Child rights organisation Plan International Australia is launching a guide to help concerned parents talk with their kids about the distressing images and scenes of war and conflict they see on the news, in newspapers and on the internet each day.
Written by Plan’s Child Rights Specialist Sophie Shugg, the guide offers parents simple and practical tips on how to support children who may be distressed by horrific scenes they are witnessing on television from conflicts in Gaza, Syria, Iraq and the Ukraine.
“No matter how hard parents might try to shield their young children from the distressing scenes we see on the news every day, it’s almost inevitable that kids will catch sight of them on the televisions of friends or relatives, or see photos on the front pages of newspapers or hear adults or other kids talking about them,” Shugg says.
“These scenes and images can often be tough for young children to understand and process, and that can leave them feeling distressed, confused or anxious. But at the same time, it can be enormously difficult for parents to know how best to talk about the horrible things children are seeing,” she says.
“It can be even more distressing for kids when you consider just how many of these images of conflict focus on children just like them.”
“So we decided to produce a guide that draws on our experience of dealing with children and parents who are themselves caught up in these conflicts, so that parents can help their kids in Australia understand and cope.”
The guide suggests parents find a time and a place for kids to talk, to allow them to lead the conversation and look for the non-verbal signs that they may be feeling distressed – like acting out war games with their friends.
“Kids have many ways of working through stress, and many are not obvious even to their parents. But if they can spot the signs and talk through their concerns, parents can really help their kids cope,” Shugg says.
The guide says parents can discuss war and conflict truthfully with their children, without having to go into painful detail – respecting their children and helping them process what they are seeing while still encouraging their growing sense of compassion and empathy.
Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world, founded 75 years ago, working in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas and supported by 21 donor countries. Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations.
Media contact: Adam Cathro, Plan International Australia, Media Relations Manager, 0488 202 945