Supporting employees going through menopause

Why it is important to educate staff and managers on menopause.

We are an aging population and are working into our later years of life.  This is thanks to the increase in retirement age and the ability to remain fit and healthier longer with modern medicine.  Whilst we are grateful for the life longevity, I can’t say there has been the same welcome for the increase in retirement age. But what does this mean for the workforce?

Menopause comes to all females at some point in life.  It’s a naturally occurring event that some sail through easily with very few symptoms, while others battle and struggle through the transition. 

Why is it important to address menopause in the workplace?

  • Menopausal women are the fastest growing workforce.- Professor Jo Brewis, co-author of the Government Report on Menopause.
  • 8 out of 10 menopausal women are working.- Faculty of Occupational Medicine
  • 45% of women say their menopause symptoms have had a negative impact on their work.- British Menopause Society

How menopause can impact on work

Many women don’t feel comfortable talking about the menopause or their symptoms, especially to managers. It can make a huge difference to employees when they are made to feel as though what they are going through is normal and there is an open culture in support.  Many menopausal women find themselves considering another employer, in fact one in four consider it.  But if the culture, support and systems are in place, this can greatly be reduced.


Providing workshops and resources to staff that inform them about what happens in the female body during menopause and what symptoms are associated with this, makes a huge difference.  We all know about the hot flushes but there are actually 34 different symptoms known to be caused through perimenopause and menopause.  When women have a greater understanding of what is happening to them and how to manage their own symptoms, they can swiftly get back to living a more normal life. Also, younger colleagues will be better able to support their menopausal co-workers.

Talking culture

Regular informal ‘check ins’ are great for maintaining good employee relations and can provide an opportunity to find out how the staff member can be personally supported.  Managers do not need to be menopause experts, but simply show a caring and open attitude towards menopause and signpost them to further support as needed.

Setting up support groups for your employees to meet other employees currently going through this phase, can be massively helpful too.  It makes them feel normal and less alone and they can share experiences and useful tips on managing symptoms.

What organisations can do

Menopause in the workplace should be part of the health and safety concerns for managers and handled with care and sensitivity. 

The changes need to come from the top when it comes to ensuring support for employees.  It’s recommended that organisations have something in writing that managers can refer to when it comes to supporting staff.

Other things to consider are the control of workplace temperature and ventilation.  How can they be adapted to meet the needs of individuals. Can you provide fans or cooler spaces for staff rooms? Sleep disturbances can be issue so can managers consider shift changes or flexible working hours if workers have had little sleep and feel unsafe to work. Providing access to cold drinking water at all times is also very helpful to manage symptoms and considerations could be made with uniform fabrics and styles. 

Anything that managers can do to make menopausal employees feel more comfortable through their working hours, goes a long way to ensuring that they retain valued staff members, who have years of training and experience.

For more information on Empowerplan’s Menopause Workshops visit our Workshops page and request a brochure.

Reducing the risk of suicide – Managers guide

What ‘if anything’ can we do to help those in desperate need for support?

Employees and individuals face many challenges in life and some are impactful and overwhelming on occasions.  Sometimes past events, trauma or limiting beliefs can snowball into darkness and overwhelm without warning or being aware of the actual trigger. Managing their rollercoaster of emotions along with stresses and pressures of work and family life, or illness and responsibilities, can be exhausting. Employees wellbeing therefore needs careful monitoring and attention.  It’s best to have consistent measures in place to educate and your staff, and therefore reduce the risks to health physically and mentally.

What we know…

  • There are around 115 suicide deaths each week in the UK (ONS)
  • 75% of the UK deaths are male (ONS)
  • 700,000 suicidal deaths are reported each year worldwide. (WHO)
  • 1 in 5 people will have thoughts about suicide (NHS Digital)
  • 1 in 15 people attempt suicide (NHS Digital)

There are so many little fires that we tackle on a daily basis, just trying to keep our families happy, careers growing and struggling to find some time along the way to add in a little self-care.  It’s not surprising that many people feel as though they are a sinking ship.

