marking the anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to the Telegram channel Beware, News. In the same month, a court in the Tula region sentenced Alexei Moskalev, a single father, to two years in prison for anti-war posts on social networks (Moskalev himself claims that he did not write them). In the spring of 2022, his daughter drew an anti-war drawing in class, and since then law enforcement officers have become interested in the family: they came to them with searches, the girl was taken to a rehabilitation center, but then they were nevertheless handed over to her mother. It is also known about the case when a resident of Sevastopol was forced to apologize on camera because of her son's joke about a fire at the city oil depot.
If you don't talk, someone else will. Why is it important to talk to your child about the war?
It is dangerous to express anti-war views in Russia not only to adults, but also to children (although responsibility for minors will most likely fall on their parents or guardians). At the same time, children can worry about the war no less than adults, and the support of their parents is very important for them. Child and adolescent psychologist, teacher Dina Palekha notes that with a lack of information, children interpret reality in their own way and sometimes much worse than it really is:
“Now, in conditions of total anxiety, children experience about the same feelings as adults. And it is very important to give the child not only a basic sense of security in the family, not only the confidence that everything is in order with him, but also permission to experience anxious feelings.”
It is necessary to talk with the child, says Anna Tomilina, a child psychologist, candidate of pedagogical sciences, because if a parent does not talk to him, then someone else will probably do it: “And it may very well be that it will be a person from TV or from school, which will be more meaningful for your child, because you see your child two hours before bedtime, and he sees his six hours at school. The position of these people may be directly opposite to the views of the family. However, if parents want the child to think in the same categories of good and evil as they do, you need to talk to him.
If a parent doesn't talk to a child about the war, someone else will.
The school and strangers are definitely not able to give the child a basic sense of security and the feeling that everything is in order with him, says Palekha. On the contrary, they can load the child with unnecessary meanings, completely confusing and frightening: “Only a parent knows what and how to tell his child. Only a parent can outline those life guidelines that will give the child a sense of rear and the ability to think critically.
If parents believe that the child is not interested in the war and does not worry, then in fact they do not know what is happening inside him, says Tomilina. She explains that she often observes severe depressive states in children who are left alone with their problems and anxieties. Often parents do not know how to start a conversation on a difficult topic, because the family did not have a culture of talking with children. But the child also does not know where to start, especially if he is under stress, the psychologist explained.
In addition, Tomilina believes, a child should not be released into the outside world unprepared. It is worth talking to him if the child starts going to kindergarten or school:
“If before kindergarten you somehow managed to fence off the child from unwanted information, now he should have some thoughts and knowledge, he should rely on your position. We are talking about the safety of the child: if he comes across some new information and does not understand what it is about at all, he will have nothing to oppose. It’s not entirely safe for the child’s psyche.”
How to prepare for a conversation
Psychologists recommend talking with children about the war regularly (one conversation will not be enough), but you need to prepare for such a conversation. Tomilina warns that it is possible to discuss acute and problematic situations with a child only if the parent himself has an internal resource for this: his experiences, in all his fears about what is happening.
Children are very good at reading emotions, even if they are not talked about, Palekha adds: “The more we hide from children, the more we show that it is difficult for us to cope with this information ourselves. The child sees that adults cannot cope with the situation, and this increases his anxiety.
Children are very good at reading emotions, even if they are not spoken about.
Tomilina recommends talking on difficult topics, including the topic of war, choosing a specific place and time, that is, not before going to bed or on the run: “This conversation can be long and go completely differently than you planned to spend it.” However, this advice is only suitable for those cases when there is an opportunity to choose and the parent himself plans to start this conversation. When the initiator of the conversation was a child who, before going to bed, began to ask questions himself, you will have to answer without preparation.
How to start a conversation and what to say
Tomilina emphasizes that the course of the conversation depends very much on how the family communicated before. If there were no problems in communication, the psychologist advises starting a conversation with a discussion of feelings: “You can ask the child what he feels, what he knows, what his friends, teacher, coach say about this. During such a conversation, it is important not to allow categorical statements - not to say that everything will be fine or vice versa: “This is terrible, I don’t know what to do with this, where it will lead, I don’t foresee anything good.” You can say: “You and I are not alone in these experiences, and the whole world is working to improve the situation. They will probably succeed, because sooner or later, good always wins.” An important task is to instill confidence in children and replenish their resources. This can be done by those people who have established contact with children.
