Talking to Children About Conflict

This is a great article from the Foreign Policy Association about how to talk to our children about global issues:

Talking to our children about violence and war is difficult in its own right, as no parent wants to bring their child into the harsh reality that is our globalized world. And while yes, sheltering children from violence is ideal, it is not an option that holds feasibility for long. Soon children will catch a glimpse of the destruction the fills our evening news, see the images of death on the cover of the morning newspaper; hear something at school about a child in his class that was abused, etc. The reality of life is that most children two thirds of the worlds children live in violent conflict, making violence are part of everyday life. Helping children who live in environments of peace understand violence and conflict, and that children across the globe do not all live as they do, does not only help to be more prepared should they ever be faced with such situations, it also works to help prevent instances of violence and conflict. Children undoubtedly have a clearer understanding of human nature than adults tend to realize, and they tend to see past the political polarization that so often muddles’ the peace process.

So how do you talk to children about violence and conflict, with out leaving them daunted and distressed, but leave them empowered for peace? Start with letting them know that everyone does both good and bad things sometimes, but violence based on someone’s race, religion or gender is never ok. Work with them to see that real war and violence isn’t a black and white issue, there is no good guys versus the bad guys, and regardless of how gray the areas between the two sides are, atrocities such as ethnic cleansing and genocide, are never ok. Helping children to brake down the barriers between fantasy war and real war, by highlighting the realness of the victims, who are disproportionately children, lets them know that life and conflict do not always end with a storybook ending…that people die and lives are uprooted, and once peace comes there is still much to be done to help people rebuild their lives and maintain peace.

Help your children understand the world better and take time out once a week to learn a about a new culture, show them what a child’s life is life for someone their age in Brazil, China, India, Kosovo, Spain, Zambia… Why not have your child pick a country which they feel the most connected to, and work with them to find a way to give back; collecting clothing, donating their allowance, donate books to a school, etc. You and your child will not only have fun learning together, but you will be helping your child develop into a more cultured and tolerant person, and possibly even a future leader for peace! Peace begins with social responsibility and teaching our children that it is the only way forward is the only way to ever move towards sustainable peace.


  1. Agree 100%.
    My daughters Dad has been to Iraq and Afghanistan several times so my kids understand the very, very basics of war and violence from a very young age since we have openly talked about it. We also wanted them to see how blessed they are by just the fact of the country they were born into so they support a little girl through World Vision and we keep her picture up and talk about how she might spend her holidays or birthdays so they understand the difference and are thankful. I think the hardest part so far has been to explain that you will not always know the good from the bad...they want a description of what bad people might look like and we try to explain it is not looks but the heart of the person that might be bad and you can't physically see hard but hoping it will give them some knowledge at a young age to want to make a difference.

  2. The United Nations publishes some great books for kids through DK publishing that my kids have read over and over. The color pictures are fantastic and the information is perfect for younger minds. The titles are A Life Like Mine and A Faith Like Mine.
    They don't really speak to the issues of conflict, but they do teach kids that people from all over the world may grow up differently, but we are all connected. I really think that it has helped my kids accept differences and find the commonalities that we all share.

  3. Great ideas!!! I also think it is important to explain to our kids how these countries became the way they are..their beliefs...their policies...their religion...
    -sandy toe

  4. Great post, Kristen. That's all. I just think it's great. So many times we forget to talk about these things. And yet it's SO important.


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