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How do I talk to my child about conflicts, climate change and other global topics?

The world is a complex place and it faces a steady stream of challenges. Recognising and acknowledging your child’s fears and concerns about unfolding events is important.

NEWS 2 Nov 2023

Barely a day goes by without TV channels and online media reporting on a global topic or disaster occurring somewhere around the world. The devastating conflict between Palestine and Israel has dominated recent headlines. The war between Russia and Ukraine continues with an unknown number of lives changed forever.

As Australia moves towards another long hot summer, many communities are preparing for the impacts of bushfires – in some cases, having only recovered from floods months before. The realities of climate change no doubt have a role to play in the world’s wildly fluctuating weather conditions.

For younger children to teenagers, as for adults, global challenges are confronting.

“Remember that children, like adults, will respond differently to a traumatic or a challenging event,” says Diane Furusho, Deputy Principal Student Wellbeing.

“Past experiences, reactions of others, individual personalities, coping skills and other things may all play a role in reactions. Caregivers, such as parents, grandparents, family or trusted adults may be important for support and guidance and understanding. Children may often look to follow the lead of those around them when something happens. Encouraging a sense of calm can be reassuring.”
Diane Furusho, Deputy Principal Student Wellbeing.

So what kinds of things can you do or say to support your child?

  • Don’t downplay your child’s concerns. Your adult mind and life experience allow you to have a sense of perspective, but children don’t have those resources to draw on. To them, their concerns are real and valid.
  • Create a calm, safe and non-threatening space where your child feels comfortable to talk about the event that is worrying them. Ask them what they know and then give them a truthful recap of what has happened – keeping in mind your child’s age.
  • Reassure your child that there are people who are taking care of that situation and working to make it better and to keep everyone safe.
  • If you don’t know the answers to some of your child’s questions, do some research together.
  • Reassure your child that they are loved and that the people who care for them will always do their best to look after them at all times.
  • Let your child know that it is natural to feel sad for people who live in a country affected by war, or who have lost their home because of a flood or fire. Let them know it’s also normal to feel afraid or uncertain.
  • Discuss ways in which your child can help make the situation better. For example, can they help raise money or collect donated goods to send to flood or fire communities in need? Can they make donations to a charity helping families caught up in war? What practical steps can they take at home and at school to help reduce global warming?
  • Be mindful of media exposure and try and encourage children not to scroll endlessly through headlines and news stories. You can also watch a news program together and then discuss how the event or crisis is reported. Was everything factual? Was it sensationalised?
  • Encourage children to stay connected to their friends and to their daily routine to reinforce the fact that they are safe and have support around them.

If any Haileybury children or parents are impacted by what they are seeing or hearing on news outlets, we have a team of counsellors and psychologists that are available to support you, so please reach out to your campus psychologist directly.