Ongoing violence, war and the media coverage that ensues can leave many of us feeling overwhelmed. When thinking about these events, it’s important to remember that they can affect people of all ages, including children and young adults. Talking to your children about war and how it may impact them can provide an opportunity to help them effectively navigate concerns and distressing emotions. 

Here are some tips to help you get the conversation started. 

1. Ask questions 

Sometimes, the best way to broach difficult subjects is to ask open-ended questions. This strategy can help us gauge what our children know about a particular subject and how they feel about it. Keep in mind that children may not always know how they’re feeling, or they may be experiencing a range of emotions all at once, which can be hard for some children to decipher.  

Here are a few questions that can be helpful to ask when discussing war: 

  • I know [event or conflict] has been on the news a lot recently. How do you feel about what is happening? 

  • Can you tell me what you know about the [event or conflict]? 

  • Are people talking about this at school? What kinds of things have you heard about it? 

  • Are there things that you’ve heard or seen that make you feel upset or worried? Can you tell me more about that? 

  • Do you feel like you need a break from seeing or hearing about it? 

  • Do you have any questions about [event or conflict] that I can help answer? 

When asking questions, it’s also important to listen to your child without passing judgment. This allows them to share more openly, and you can gain a better sense of where to take the conversation next. 

2. Acknowledge and validate their feelings 

After you’ve had a chance to discuss your child’s perspective, it’s important to acknowledge and validate what they’ve shared. Here are some examples of how you can validate your child’s experiences: 

  • Your child feels overwhelmed by the amount of news coverage or graphic images they are seeing. "The amount of news you’re seeing sounds overwhelming and I can see why that may be upsetting. We can take a break from talking about it or watching it on the news as a family.” 

  • Your child has family in the region or armed forces. “It can be scary not to know how [person] is doing. I am here to answer questions and support you as we wait for more information.” 

  • Your child doesn’t understand why these things are happening. “[Countries] have a long and complex history. I understand why you feel confused and upset. I’m here to help answer questions you may have about what is going on, and we can look into it together if you would like.” 

3. Be mindful of misconceptions 

Like anyone, children may be exposed to misinformation, the influence of others and conflicting opinions. Take some time to help clear up misconceptions they may have and be mindful of how your own bias may influence how you view these types of events. It’s also important to be mindful of how you talk about events with other adults when children are around. 

Try to lead conversations about war and other conflicts from a perspective of compassion rather than stigma. Regardless of how you or your child may feel about the countries involved in a particular conflict, it’s important to remember that wars are often driven by government and military leaders, not everyday people. If your child is in middle school or older, you may want to begin to explore subjects like empathy, disputes, animosity or hurtful perspectives. One way to introduce these topics is to focus on the ‘helpers,’ like aid workers or others who are trying to help everyday people who have been impacted. 

You can also use this time to discuss if there is something you as a family may want to collectively support or do more research about. For instance, you may consider learning more about the history of a region or looking into credible charities that provide aid to different areas. 

4. Stay calm 

Sometimes when we’re passionate about a topic, it can bring up a lot of feelings that may lead to increased feelings of distress among children. Learning how to notice and manage our emotions can help keep things from escalating. Be mindful of your tone and demeanor, and be aware of how you’re showing up in the conversation. It’s important to remember that in times of distress, children often look to their parents, relatives and other trusted adults for guidance, support, reassurance and stability. If you find yourself getting worked up, try to pause, take a deep breath and remember that being supportive is more important than being right about an issue. 

5. Take personal circumstances into account 

If family or friends have been directly impacted by a conflict, take that into account when talking with your child. For instance, if your child has relatives who are living in affected regions or who are members of deployed armed forces, their feelings of distress or worry may be elevated. 

Additionally, if your family is from an area that has been affected by a conflict, your child or other family members may be exposed to verbal aggression, hate crimes and other threats, both online and in person. If you’re concerned that your child may be impacted by these types of scenarios, take some time to discuss safety for themselves, family and friends, both at home and abroad. If they experience any verbal harassment, aggression or hateful interactions, instruct them to talk with a trusted adult right away. 

6. Provide ongoing support 

Wrap up the conversation or a portion of the conversation by summarizing to review what you discussed. Keep in mind that this may be a topic that requires ongoing effort and support. At the end of the conversation, let your child know that you appreciate their willingness to share with you. If you feel like you need to revisit this down the road, let them know that you would like to follow up at a later time. 


If you or your child are feeling distressed about current events, conflicts or wars, there are resources that can help. 

Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP)

FSAP provides free mental health services for all CU Boulder staff and faculty, including brief individual or couples counseling, community referrals, workshops and more. 


AcademicLiveCare is a free telehealth platform that allows staff and faculty to schedule medical and mental health appointments virtually. This is a great option for staff and faculty who are traveling out of state or who want evening, weekend or after-hours support. 

The Real Help Hotline

This hotline provides access to professional counselors who can offer assistance finding local resources as well as immediate crisis counseling. This program is free, confidential and available to all employees 24/7 by calling 833-533-2428 or texting “TALK” to 38255. 

Office of Victim Assistance (OVA)

OVA provides free and confidential information, consultation, support, advocacy and short-term, trauma-focused counseling services for those who have experienced and/or witnessed a traumatic or disturbing event. They also provide support for loved ones who are supporting another person through a traumatic experience.