Mighty Blog

How to talk to your kids about war and conflict

As the Russian invasion in Ukraine continues, its impact is devastating and felt worldwide. In the United States, we see the disturbing and chaotic events unfold in the media, and parents might wonder how to talk to their kids about what they are seeing and why it is happening.

Dr. Sarah Jerstad, clinical director of psychological services at Children’s Minnesota, shares tips for parents on talking to kids about war and conflict.

Assure that your child feels safe

When scary or violent events occur, children may worry about their own safety. You want to positively reassure them that they are safe and secure. Remind your child that this conflict is far away.

Dr. Sarah Jerstad, clinical director of psychological services at Children’s Minnesota,
Dr. Sarah Jerstad, clinical director of psychological services.

Talk about what’s going on, and listen well

What we say to our children depends on their age and level of understanding. For children under 10 years old, provide general information at the level they can understand, but keep it relatively brief and spare them the frightening details. They are too young to really understand and will most likely end up feeling scared or anxious. It can help to use an analogy: “Two countries are having a conflict, somewhat like when two people have trouble getting along.”

For kids age 10 and above, make time for a conversation and do lots of listening. Find out what they know, what their worries and concerns are and validate their feelings. It’s OK to express your own feelings too. Having honest and open conversations will help process what is going on.

Limit exposure to news coverage

For kids under age 5, do your best not to give them access to news coverage, as the images and stories can be overwhelming. For kids ages 6 to 10, try to limit news coverage, but make sure you are aware of what your child has seen so you can discuss it. For teens, ask what they are seeing and reading and discuss it with them.

Encourage helping others

Turn a stressful situation into an opportunity to give back and make a positive impact. Find an opportunity to help such as donating to charitable organizations that are supporting the people of Ukraine. We found a list from WCCO-TV of local and national organizations that you can donate to.

Alexandra Rothstein