How to talk to children about the war in Ukraine

Author: Jo Barwell
Published: 07/03/2022

Creating a safe space to discuss the war in the Ukraine

There are some questions that no one can answer, but there is a lot that can be done to allay children's fears by allowing them to voice their concerns.

Here we've pulled together some advice and suggestions from experienced teachers on how to create a safe space in the classroom for discussing current events.

1. Allow children time and space for asking questions and expressing concerns. Of course, not all children will be comfortable doing this in front of the class, so set up a message box for those who would like to communicate more privately or who prefer to remain anonymous. Allow time to return to the discussion regularly as the conflict continues. 

2. Set up a Circle time in which children give one word to describe their feelings about the situation. This helps children to understand that many of their peers (and teachers) feel the same way and that their feelings are normal and valid. 

3. Children will ask all sorts of questions and all questions are valid. It's okay to admit you don't have all the answers and you'll have to find out - or you could task children with finding out more themselves. 

4. Allow children to share information they have learned from the news. Sharing snippets or facts from the news or from further reading may help children to feel more informed and less frightened by some of the headlines. 

5. Encourage children to empathise. How do they think children in Ukraine will be feeling? Ask them whether there is anything they could do to help. They may decide to set up a collection or a fundraiser to support refugees - a worthwhile activity for both the recipients and the children.

Further support

For further advice on how to talk to children about war and violence, you may find this article on our sister site, Teacher Vision, useful. It links to a page of in-depth suggestions for Talking With Children About War and Violence in the World more generally, covering issues such as whether to share your own opinions, tackling prejudice and supporting children who have lost loved ones to war.

For your information, Fact Monster (another of our sister sites) features lists of countries in NATO and countries in the former USSR.

Jo Barwell

Senior Content Lead