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  • Writer's pictureMarine Lienard

How to talk about war to children

Discussing war with children can be a challenging and delicate task. Children are naturally curious and may come across information about wars through various sources, including media, books, or conversations with peers. As responsible adults, it's important to guide them through this difficult topic in a way that is age-appropriate, honest, and reassuring.

A group of soldiers in silhouette walk on an aircraft deck, preparing for combat.

1. Understand your child's developmental stage

The way you approach the topic of war should be tailored to your child's age and developmental stage. Younger children may have limited understanding and may not be ready for detailed discussions, while older children may have more questions and a deeper capacity for comprehension.

  • Preschoolers: Keep explanations simple and use age-appropriate language. Focus on feelings and emotions, like explaining that war can make people sad or scared.

  • School-age children: Provide more information but still keep it age-appropriate. Answer questions honestly and in a way that they can understand.

  • Adolescents: Encourage open conversations and critical thinking. Engage them in discussions about the historical, political, and social aspects of war.

2. Be honest, yet age-appropriate

When discussing war with children, it's crucial to be honest but also mindful of their emotional capacity. Avoid sharing graphic details or images that can be traumatising. Instead:

  • Use simple, clear language to explain the basic concepts of war, such as conflicts between nations or groups of people.

  • Emphasise that war is a complex issue with no easy solutions and that many people, including soldiers and civilians, are affected by it.

  • Highlight the importance of diplomacy, peace, and cooperation in resolving conflicts.

3. Address their concerns and questions

Children may have a range of questions and concerns about war. Encourage them to express themselves and provide accurate, age-appropriate answers to their queries. If you don't know the answer, it's okay to say so and offer to research together.

  • Address their fears and reassure them about their safety and the safety of loved ones.

  • Explain that war does not mean constant danger everywhere and that many places are peaceful.

  • Share stories of resilience and hope, such as individuals or communities working towards peace.

4. Promote empathy and compassion

Help children develop empathy by discussing the human impact of war. Share stories of refugees, families affected by war, and efforts to provide humanitarian aid. Encourage your child to think about how they can help others in need, perhaps through charitable activities or volunteering.

5. Monitor media exposure

Children can be exposed to distressing images and stories about war through the media. Be mindful of their media consumption and discuss what they've seen or heard. Encourage critical thinking and help them differentiate between fiction and reality.

6. Encourage critical thinking

As children grow, encourage critical thinking about the causes and consequences of war. Teach them to question information, consider different perspectives, and form their own opinions based on facts and empathy.

7. Reiterate messages of peace

Emphasise the importance of peace, diplomacy, and conflict resolution as alternatives to war. Teach your child about historical figures and movements that have worked towards peace, inspiring them to be advocates for a more peaceful world.

Talking to children about war is a challenging but necessary task. By tailoring your approach to their developmental stage, being honest and age-appropriate, addressing their concerns, and promoting empathy and critical thinking, you can help them navigate this complex topic with compassion and understanding. Ultimately, the goal is to empower children to become informed, compassionate, and peace-oriented individuals who contribute to a better world.

Marine, mother & founder of St Pancras Recruitment


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