The cost-of-living crisis is adding additional financial pressures to many households.  This in itself is scary, as those who are experiencing financial stress are twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts than those who are financially stable.

Spotting the signs

It will always be difficult to know if someone is having suicidal thoughts, as many intentionally hide these thoughts very well.  Suicidal feelings and thoughts are very complex and the reasons and behaviours of each person are unique to them. That said there are some common behaviours that you can look out for:

What they say:

  • Talk of dying or life ending
  • Speaking of feeling hopeless or without purpose
  • Mentioning how much of a burden they are to others

How they behave:

  • Changes to usual behaviour
  • Substance abuse (including alcohol)
  • Not sleeping
  • Getting personal affairs in order
  • Saying unusually heartfelt goodbyes
  • Social withdrawal

How can managers help?

With so many people struggling to maintain good mental health at the moment, it is so important that support is provided by employers, employees knowledge is developed and safe and caring cultures encouraged.

Active and positive steps for managers:

  • Reduce stigma about mental health by speaking openly and providing mental health education to ALL staff.
  • Provide access to appropriate support and preferably before crisis point hits. Encourage seeking early interventions.
  • Regularly check that you are effective in supporting staff and address changes needed.
  • Create a caring and compassionate culture. Provide a safe and confidential channel for them to reach out to and listen well. Support groups can also be created within larger establishments.

Supporting through CLASS

C = Connect    Make time to check in and connect with staff

L = Listen        Let them speak rather than you leading the conversation

A = Assess       Have they made plans? Encourage thoughts of what makes life good

S = Support     Reassure them you are there for them and they are NOT a burden

S = Signpost    Signpost them to professional services such as their GP, NHS 111 or Samaritans

Alzheimer’s and depression, and how I evolved

I am Andrew and I am one of the Directors here at EmpowerPlan. Please allow me to share my own personal story, which will give you a brief insight into why I am so very passionate about my job, and how it can help various employers & employees across the UK. 

A few years ago, a family member and someone who is very close to my heart was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. As his condition developed over time, and the repercussions of the disease were clear to see, it dawned on me that my best friend and the man I worshipped from being a little boy would never be the same again.  

Memories are what make up a person.

If you stripped someone of their memories, then what are they but an empty shell? Empty inside but with the same exterior being presented to the outside world around them. This is what Alzheimer’s does to people. Each day, their internal memories, that once made them look at you the way they did, slowly shrinking and eventually disintegrating.  And there is not an awful lot you can do to stop it at the moment.

My Father… My Hero

My hero

He was the man I called every other day, if not every day. He was the man I turned to for advice, my first port of call if in a crisis. He was the man who made me love Sunderland football club; and although this can bring with it much heartache, it was this love of sport that bonded our relationship.

Who would I call now after a win, a draw, or predominantly a loss? Who could I play golf with and attack the large bushes searching for our miss placed shots? Who could I cry with? Who could I reach out to? Why was this happening? To him… of all people… HIM? What had he done to deserve this cruel torture? As each week went by, a new condition would set in. It was brutal, heart-breaking and I was completely and utterly devastated to watch it.  

The impact

To cut a long story short, my mental health deteriorated, and this illness was one of the trigger points for a large period of depression. I didn’t realise that I had a mental health illness at first. I honestly thought the phrase ‘mental health’ was for people in ‘cloud cuckoo’ land. This wasn’t me.  I wasn’t crazy.  These were all misconceptions I had back then. I just felt like I was extremely sad.   I remember the fake smiles at work, which were exhausting. I just wanted to lock myself away, curl up into a ball in the toilet cubicles or something similar and cry. I remember doing this very act and plucking up the nerve to re-join the office, only to be criticised for being late out of the lavatory. When I finally informed my line managers that I was struggling, they had no idea on how to resolve the issue or support me in what I was going through. It was uncomfortable for them when I mentioned it, just as it was uncomfortable for me and therefore found little strength and reassurance from them.  It wasn’t their fault I suppose, they had no experience of mental health issues. They told me I could take days off; however, I wasn’t in the position to afford time off unpaid.  My company did not pay sick pay, especially for mental health conditions.  

