I’ve been struggling this week with sharing my usual content on Instagram, when the world is currently such a dark place. It’s an interesting predicament to be in as a business owner, a content creator, and as a parent.
On the one hand, I don’t want to clutter anyone’s feed with information that feels trivial in the face of tragedy around the world. But on the other, our own daily challenges do not diminish because of the situation elsewhere. My client’s babies aren’t going to miraculously sleep better just because something far worse is happening somewhere else in the world.
I’m sure I’m not alone in checking the news while simultaneously trying to shield my children from seeing yet another global atrocity in their short lives, one that is too complex for them to comprehend. Being a parent in times like these has been difficult, to say the least.
And yet, none of us can possibly comprehend how living through the current situation in Ukraine as a parent of small children must feel. My own family history is a mix of complex challenges and tragedy. My maternal grandfather, as a small boy, escaped the pogroms of Russia and fled (from his hometown of Dashiv, in what is now Ukraine), eventually making his way to Canada after an arduous journey across many countries. Some years later, my paternal grandparents became the sole survivors of genocide in eastern Europe, having watched friends and relatives murdered in front of their eyes. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had nightmares of being in the same situation, both as a child, and as an adult with my own family. Now, that nightmare is becoming reality for millions of innocent Ukrainians.
Last August, I collaborated with a small mom-owned Ukrainian shop, offering custom bed sheets and nursery decor. My son uses his beautiful sheets every other week, and while I was lying in bed with him the other night, it gave me the idea to reach out to some other artists, who we can support from abroad. Read more about each of their unique stories below. I hope you’ll join me in supporting these families in their time of need 💙💛.
Back in August, Tatyana reached out to me for a collab project. She was incredible – when I told her that I was just about to move my truck-loving 4 year old into a double bed, she went out of her way to find a fabric he would love, and hand made him a new set of sheets especially for him. Not only that, when they arrived, they came packaged in a fabric bag made out of the same fabric, which we now use to store toys, and a sprig of dried lavender, to boot. I’ve reached out to Tatyana to check in an see if she is okay, and unfortunately, I haven’t heard back. Her Etsy shop is currently taking a break, but I’m hoping that she may see my message and open it back up – if she does, I’ll be purchasing another set of sheets and asking her not to send them, but rather to use the money for whatever she needs to maintain her health and safety. In the meantime, you can follow her here and check out her shop here.
Sonya Crochet Toys
This shop sells the cutest handmade and personalized gift boxes, rattles and crocheted toys. The shop owner, Svetlana told me, “now I, my 4 y.o. daughter and husband are in safety (at least I hope so). I live in Odessa, but at the second war day we left my city and went to other region of Ukraine. My parents left in Odessa. I worried about them. Now its calm in Odessa, but at nearest cities like Kherson and Nikolaev are Russians. My cousins and aunts live in Kherson. Now they are without connection. Hope they will stay alive and safety.” Svetlana is currently still shipping her products, though on a delayed timeline for shipping. She also offers some digital download of patterns to make your own crocheted items. Support Svetlana’s shop here.
Mia’s swaddle blankets, gift boxes, milestone cards, and floor gyms are so beautiful. She is currently also selling digital downloads at a variety of price points to support Ukraine. When I connected with Mia, I was so touched by her story and her family’s generosity: “Right now I deeply appreciate any help offered though first days of war it was a difficult decision to make personally for me to ask for help.. One day the whole world for us broke apart. And I’m responsible for my kids too. Our older daughter Sofia turned 4 years old on 1st March, and she understands perfectly what’s going on, and our baby Olivia is 5 months old. My husband has a small family business here, (they sell wood) which has stopped right now. The same situation is with my parents. When you work- you have money for food and everything, if no- then that’s it… We have an opportunity to make benches for bomb shelters, it keeps us working and it is easier to stay sane when you are helping others. Of course we make it for free, it is a small yet important work I believe. We have made 400+ benches and keep working. We are grateful we have this opportunity.
So that’s our reality for now, we don’t plan a lot, just live one day after another in hope it ends soon, trying to be of help to each other. I don’t want to write too many, thank you for offering help and for your open heart. Feeling that we are not alone helps. In normal life we together with my mom are making crochet toys, I do gift boxes, and I hope we will get back to it. My mom can’t crochet now, because her hands are trembling.” You can support Mia and her family by shopping her Etsy store or giving her a follow on Instagram.
Fairy Toys by Inna Chi
Inna’s shop offers incredible downloads of crochet patterns for items ranging from loveys and rattles, to wall decor and even Christmas ornaments. Inna said, “Thank you for support 💙 💛 We are safe. I with my daughter (she is 7) and husband now in Kherson Ukraine. We don’t have opportunity now to leave our town. Russian occupants don’t give us green corridor for civilians. Our internet connection is not stable. Thank you for support!” You can check out Inna’s beautiful designs, and support her and her family, here.
Baby Mobile Balls
Lubov’s shop features incredible handmade wooden toys, including mobiles, puzzles and clocks. I absolutely love that this has become a family project, which she shared in her message to me: “My husband and I worked in sales for many years, but we always dreamed of doing something with our own hands and having our own small business. At the beginning of 2021, we tried to make the first wooden toys. Then new ideas came. We learned many different jobs to be independent. Now we make mobiles for babies, toys and rattles for babies. All wooden elements from natural wood are made by my husband Dmitry. And I sew felt toys and knit. Our eldest daughter is our photographer, and our little son is sometimes a model in the photos. Our situation can change at any time, but … to date, our mail has now established sending through the countries of the European Union, but the time has increased significantly. Today it is 6-8 weeks to Canada and the USA. I will send my toys to customers, but delivery times must be considered. We Ukrainians are very grateful to everyone who takes care of us, even for words of support.” You can check out Lubov and Dmitry’s shop here.
Talking to Young Kids About World Events
There are many invaluable resources that have been borne out of necessity over the last few years, and they all come from experts more qualified than I. However, as a trained parent educator and mom of 3, I’ve learned a few things about sharing current events with young kids, and here are my top tips.
✨ Know your audience: If you have a highly sensitive, anxious or empathic child who internalizes the stress of others, share the bare minimum. In some cases, this may mean sharing something simple, like “there are people having a hard time in a place far away, and we are thinking about them”.
✨ Get in front of the messaging: If you have a grade-school aged child, who may hear about the conflict from friends, I personally like to get ahead of it and be sure to present the messaging in a way that is appropriate for my own child, and supports the way they process information.
✨ Draw parallels to real world examples they can understand: In the car to school this morning, I was explaining the difference between equity and equality to my 5 and 7 year olds. Discussing it in the context of the world is a bit too complex, but explaining why their 2 year old brother needs help to do the same activities they do (ie a stool to reach the sink) allowed them to apply the concept in their own lives.
✨ Be an open book: Allow your child to ask questions, and don’t be afraid to answer them. Let them lead the conversation, because the breadth and depth of their questions will likely surprise you.
✨ Admit when you don’t know what you don’t know: Sometimes we don’t have all the answers, and that’s okay. Being upfront that we still have things to learn as parents shows us as human, and sets an example that there is always room for education, no matter your age or the subject at hand.