How to talk to children and young people about wars

It is a natural instinct for parents and carers to want to protect their children from dreadful and unpleasant events, but it is instead crucial for parents to be willing and able to talk to children about wars and other emergency situations, in a child-appropriate way. The Greek Safer Internet Centre has developed a resource to assist parents, carers and educators in navigating this difficult topic with young people. 

Date 2022-07-13 Author Greek Safer Internet Centre Section awareness Topic media literacy/education, potentially harmful content Audience children and young people, parents and carers, teachers, educators and professionals
A dad talking to his concerned daughter holding a smartphone

When a conflict or war hits the news headlines, it inevitably provokes feelings of fear, sadness, anger and anxiety. These are normal and to be expected. Parents and carers might want to follow the advice provided below on how to talk to their children about wars: 

  • Choose an appropriate time and place where you can approach your children naturally, and where they feel comfortable and at ease, such as at family dinners.  
  • Try to avoid talking about this topic right before going to bed, not to overstimulate their imagination.  
  • A good conversation starter might be to ask your children what they have heard or already know about the conflict, and how they feel about it. Some children may have little or no knowledge of what is going on and may not be interested in talking about it, but others may have been worrying about it in silence.  
  • For younger children, drawing, storytelling, and other playful activities can help start the discussion. The news of a war causes fear, especially today when the war in Ukraine dominates the news and causes concern to people around the world. War news normally dominate news headlines for long period of time, and oftentimes include sensationalistic headings and pictures. Children and young people therefore come across harsh and inappropriate images and other content through online media and social networks, and need support to properly be able to "filter" information. 
  • Parents and educators need to be aware of children’s insecurities and fragilities, and not let them deal with stressful news on their own.  
  • Children can access news in many ways, so it's important to pay close attention to the content they consume. This provides an opportunity for parents, carers, educators to reassure them while correcting any inaccurate information they may come across, whether online, on television, at school or from friends.  

The Greek Safer Internet Centre has designed a resource addressed to parents, carers and educators in order to advise them on how to talk to children about wars and conflict, and how to interpret all the information that is available online. Access the resource (in Greek) here.

Cover of the resource developed by the Greek Safer Internet Centre with tips and advice on how to talk to kids about war. Credits: Greek Safer Internet Centre

Find out more about the work of the Greek Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services – or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.  

Related news