Help me

I did as I was advised to and sought help from my GP and was prescribed medication… but no avail. I started to drink more. A lot more.  It took the heartache away, and dulled my pain. Or at least momentarily I was under the illusion that is what was happening.  I had no interest in my work at all. It was evident in my altered motivation levels.  And they offered little help in supporting me through this glitch, in what had previously been a very loyal, and well-presented career path. I was on a downward spiral, and something needed to change. 

I found my shining light.

My rock bottom

My behaviour became very erratic and I relished in causing myself physical pain to take away the emotional hurt that clung to me inside; relentless and unwavering.  Just there deep within me, drawing me down further into darkness that just felt consuming and claustrophobic.  My world felt as though it had crumbled around me and I was alone.  I was at rock bottom, but I found some light thanks to my amazing and supportive wife.

Rapid Transformational Therapy

When I was at my lowest point, I knew that I had no choice but to seek professional help.  I couldn’t keep denying what was happening and hoping it would pass.  My loved ones had spent so long trying to get me to go to counselling of some sort.  But I really did not want to sit in a room and talk to a stranger about my dad, and how his illness triggered such darkness and pain.  I didn’t want that pain and I wanted to supress it, not talk about it every week.  We each have our own needs and preferences and, this was something I felt I couldn’t handle at that time. After much discussions and convincing,  I decided to experience first-hand the power of Rapid Transformational Therapy. My wife explained how I wouldn’t need as many sessions as general counselling and the release would be impactful and freeing.  And boy, was she right. Little did I know, that the depression I thought was caused by my fathers illness, was only triggered by it.  The root cause happened much earlier on in my life experiences.  I know now after all the research I have done since, that the root cause of mental health conditions happens before the age of 18 in 75% of cases.  But before my session, I had no idea what I clung onto from my past and how my own memories had shaped my beliefs and manifested into depression.

Why I joined my wife in creating EmpowerPlan

For me, the opportunity to launch EmpowerPlan was a no brainer. I know first-hand what it feels like to be struggling at work. The support we can give businesses across the UK and to employees can be life changing. If employees are happier, they’ll feel more focused and motivated and they’ll use their time at work more effectively, which means they’ll get more done without sacrificing quality.

I feel like I am truly where I belong and actually making a difference.

Nutrition to support and boost mental health

We fuel our bodies with the food we eat and are generally aware of the benefits of re-fuelling with food that is healthy and nutritious – but what about the brain? 

We are very conscious about the fact that the foods that we eat could have an impact on our physical appearance and also the health of our internal body.  But what about other important factors that create balance in our overall wellbeing such as energy levels, mood, thoughts, behaviours and our ability to concentrate.

Feeling good isn’t determined solely by our physical appearance, in fact for many of us, this is only very small factor.

Go with your “gut feeling”

Have you ever felt that sensation inside when making decisions or had butterflies in your stomach when getting nervous?  At these moments, you are getting signals from your ‘second brain’. The gut. Your digestive system contains a link with mood, health and the way you think.  This is what scientists call the enteric nervous system (ENS).  This system consists of 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract. Should you compromise your gut health, this can put pressure on your brain function and lead to mental health conditions. 

“The enteric nervous system doesn’t seem capable of thought as we know it, but it communicates back and forth with our big brain—with profound results.” explains Jay Pashricha .M.D, director of the Johns Hopkins Centre for Neuro-gastroenterology, whose research on the enteric nervous system has garnered international attention. “For decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems. But our studies and others show that it may also be the other way around,” Pasricha says.

What are good brain foods?