An important task is to instill confidence in children and replenish their resource
Palekha notes that if the child is old enough and interested in politics, asks questions, then you should talk honestly with him. It is necessary to explain what is happening, how the parents relate to the situation. In addition, the psychologist continues, it is important to outline the risks if parents see them. There is no need to hide your anxiety, but it is worth making it clear that the family is stable in everything related to relationships and trust.
It is also not necessary to give the child extra information, psychologists say. For example, for younger children and those who are not interested in politics at all, general information will suffice. Little children do not need to be told news from the front, their psyche is not able to digest it. In addition, Tomilina recommends that parents of children of preschool age and primary school age set restrictions on access to content related to the war. Especially when it comes to visual content, which she calls the most dangerous: “These terrible pictures that children have seen can haunt them at night, cause insomnia, and this leads to a lot of other psychological problems.”
Older children, like themselves, need to set a time limit when they can watch the news, Tomilina advises. She also recommends talking to them about sources of information, what journalism is, and what propaganda is:
“It is important to say that there are sources that we, as parents, trust, and there are sources that we do not trust. And you need to talk constantly, because the information is constantly coming. Talking once at the beginning of the war is not enough.”
If the opinion of the parents does not coincide with the position of the school and other relatives
A situation where people who are equally important to a child, such as parents and grandparents, say opposite things, and he does not understand who is right and who is wrong, can greatly injure the child, Tomilina says: “My opinion is that if it injures the child, I need to stop hurting him. I would advise for some time to exclude the communication of the child with grandparents.
Speaking about such circumstances at school, Palekha notes that this is the meaning of socialization: such a situation allows the child to separate himself from others, to understand where his opinion ends and the opinion of another begins:
“This is a natural process for the psyche. Yes, this is growing up in difficult times. But if a child has a reliable rear and acceptance at home, he does not need provocative protest behavior. We can't protect our children from everything, and we don't need to. How else will they develop this social immunity?”
Parents cannot oppose the school system, but they can make it clear that in which case they will take the side of the child, they can allow the child to argue, ask questions, discuss, the psychologist continues. She notes that the dominance of patriotic events in kindergartens and schools over the past year is an attempt by the state to educate a younger generation loyal to itself. At the same time, Palekha says, it is important to understand that children read the game context of such events, and ideology often does not matter much to them: “Our parental projections are sometimes larger than what is actually happening. With our fears and anxieties, we can bring more confusion into the children's consciousness than the school does. In addition, the psychologist adds, “obligation” usually has the opposite effect: the more stringent the requirements for loyalty to the system, the more you want to resist it: “A school, like any system, thinks linearly. Solve the problem immediately, now. But psychologists look two steps ahead. This should be done by parents too. What do we see in the story of Masha M.? [Masha Moskaleva. — The Insider] What did this girl learn from what happened? Absolutely not the principles with which the teachers were hiding behind. However, the same principle can also work against a parent who will strictly forbid something to a teenager.
Parents cannot resist the school system, but they can make it clear that if something happens, they will take the side of the child
Psychologists also warn that the opinion of a teenager may not coincide with the opinion of his parents. In particular, parents need to be prepared for the fact that one day the child may oppose them, says Palekha: “Who else should he test his strength on? It can be disagreement with the family narrative, protest, rebellion, polar opinion. And it is important for a parent to survive at this moment. Do not fall into hysterics and depreciation (“immature position”, “what do you even understand”, “heard enough / seen enough”). The child is entitled to an opinion, as are the parents. They should let him know that they are open to discussion if he is ready to talk constructively.”
Often, behind opposing one’s opinion to the position of parents, the child’s desire to be more independent, more mature, freer is hidden, and conflicts over politics can be the result of long-standing disagreements and confrontations in the family that have burst to the surface, Palekha explains.
When talking with a child about war, it is very important to identify the risks. Often bright protest behavior is a consequence of the fact that the child wants to be noticed, says Palekha:
“If a teenager can calmly, without devaluation, express his opinion in the circle of those whom he can trust, he is less likely to put them and himself at risk. If, of course, he knows about this threat. Therefore, risk awareness is a must. You need to explain that this can affect you, your family, your friends ... Social intelligence also consists in taking into account the interests of others.
