Five Tips for Talking to Children About War

January 8, 2020

With 24/7 access to social media and news these days, it’s hard to shelter young children from talk about war. In the past few days, teachers in schools and early childhood programs report hearing children ask whether they are going to be bombed or die.

Any child may have difficulty processing the news they hear and the images they see. It’s the responsibility of parents and caregivers to not only filter this information but help children understand it in terms that are appropriate for their developmental level.

The Council for Professional Recognition offers the following recommendations for teachers, parents and any adults that play a significant role in the lives of young children:


  • Be an active listener. Be aware of what children are saying and find out where they are getting the information. Pay attention to what they know, believe, think and feel.
  • Some children won’t talk about it. Remember, some children may not talk about this topic but may express themselves through play, drawings or writings. If so, take that opportunity for discussion.


  • Acknowledge feelings. Adults need to express to children that they understand that the child may be confused. If children express fears, ask them if they are afraid or worried about war. Give them permission to have those feelings and validate them.
  • Turn off the news. Let children be children and engage in developmentally appropriate activities for them. The pictures and news alerts may cause nightmares, anxiety and other fears. If you want to watch/read/listen to the news, wait until the children are asleep or away from you. (Teenagers can watch the news, however, adults should be prepared to listen and observe how they interpret it.) Continue with your regular routines as much as possible and provide children with consistent activities.


  • Offer praise. Praise children for sharing with you about their thoughts and feelings.
  • Offer reassurance. Reassure children that they are safe in the USA and are unlikely to be hurt in any way. Tell them that you will do everything necessary to keep them safe.


  • Encourage expression. Children who are anxious, worried or fearful need a healthy outlet for those feelings. Encourage them to draw, paint, write, use playdough, play puppets, or even dance to express themselves.


  • Don’t reinforce stereotypes. Avoid sweeping statements that all people of any religion, country, race, etc. are bad.
  • Encourage compassion. Children may know classmates with parents in the military. Talk about how that may affect the other child and how your child can show empathy.
  • Point out and model positive action. Even though war is a terrible thing, there are always people working hard to help others. Volunteer to do charity work that can be done with young children such as helping a family in need, etc.

As adults, we are responsible for protecting our children during times of national turbulence or public chatter about violence such as war. Parents and educators need to be honest with children, but that doesn’t mean they have to tell them everything. Be careful to only share information that is age-appropriate and won’t exacerbate their anxiety.

Remember, this should be an ongoing process with your children over days, weeks and maybe even months.

Children of military members may need more specific care. We recommend you check out the advice offered here:


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