These are generally foods that contains nutrients such as:

  • B Vitamins
  • Omega-3
  • Selenium
  • Tryptophan
  • Resistant starch


Slow-release carbs are good for maintaining energy within the body and brain. “Healthy carbohydrates that are minimally processed, such as whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and legumes, have been found to positively contribute to heart, gut, and brain health,” says Katey Davidson, a registered dietitian and founder of Taste of Nutrition.

Nutrition in the workplace

Nutrition is one area that is often overlooked with corporate wellbeing as many organisations and programs tend to focus on physical activity and mental health initiatives like mindfulness, and yet good nutrition is equally as important for your overall wellbeing.

The World Health Organization (WHO) found that optimal nourishment can raise productivity levels by 20%. Healthy employees are happier, calmer, more engaged, sleep better and get sick less often. 

It’s a ‘no brainer’ really that employers provide healthy food options for their employees to benefit both the individual and the organisation.

How can you improve employee nutrition?

  • Review what you supply and offer either in vending machines, canteens or cafes, and look at how improvements can be made.  Could you begin to include onsite lunches or food deliveries for meetings and events or provide a weekly fruit bowl. Small cost with big benefits.
  • Make filtered water available to your employees and encourage them to drink more of it.
  • And finally, offer healthy eating information and education. 

If we begin to understand the importance of nutrition how value it as much as physical fitness, sleep and mental health, then the key pillars of wellbeing will be well on the way to being met, and employees will be content and productive.

EmpowerPlan Employee Assistance portal contains numerous methods for educating employees on a great number of wellbeing topics including nutrition.  There are diet plans and recipes to help encourage and support your employees with their overall wellbeing.

Burnout! What is it, and why has this condition become a huge problem for so many employers? 

People are more frequently reporting issues of overwhelming stress and burnout within the workplace. But what exactly do we mean by burnout and how can you determine if you or your staff are struggling with burnout? 

Life can be hectic, especially when you must juggle high workloads, deal with short staffing, and feel pressured by up-and-coming deadlines. We very often feel physically exhausted and worn out on these occasions of high pressure, but when you or your staff start to show signs of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion it can become more serious.  

Burnout is not stress! 

A certain amount of stress can be quite motivational and provide that little bit of pressure to perform to our best ability. We all need to feel pressure to ensure we complete tasks with an appropriate level of urgency. If you are feeling stressed your engagement increases and emotions are heightened.  

Burnout is completely the opposite… 

People who are suffering from burnout become disengaged from tasks, people, and their environment. Their emotions are blunted and will feeling overwhelmingly hopeless and helpless. They have zero motivation to keep going and feel there is simple no point in doing what they are doing.  

What symptoms to look out for? 


Do they seem to be disengaging with their work and colleagues? Is there a disconnect from the team and their surroundings?  


Chronic stress and burnout can lead to further issues both in terms of mental health and also physical health. This will lead to more frequent time off due to sickness. 


The feeling of hopelessness can lead to being more irritable along with heightened anger due to the isolation they are subjected to. 

An increase in accidents 

Concentration levels are diminished, and the inability to pay attention can lead to a greater number of accidents occurring. Exhaustion and issues with sleeping are also a contributing factor to more accidents. 


If left untreated and unacknowledged, burnout leads to more complex and serious mental health conditions such as depression. Symptoms of depression include: 

  • Concentration and memory issues 
  • Fatigue 
  • Feelings of guilt  
  • Pessimism and hopelessness 
  • Sleeping too much or too little 
  • Irritability 
  • Restlessness 
  • Loss of interest in hobbies 
  • Overeating, or appetite loss 
  • Aches, pains, headaches, or cramps that won’t go away 
  • Digestive problems that don’t get better, even with treatment 
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings 
  • Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts 

No two people are the same and symptoms may vary so these are just a few pointers and bits of information to watch out for.  

What is the cause of burnout? 

