Uh oh, you are using an old web browser that we no longer support. Some of this website's features may not work correctly because of this. Learn about updating to a more modern browser here.

Skip To Content

How to talk to children about war

Five tips from a psychologist and child counsellor

Ukraine’s 7.5 million children, like Olha*, pictured above, are caught in the middle of the conflict with Russia.

Their lives are at risk. So is their mental health and the potential for long-term trauma.

But perpetual social media, news and conversations between adults mean that other children around the world – those not close by or directly affected by it – are also very aware of the crisis.

Many are frightened and don't know what to expect.

They have questions.

So, to help parents, family and care-givers navigate the overwhelming task of responding to children's fears and worries, Ane Lemche, a psychologist and child counsellor at Save the Children, has shared five tips on how to speak to children about war:

1. Make time and listen

Give children the space to talk when they want to – even if you're in the middle of something else.

Encourage them to tell you what they know, how they feel and to ask you questions.

2. Tailor the conversation to the child

Older children will need more details while younger ones may be satisfied just by understanding that sometimes countries fight.

Be informed, keep calm and answer questions honestly. Begin with simple information – too much detail may overwhelm and cause anxiety.

3. Validate their feelings

Speak to the child about how they feel. It is important that children feel supported in the conversation. They should not feel judged or have their concerns dismissed.

When children have the chance to have an open and honest conversation about things upsetting them, they can feel relieved.

4. Reassure them

Remind them that this is not their problem to solve. Adults all over the world are working hard to fix this.

They shouldn't feel guilty playing, seeing their friends and doing the things that make them feel happy.

5. Give them a practical way to help

For example, they could start fundraisers, write letters to local decision-makers or create drawings for peace.

Children who have the opportunity to help can feel like they are part of the solution instead of feeling helpless.

Donate to our Ukraine Appeal now

We're working quickly to assess what support children and families need and we're ready to provide life-saving aid.

Please give what you can today.

Share this