Since the invasion of mainland Ukraine in February 2022, war has never been far from the headlines. Even very young children pick up this news from television and adults’ conversations. Teenagers are exposed, via social media, to real-time experiences of conflict. How can parents and church communities help them to process this difficult news? Here are some thoughts and resources to enable us all to continue to support children, young people and families during these increasingly worrying times.
Resources for difficult times
- How do you explain upsetting news to children? – An article on the BBC Bitesize pages, by a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, which offers 8 “tips” for speaking with children and young people about difficult news of any kind.
- Bring It All To Me – songs can help children find words for their feelings, and Fischy Music’s album helps them to express a range of emotions, inspired by the Psalms. Songs include ‘Big Big Questions’ and ‘In a Deep Deep Place’.
- Comfort in Uncertain Times – a recent book by Rachel Turner, featuring a series of stories and discussions for families.
- The Huge Bag of Worries – a classic book by Virginia Ironside, helping children with anxiety.
- Ruby’s Worry – a similar theme, with simpler text for younger children. Part of the Big Bright Feelings series.
- Water Bugs and Dragonflies: Explaining Death to Children – another classic text, often used by bereavement counselling services that work with children.
- How do we talk with children about difficult realities? – some thoughts and ideas on how to engage in difficult conversations of any kind with children and young people.
- Practicing Calm – ideas to help your children build their self-soothing skills, for when they are feeling overwhelmed.
- Interactive Prayer Stations for All Age (Ukraine) – a visual and interactive resource for intergenerational worship, school prayer spaces, youth groups or house groups.
- Prayer Doves for Peace – templates and ideas for paper prayer doves.
- Yarn Wrapped Peace Doves – colours shown are for Ukraine, but this is easily adapted to any country.
- Jam Jar Peace Lantern – creative idea and short prayer.
Ideas for talking specifically about war
- How to talk to your children about conflict and war – 8 tips to support and comfort your children by UNICEF, with links to additional resources.
- Helping children process the news – helpful suggestions from Parenting for Faith.
- How do you talk to your young children about war? – a thought-provoking article from a parent and Godly Play leader, written in February 2022.
- How do we talk to our children about Palestine? – a helpful article by UK author and mother Uju, which was written in 2021 but still very relevant.
- Talking about the Israel/Palestine Conflict with Children – examples of previous conversations and some questions that children might ask.
- Tabeetha School, Jaffa, Israel – in difficult times, we are often encouraged to ‘look for the helpers’. Perhaps exploring this school, which is part of the Church of Scotland, might help children and young people see hope in the midst of war.
- The Peace Crane Project – you don’t have to be part of a school to make these, but your child might want to ask about this in their school.
This was shared by Holy Cross’s Children’s Minister in February 2022: If your children are asking questions about the situation in Ukraine and you’re not sure what to say or do…
- Even if they’re far too young to understand what’s going on, they might pick up that their grown-ups are worried or sad.
- It can help to tell them in simple words that some people (or children) in a place called Ukraine are having a sad time, and that we can ask God to help them by praying.
- Children often respond to ritual so you could light a candle together, draw a picture, sit quietly together, or sing their favourite song specially for the children who are having a sad time.
The Children & Youth Officer for the Diocese of Brechin has produced a document entitled “Talking with children about death and grief“, which might also be helpful.
Last Updated 26th October 2023