Unlike stress, which can be as a result of anything from family life, to work to situations, or events that are happening; burnout is predominantly work or school related for students. And this comes as a result of excessive and chronic stress within the workplace or college and of course work overload so too much work. Being unable to carry out all of the tasks within the time frame expected. Other factors that can also affect burnout are being put under excessive pressure, big changes within a company, not having any control over outcomes and situations within the workplace and feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities. 

So how can you help? 

The main thing that you can do is to remember that a happy healthy workforce will more often than not be a productive workforce. And want to make the changes needed for your staff.  

There are some simple measures that you can put in place… things such as: 

  • Encouraging more regular breaks,  
  • Regularly check in with your staff to ensure they are manging their workloads ok, and if not review together the measure you can put in place.  
  • Provide reassurance of your expectations so that they feel comfortable in their own limitations.  
  • Encourage better sleep and eating habits 
  • Provide flexible working hours or ways of working 
  • Engage in morale boosting activities and provide professional services such as an EAP platform such as the one provided by EmpowerPlan Ltd or counselling services. 

EmpowerPlan EAP services are designed to offer preventative measures and are very proactive in maintaining mental fitness rather than just reacting to a crisis as they develop within your employees. If you want to find out more about our EAP membership services wellbeing workshop’s please visit our website and book a demonstration call.  

Grief through the matrix of yoga

Bereavement is a messy business. It chews us up, hollows us out and folds us in two. For me, the death of my mum and best friend continues to be the most painful experience of my life. Without the anchor of my Yoga practice, I’m not sure where I would be. Amidst great pain there exists great hope but this is not always apparent when you are in the throes of hurt, absence and regret.

The most prevalent narrative around grief in western society is that of the stages of grief. Swiss psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross first introduced her five stage grief model in her book On Death and Dying (1969). Her work was based on the study of terminally patients and their emotional response at the prospect of their own mortality. She identified five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages have come in for much criticism in recent years because of the false perception of their linear nature and chronology of the grieving process which many see as reductive. Kübler-Ross has stated since that these stages are non-linear and that people may not experience some if any of them. Still, however, this idea of grief which is able to be packaged neatly up into boxes is an enticing and persistent one.

The stages are familiar and I’m sure most people have experienced each emotion or process in relation to their grieving process at some point, they do not however allow for the immensity of emotional feeling which marks the grief experience which lays outside of language, an inarticulate knot of sorrow which evades any claim to rationality. It is here that yoga and grief intersect.

Yoga, like grief is non-linear and stands apart from the cage of language. If yoga students are asked how they feel after a yoga class they may say ‘calm’, ‘relaxed’, ‘chilled out’ but the stillness which emanates from them and the centred, mindful way they move belies a deeper feeling. Grievers similarly may say they feel ‘sad’, ‘angry’ but scratch the surface of these somewhat anodyne descriptions and a furled heart of pain which shifts shape and cannot be boxed into stages is evident.

Yoga is a holistic 8 limb path into self-realisation and healing. Rather than pushing emotions such as anger, frustration and sadness away, we learn to sit with the feeling, allow and observe without running away. Yoga practice is a natural fit with the grieving process as it is always a moving away from self-judgment and shame towards self-acceptance. Grieving in a grief-illiterate society is isolating and lonely. Unhelpful platitudes to ‘stay strong’, ‘move on’, ‘time heals’ can make the griever feel as though they are failing, that there is a time limit to grief when in fact the grief becomes a part of that person. Tears and emotional outbursts are seen as a sign of weakness when in fact such emotions are healthy indicators of the love the person had for the deceased and the necessary pain that loss means to the griever. The process is non-linear and best taken day by day. Like yoga, the present moment is all there is and we can live that moment fully without expectation and judgement.  We feel the samsaric cycle of birth and death in the birth of the inhale and the death of the exhale. Each breath a metonym for our brief precious time here on this plane of existence. We practice ancient ways to breathe which honour our hearts and cultivate peace whilst seeking out the resistance and aches in our bodies by either shaking them up or letting them rest and be. We practice ‘Wood chopper’ breath to release anger and anguish, feel the comfort of belly breathing to dispel anxiety and tension, we sit and follow the repetition of our thoughts and guide the mind gently back to the breath.

