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Talking War with Children

Parents exposed to the news are seeing awful war pictures, and hearing devastating humanitarian stories. These will make parents increasingly worried about the conflict in Ukraine. That’s on top of a 2-year covid-pandemic. If parents have a lot to absorb, then spare a thought for their children. How do you talk about the war and conflict with your children?

War & children

It’s an age thing

News about war and conflict must be handled to match the age of the children. There is no one best way to fit any age.

  • Young children are less likely to pick up on the events, so talk in big pictures and make them feel safe. Show a map so they can grasp the distance from the UK.
  • Children 8-12 years are more aware of the news, so discuss what you have watched on TV or their phones. Stay positive by asking them questions to offer solutions to their worries.
  • Teenagers need to know that parents are there to talk through things. Be aware of the accuracy of news sources online and give them a chance to share their point of view.

In more detail for the over 10’s

Hearing words like bombing, invasion and WW3 will unsettle any child or young adult. Here are 5 tips on how to speak to children about war:

  1. Make time to listen. Give children the space to talk, even when in the middle of something else. Encourage them to share their questions and worries.
  2. Tailor the conversation to the age of the child, as mentioned above. Older children will need more details while younger ones will require less. Too much detail will cause anxiety.
  3. Validate their feelings. Children should feel supported in an open conversation. They should not feel judged or have their concerns dismissed.
  4. Reassure them. Remind them that this is not their problem to solve. Adults all over the world are working hard to fix it.
  5. Find a practical way to help. Children can be fundraisers or help collect clothes and toys etc. As they can help, they feel part of the solution.

Regardless of the child’s age, parents must avoid passing on their own fears and anxieties about the conflict in Ukraine. Otherwise, children will model their reactions on the fears of their parents. Remind children that no matter what they face, they are facing it together as a family unit. Life will return to normal, just as the pandemic will end. History has shown conflicts come and go.

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Date: 07 March 2022 by Max Robinson