Tomilina notes that it is important to talk with a child about the fact that people who talk about the war are being persecuted. The child must understand that if he talks about the war and does not know what kind of people are listening to him, he can bring his family under such persecution:
“We need to explain to him that this is not his fault, but his responsibility. If we talk specifically about the situation of the Moskalevs, then, of course, this is not the fault of the child. We know very well whose fault it is. This is the personal fault of the leaders of the state who put people in such a situation, it is the fault of the teacher, it is the fault of the principal of the school.”
Parents should explain to children that it is not worth being frank with teachers on the topic of war and politics, since teachers are forced people and this can lead to unpleasant consequences in the form of an administrative fine or criminal prosecution, lawyer Dmitry Zakhvatov agrees. He recommends telling children about the dangers that can lie in wait for a family if a child begins to actively express his anti-war position:
“If you were called to a parent-teacher meeting because a child drew an anti-war picture or expressed some kind of“ anti-Soviet ”opinion, do not react to teachers’ stupid remarks and do not reveal your position to them. Answer in monosyllables and do not engage in dialogue. It's useless. Remember that you will most likely be dealing with zombies that don't understand logical arguments. Pokerface and "yes", "okay", "understood". Don't try to convince."
Parents should explain to children that it is not necessary to be frank with teachers on the topic of war and politics.
Responsibility under the administrative article for “discrediting” the army comes from the age of 16 ( Article 20.3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation ), criminal liability for “repeated discrediting”, as well as for “fakes about the activities of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation”, also comes from the age of 16, specifies Zakhvatov. He notes that if a child is denounced and subjected to administrative liability for anti-war speech in any form, it is important to remember that "registration" does not carry any legal consequences. However, the lawyer adds, the parents of a child who expressed an anti-war position in any form may be punished under Art. 5.35 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation (“Failure by parents or other legal representatives of minors to fulfill their obligations to support and educate minors”), which provides for a fine of 100 to 500 rubles: “In addition, for such parents there is a risk of drawing the attention of the police to their social networks, which may lead to responsible for the presence of anti-war publications in them.
Leaving education at the mercy of school workers is a very bad and obviously losing idea, Zakhvatov is sure: “Explain to the children why the human rights and freedoms specified in Chapter 2 of the Constitution are the true traditional values of civilization and the moral foundation of society. Why is tolerance towards minorities important, respect for neighbors, why it is necessary to observe the principle of non-aggressive violence, what happens when this principle is violated, and how this principle relates to defense against aggressive violence.” He also recommends explaining to children that they can refuse to participate in actions such aswriting letters to “members of the NWO” and drawing wartime pictures: “By involving children in wartime activities, teachers violate Article 34 of the Education Law , which prohibits involving children in political events. But teachers often have no idea about the legal regulation of their activities - such is the world in which they live. The lawyer advises not to explain the refusal to participate in such propaganda events, but to talk with teachers about this topic without details - “I don’t want, I won’t, I’m lazy, uninteresting, boring”: “If, in response to a request to draw a tank, Masha draws a camomile, there will be no consequences will not be".
Leaving education at the mercy of school workers is a very bad and obviously losing idea.
Palekha advises discussing with the child what he can do to show his position and disagreement - help someone who is bullied at school, develop critical thinking, study history and psychology in order to understand how the processes work: “Yes, you can’t protest, but you can always come up with something to at least partially make this world a better place. What this experience will be for you is up to you.”
Tomilina also recommends explaining to children that there are no bad or good nations:
“There are nations that, at some historical moment, were unable to resist the totalitarian regime, trouble happened to them. This misfortune cannot be compared with the misfortune that they brought to the territory of another state. But we must remember that any bullying and any discrimination is evil. And our children have to grow up with this, because in any case, they or their children will have to build bridges after this war.”
Из-за резонанса вокруг дела Москалевых вряд ли в дальнейшем регулярно будет происходить нечто похожее, считает Захватов:
«В качестве эксцесса это возможно в каких-нибудь маленьких провинциальных городах, таких как Ефремов, где это и случилось. Думаю, что власть извлекла из ситуации с Москалевыми уроки, в связи с чем повторение подобного сюжета маловероятно, но о своей безопасности побеспокоиться все же стоит».