War in Ukraine and Young Generations: Cross-Generational Conversation to Cope

Clearly and deservedly, the war in Ukraine is 24/7 news. We watched a war begin horrifyingly in real time.

I was in the middle of working on my blog and newsletter feature story for February on psychological safety when the shocking news of the Russian invasion of Ukraine took over the news and brought to my mind the enormous impact that war could potentially have on the youngest generations.

A member of one of my regular discussion groups (not focused on generational relations) asked me about how I think the young generation is reacting to and will be affected by the war that is shockingly startling and distracting all generations from daily life. Gen Zers, whose whole life so far has been lived with terrorism as a big black cloud and fear, right along with urgency about preserving the environment as much as possible, are bound to experience the war as a formational influence, especially if it lasts for a long while with a nuclear as well as cyber threat.

Actually, the two threats are quite connected: concern for the threats on democracy; would there be a constant state of cyber-war even if military war subsides; and will how much fossil fuel, oil, which Russia has been supplying, and related threats to the environment influence major companies and the economies of nations around the world?

These worries are a major concern to all generations, especially in the democracies in the U.S. and across the globe. In circles I inhabit, it’s been top of mind for the last few days in our hearts and Zoom meetings. However, it likely causes more anxiety in the young people; older generations, particularly Boomers and Gen Xers, who have lived through several crises, probably built some survivor resilience. They have experienced that life goes on, though some have told me they think now is the worst combination of war and political crises they have ever seen. And in war time, it’s mostly the young men who are pressed into defense or military service – or who volunteer.

The mindset and resolve in Ukraine is extraordinarily brave and determined from the strong leadership of President Zelensky to the unity of the Ukrainian citizenry.

Suggestions for Actions When Crisis Strikes

  •  #1 – Conversation to share feelings. This is particularly necessary for older generations to reach across generations to spread some calm and express shared concern.
  • Start cross-generational conversations at work and in personal lives to share fears, past experience, and how they built resilience.
  • Don’t convey that stressful, worried feelings are excessive for the situation. Those feelings are natural and normal. Acknowledge them. Don’t shut down.
  • Teachers at various education levels are preparing for how to approach students to talk about the war. From my conversations, I learned that some are searching for advice from educational psychologists so not to rely primarily on their own instincts.
  • Mentors should also reach out for conversations to draw out mentees’ feelings and try to avoid emotional shut downs.
  • Realize that this situation loudly calls for a focus on wellness like no other situation most people have experienced before.

Call to Action: Do share your coping experience with colleagues. The generations need to unify – they are in this together.

Related: Gone Missing: Recognition of Multigenerational Voices in the Mix