How to talk with your children about war and conflict

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Conflict or war can make headlines and cause anxiety, fear, sadness, anger, and other emotions wherever you live.

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In times of crisis, children look to their parents for safety and security.

These are some suggestions for how to talk with your child about the topic and provide comfort and support.

1. Find out what they know about you and how you feel.

You can have the conversation at a time and place that is natural for you and your child, such as during family meals. Avoid discussing the topic before bedtime.

Asking your child about their feelings and what they know is a good place to start. While some children may not know much and might not want to talk about it, others might feel worried in silence. Drawing, stories, and other activities can help children younger than 8 to have a conversation.

Children can find the news in many different ways so it is important to keep an eye on what they are hearing and seeing. This is a chance to reassure them, and possibly correct any incorrect information they may have stumbled upon online, at school, or from their friends.

It can feel like there is a crisis all around you, with a constant stream of disturbing headlines and images. Younger children might not be able to distinguish between the images on the screen and their reality, and believe that they are in danger. Older children may have seen disturbing things on social media, and might be worried about what might happen next.

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It is important to not minimize or dismiss their concerns. You should not dismiss their concerns or minimize them. You will be more likely to be able reassure them if you understand the source of their worry.

Recognize their feelings and assure them that they are normal. You can show that you are listening by paying attention to them and reminding them that they have the right to talk to you or another trusted adult at any time.

2. It should be calm and age-appropriate

While children have the right to be informed about what is happening in the world around them, adults have to protect them from any distress. Your child is your best friend. Use appropriate language for your child, be aware of their reactions and be sensitive to their anxiety.

It’s normal to feel sad or worried about the situation. Keep in mind, however, that children take their emotional cues directly from adults so don’t share your fears with them. Talk calmly and pay attention to your body language (such as facial expressions).

Use language that is appropriate for their age, be aware of their reactions and be sensitive to their anxiety.

Reassure your children as much as possible that they are safe. Remind your children that there are many people working around the globe to end conflict and create peace.

It’s okay to not know the answer to all questions. You can either tell your children that you don’t know the answer or share it with them. Use websites from reputable news agencies or international organizations such as WE and UN. Explain to them that online information can be inaccurate and the importance finding reliable sources.

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3. Spread compassion, not stigma

Discrimination and prejudice can often be brought on by conflict, regardless of whether it is against a country or a person. Talk to your children about conflict and avoid using labels such as “bad people” or evil. Instead, encourage compassion for those who have fled their homes.

Even if there is conflict in another country, discrimination can still be triggered at your home. Make sure your children don’t experience bullying or contribute to it. Encourage your children to report bullying incidents at school or being called names.

Remind your children that everyone has the right to safety at school and in society. Bullying and discrimination are always wrong. We should all do our part to support one another and spread kindness.

4. Concentrate on the helpers

Children need to see that others are willing to help each other through acts of kindness and courage. Look for positive stories such as first responders helping people or young people calling out for peace.

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It can bring you great comfort to know that you are doing something, however small.

Ask your child if they would be interested in participating in positive action. You could ask your child to draw a peace poster, write a poem about it, or participate in a local fundraising event or sign a petition. It can bring you great comfort to know that you are doing something, however small.

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