How to talk to your children about global war and conflict

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War and conflict are complex realities of the human experience.As an adult, comprehending the reasons and impacts of such events can be challenging. Therefore, it is no surprise that these topics may be even more perplexing and troubling for children. Yet, as they grow and develop, start going to school, watch television, or hear adults converse, they too become aware of such realities.For many parents and teachers, this reality leads to a pertinent question:1. How do we talk to our children about war and conflict?2. What is the best way to answer their questions?

Understanding the Need

Before diving into these conversations, it’s crucial to understand why discussing these issues with children is necessary.

War, conflict and peace are not just political or historical concepts; they are also social and moral issues. By engaging in these discussions, you are actively helping them to:

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Image Source: Jordan Whitt via UnsplashImage Source: Jordan Whitt via Unsplash
Image Source: Jordan Whitt via Unsplash

1. Develop their understanding of human rights and responsibilities

3. Sharpen critical thinking skills, and most essential

Framing the Conversation

  1. Take cognisance of your child’s developmental stage: Children at different ages assimilate and react to information differently. The complexity, detail, and context of your conversation should align with your child’s developmental level.
  2. Use a personalised approach: Tailor your conversation based on your child’s personality, temperament, sensitivity level and prior knowledge of the subject.
  3. Give them a safe and open space: Ensure that the child feels safe and comfortable expressing their thoughts, fears, and questions on these topics. They should feel their feelings are respected.

Starting the Conversation

  1. Initiate the conversation: Often, children may have worries but won’t voice them. Start the dialogue yourself to give them an outlet to express their concerns.
  2. Use appropriate resources: Make use of age-appropriate books, TV programmes or news articles as discussion starters.
  3. Contextualise: Explain to them that conflict is a part of life. However, there are peaceful resolutions to conflicts as well, and not all disagreements escalate to war.
  4. Use non-threatening language: Avoid using graphic or violent details that can cause distress or fear. Explain the situation in mild terms, focusing more on the intent and cause than the violent consequences.

Answering Questions

  1. Honesty is key: Answer their questions honestly but age-appropriately. It’s okay not to know all the answers. It’s preferable to say, “I’m not sure, let’s find out together,” than to guess or potentially misinform.
  2. Keep your emotions in check: Discussing these topics can be emotionally charged. It’s important to keep your emotions regulated to ensure the child remains calm.
  3. Use this as a learning opportunity: Use their questions as starting points to impart values like empathy, tolerance, critical thinking, and a broader understanding of the world.

Dealing with Reactions

Children may react differently to such discussions. Some may be scared, others curious, and still others may show indifference. It’s essential to respond aptly.

  1. Manage fear: Acknowledge their fears and reassure them of their safety. Encourage them to speak about their concerns and help them find coping strategies.
  2. Answer queries: It’s okay if they want to know more. Provide additional information as per their development level and curiosity.
  3. Respect indifference: Not every child will want to discuss or understand all aspects of war and conflict. And that is okay.

Encouraging Empathy and Activism

An essential part of discussing global war and conflict with children is to teach empathy and invoke a sense of social responsibility.

  1. Help them to empathise: Discuss the impact of war on children like them in other parts of the world. This helps them realise their privilege and understand others’ experiences.
  2. Encourage action: Discuss how they can contribute to peace-building, like writing to political representatives, fundraising for relief funds, or advocating for peace within their own circles.

Concluding, the process of discussing global war and conflict with children is not easy, but neither is it impossible. With patience, tact, and understanding, you can navigate these tricky conversations successfully. After all, the goal is not merely to inform them but to shape mindful and empathetic citizens of the future.

Article Published by Joe Plumb on Heads To Health

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