We read the poetic truth of The Upanishads which describe death and the circle of life. We study The Yoga Sutras which describe tersely our suffering caused by our fear of death and the loss of others. In this we feel ourselves to be part of a continuum in the ocean of humanity, our DNA and genes invisible traces of the lost loved one threading through our everyday existence. Some days we question, bargain, rage, despair, other days we laugh, relax, or our mind is just there. We learn to take these shifting sands of emotion in equal measure, a place beyond recrimination.

Here, we enter a vast space of all that is and all that is felt. We move beyond the efficacy and limitations of language to a place of pure awareness where the very fabric of existence compels us to feel the truth that all that was will always be.

 Grief is the flipside to love, and the love which connects all sentient beings, is yoga.

Author: Emma Conally-Barklem

Previous Publications: A Little Insight (online magazine)

Talking to children about war

The fear response, anxiety, and sheer panic has been triggered in many of us right now due to the war in Ukraine. Unfortunately, this is going to be a trying time for children, adolescents, and teenagers alike, as they try to decipher what is happening in the world right now and how this impacts us.

Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukriane, the word war most likely not commonly heard by (younger) children and for the older ones, it may have been in a different sense such as playing video games or playing in the playground. I have outlined some ideas of how to approach the sensitive subject with children.

Check how you are feeling first

Before starting the conversation with your children be mindful of your feelings of the war, children will take emotional cues from adults, you will be your children’s safe places, which means your child will need you to have your emotions under control so you can help them to process theirs. You don’t need to know the answers, just provide the space for them to talk about their worries. Talking about a problem together can help to navigate their feelings so they can better understand what is happening. Whilst discussing the war and any worries be careful not to over share your fears with your child. Be ever mindful of your emotions and your body language. Remain calm and focused.

While adults try to understand the overwhelming news, children will be hearing reports of what is occurring and feel confused and frightened. It’s happened in my house; the news was on constantly and naturally I wanted to protect my daughter and so I would turn it off. If it was my decision, it wouldn’t have been on whilst she was up. But I realised she will need to have the space to talk about it or for me to explain a little of what is going on. She is 6 and hasn’t covered wars and aside from playground games and nerf battles she may find it all confusing. I found it confusing and overwhelming, what could I do?

It’s only natural to want to protect children from frightening things, but as parents and caregivers we need to be able to talk about war and the unpleasantness that we know is in the world with them. For example, when I gave my daughter the space to ask questions, I was surprised that she expected to see tanks coming down our street, to bundle all her worldly possessions in a carrier bag; as she has seen on the news and she didn’t know what to take. From this interaction, I realise now I maybe should have been more prepared- what did she need to know? What do I need to explain to her? What are the facts? But also gave me insight that she was after comfort and reassurance- she wanted to know are we safe? And she wanted the facts, I didn’t need to go into great detail. It is from this interaction that gave me the awareness and understanding of what children may need from parents at this time. Children will always look to their parents/ caregivers for the sense of safety and security, and even more so in times of crisis.

I showed her on the map where Russia is and where Ukraine is and how far away, we are and how we are protected by the sea. Explaining that the war is far away and we are safe, we don’t need to prepare for anything- we can continue as normal.

Be open, give them the space to explore how they feel

It is important to find out what they know and how it is making them feel, don’t discuss it before bed time but find a time when you can bring it up naturally, allow the time, try not to rush the conversation. Maybe at tea time when your child is more likely to feel comfortable. It is better to have the conversation and find out that they don’t know what is happening or maybe aren’t bothered by what is happening rather than having a child who is silently worrying about the war. Children might find it helpful to draw, or make a story of how they are feeling. If your child does ask at bedtime, try to answer their concerns but aim to finish with something positive such reading a loved story or singing favourite songs to help them to sleep well. When possible, create positive distractions; playing games or doing outdoor activities. 

