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Talking to children about war and conflict

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Klara King
Positive parenting facilitator and Montessori specialist

War and conflict is something that we hope to never have to discuss with our children. But, when necessary, it is important to be open and honest while limiting the details where possible.

1. Take time to listen

It is important to find out any anxieties your little one might be experiencing. Validate these feelings, and let your little one know that it is okay to feel this way and that you feel the same too. This will give your child the confidence to open up to you again. Provide opportunities of reflection, where your little one feels they can talk if they need to, such as in the car.

2. Find out what they know

They may have heard things at school or overheard the news or you talking about conflict. Once you’ve established how aware they are, weigh up what they know against how much you think they should know, which is of course age dependent.

3. Limit exposure to the news

Be mindful of when you are watching or listening to the news yourself, as it can be very distressing for children (as well as adults)!

4. Use simple language and explanations

Speak about war and conflict in words that your child will understand. You can be honest in your response without going into any detail.

5. Use a map

Explain to your little one where the conflict is as this can help them get a better understanding of what it all means, if you feel it is necessary for them to know.

6. Read books together

Books are such a good way of helping children process difficult concepts and emotions in a calm, safe environment. It can also help them consider ways to help others.

7. Try and find ways to distract from the sadness

Once you have discussed the issue, try to find some fun things to do together to escape the sadness. Offering your time, attention, and comfort is always the best policy.

Remember it is important for you to talk about your feelings too and it can be a really positive experience to show your child that adults struggle with these topics too.