Talking To Children About World Events

Now we have access to so much technology 24/7, it is almost impossible to avoid seeing world events as they unfold. We are hit with news updates on our phones, on our social media and in the conversations we have. Even as adults this can at times be quite overwhelming.

How is it for our children? How should we help them understand what is happening and make sense of things in a way they might understand? How can we also protect them from some of the more harrowing news stories and not let them worry too much about things that don’t directly affect them?

The world changes every day and each time it does, it has an impact on how life will be for our own children. As a result, talking to them, being open with them and giving them time to talk and ask questions is essential.

Giving our children the tools to understand the world they live in, in a way they understand and is non-threatening and scary is essential. No matter the situation, when talking to children, we can find positives, and explain what we can learn from the situation. Help them appreciate how fortunate they are whilst teaching them to have empathy for others.

With the emotional well-being of so many adults and children being so fragile at the moment. Teaching our children to talk is so important. Encourage them to ask questions, talk through things they may hear or worry about and help them understand the world they live in and are growing up in.

In this blog, I am going to use the refugee crisis in Afghanistan as an example.

  • What should we share with our children?
  • How shall we help them understand the consequences?
  • How they might even be able to help?

Help them understand what living in a country with so many freedoms looks like.

Young children very much live in the moment and for many, their reality is all they know. As educators sometimes we want to help them see how lucky we are to live where we do and have access to all we have.

We don’t need to scare children and go into detail about all the bad things going on in the world but help them understand their rights as children and understand that in some places these rights are not met.

Two books that do this beautifully are:

If the world were a Village – David J Smith and Shelagh Armstrong
For Every Child – Unicef

Talk to them about refugees, what they are and what this means.

Explain how people have the right to be safe and if they can’t achieve this where they live they have the right to seek it elsewhere.

Think together how this must feel to have to leave your home with very little warning and without your precious things, possibly even without family members.

Share a book that does this beautifully, read it together and talk about the issues that come up. Two outstanding books to help you with this are:

Refugee Boy – Benjamin Zephaniah
Boy at the Back of the Class – Onjali Rauf

In these books, you will see stereotypes exposed, and negative attitudes towards refugees expressed. This can prompt discussion and allow your child to ask questions and form their own thoughts and opinions on the situation.

You will be amazed at how insightful and moral so many young people are. They see everyone as equal, it is only as we get older that other views cloud our judgements of things. In lots of ways, we can actually learn so much from the way children see the world.

We need to help them understand that there is a good chance they may (at school or in their life) meet and work alongside someone who sought refuge here. Understanding a little about what this means, will allow them to have empathy, support the person and understand a little about their journey.

Let them ask questions.

Sometimes children’s questions can be very direct. Often though, it really is just a question. It is us applying our own thoughts that overthink the question they have asked. Allow them to ask, answer them honestly and let them reason and discuss their thoughts with you.

It is also OK not to know the answer. Explain that this is something you can find out about together. Adults can’t know everything and this is wonderful for children to see. We might not know but we can always learn no matter our age.

Watch a current affairs children’s programme together.

With so much TV at our fingertips, there are so many choices to help with this.

This is a great programme. Watch it with your children, allow them to ask those questions and explore some of the topics more. The wording on these programmes is designed for that age group so they understand the elements of that news item they need to.

First News or The Week
If you are interested in reading as a family then the children’s newspaper First News of the magazine The Week (children’s version of the adult magazine) are an excellent addition to your household reading.

Share your own experiences with the children

The chances are your life and education were full of interesting challenges. You would have seen some major world events as a child and these had an effect on you.

Talk to them about how these made you feel and how you remember understanding it better.

In short, don’t be afraid. Talk to your children always, keep them informed but allow them to feel reassured and safe.

A line that sticks with me as a teacher is that ‘we are preparing our children for a world that doesn’t even exist yet’. This is so true and highlights why talking to our children and explaining things in a way they can understand is so important,

As parents, we need to teach our children to talk to each other, share concerns, have empathy with others, and take inspiration from people all over the world. Only this way can we help prepare them for whatever lies ahead. We need to help children understand the value of news without letting it scare them (and us at times). We can’t control what happens around us, all we can do is help prepare our children by always making them feel safe and reassured.


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