Remember you won’t be able to answer every question- that is ok. You may need to find the answer or con find the answers together- if your child is older.

Control the news

It maybe worth checking how your child can access news, as a society we are always connected to the internet, our phones notify us of world events constantly, it could be the same for your child. Be mindful of how exposed your child is to the news while there are upsetting images and worrying reports. It is important to check their devices and monitor what they see and hear- checking their devices is also a good way to reassure your child and ensure they are receiving accurate information. They may be talking about it at school, in the playground or hear us discussing it, they will need a chance to understand it as we do. It maybe you decide not to have the news on around young children. With older children you may use it as an opportunity to discuss what news sources they trust. Help to separate between the facts, rumours, possibilities and of course fake news.

Reassure, reassure, reassure

Younger children may see and hear upsetting reports from the war but not be able to distinguish between what they see on the screen and their own reality- they may think the war is here and believe themselves to be in danger. For older children, they may be monitoring the news and fear how events can escalate and what it means for them.

As often as you can offer reassurance that they are safe and free from danger.

It’s important for our children to know they can approach us to talk to, even if their question catches you by surprise- you will know what is troubling your child. It is important not to dismiss their concerns. Always acknowledge your child’s concerns and feelings, tell them what they feel is a natural response. They will need reassurance, but also it is important to find out what they have heard and what is causing the worry. The key is trying to understand it from their point of view and this change in viewpoint, you are more likely to provide comfort, understanding and reassurance. Show your child you are listening- give them your full attention and let them know they can talk to you whenever they need to.

Keep it age appropriate

It is important to keep it age appropriate; all children have a right to know what is happening in the world but our role as parents and caregivers is to do this in safe environment so that they don’t become more distressed. Therefore, it is important to watch their reactions and consider their level of fear.  

Careful not to discriminate

As we explain the war we need to be careful if what words we use, so that we aren’t causing prejudice or discrimination towards people or countries. Avoid using words such as evil and bad people. Try to focus on compassion and empathy for the families that have been forced to flee their homes. Children will copy what we say, we want to reduce discrimination and bullying. Even though the war is in a distant country, it can still generate discriminate behaviour and language; check your child isn’t experiencing or contributing to bullying, encourage them to tell you or an adult they trust if they have been called names or bullied at school- everyone deserves to feel safe in school and in society. Encourage kindness and support of each other.

Look for the helpers

Remind your child there are people working to help solve the conflict- some you will see; some you won’t be able to see and these people are working very hard to stop the conflict. It maybe helpful to focus on the helpers. It is important with this level of violence children know there are people helping other people, there are others that are showing compassion, kindness, courage, gentleness. Look at the people queuing to give blood, look at the emergency services, look at the people calling for peace. Look for the positive stories. It maybe your child wants to raise money or take part in some positive action for people on Ukraine. Often the sense of doing something, no matter how small can provide great comfort.

Regular check ins

When you’re coming to the end of the discussion, try to assess their level of worry- check their body language, their breathing, ensure they aren’t in distress. Remind them that you’re there to listen and support them with their worries and that you care. As the conflict continues, ensure you check in with your child to see how they are feeling, if they have any new questions or anything they want to discuss with you. Monitor their behaviour- anxious worries could been shown as physical symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches or changes to sleeping routines. As the war continues, younger children may show different reactions and the signs of distress may not be as obvious as older children. Signs to look out for in younger children are increased clinginess, older children may display intense grief or anger. All which are normal if they last a short time, if it is for a prolonged period of time, your child may require specialised support.

Breathing exercise

To help reduce stress in your children, it could be beneficial to do some belly breathing exercises together:

Place your hands on your tummy, take 5 deep breaths, 5 seconds breathing in and 7 seconds breathing out; in through your nose and out through your mouth.

When inhaling explain you are softly bowing your tummy up like a balloon and exhaling, the air is slowly leaving the balloon.