Conversations on Conflict

Growing up with wars and global catastrophes is not new, however what is different is the accessible of these events through social media. Regardless of safety measures put in place by parents, teachers or leaders, it is more than likely that young people would have been exposed to and consumed images of distressing events. This includes the most recent Russian invasion on Ukraine.

So, should we talk to our kids about what’s happening, and if so, how do we have these conversations with them?

According to a recent article featured in The Conversation, it is important to have open and honest discussions with kids, whether they are primary school or high school aged, as it:

  • Helps young people process emotions that may arise

Although it might seem like a good idea to avoid an in-depth discussion to thwart increased anxiety or alarm, having a supportive discussion about a stressful event can actually decrease distress. It’s best to “name it to tame it.” Having these conversations provides you with the opportunity to help your kids make sense of how they might be feeling and to provide reassurance.


  • Combats misinformation

In this age of ubiquitous access to news and media, children and teens have likely already been exposed to some kind of information — pictures, video clips or news — about the invasion of Ukraine. Unfortunately, there has been a surge of misinformation and purposeful disinformation shared on social media apps routinely used by youth, such as TikTok and Snapchat. This makes it critical for parents, teachers and leaders to keep young people informed of the Ukraine invasion based on reliable information from reputable sources, and to provide opportunities to ask questions.

  • Models and encourages compassionate views towards others

Talking to children about the war in Ukraine can model a compassionate view towards fellow humans, regardless of distance or circumstance. Taking the time to talk with children about world events is an opportunity to engage in perspective-taking and to emphasize the importance of understanding the emotions, and contexts of others in a developmentally appropriate way. Asking an adolescent a question such as “what might someone else in this situation be feeling right now?” can support the growth of an empathic view of other’s lives.

As parents and leaders, remember to be calm and present enough for the conversation. If you yourself are feeling upset, it is best to give yourself some time and space before initiating the discussion.

Set an example by showing compassion to one another through the different emotions and reactions. Even though the conflict isn’t happening in our backyards, it doesn’t mean we can’t feel sad, frustrated, angry or scared about what is happening to other people in different parts of the world.

These following steps are great not only for conversation around the current invasion on Ukraine, but also for other global conflicts and disasters that young people consume from the internet.

  1. It is good to initiate the conversation on what the kids have heard or what they might already know about the conflict.
  2. Validate and normalise how they are feeling
  3. If they share that its distressing for them, reassure them that it is scaring to think of war; that most young people and adults find it scary too
  4. If your kids or youth don’t know much about the conflict, it is okay to keep the conversation brief, appropriate to the extent of detail they know
  5. Ultimately, by having these conversations, you show your child that you are willing and open to having discussions, even when times are tough. This can help build a lasting foundation to talk about difficult topics.

As Christian parents and leaders, it is important to also talk about where God is in all that is happening. Being open with young people and having these heavy discussions is an act of Christ, taking young people seriously, with where they are at, their understandings and questions, and shedding light on the issue.

As hard as these conversations are to have, and as confronting and scary this conflict is, remember that Christ continues to be a beacon of hope and amidst everything.

His light shines through the Ukrainians who take a stand against bullies who threaten them.

His light shines through the Russian people, especially young Russian people, who stand against their own government and protest against the war that has been waged on Ukraine.

His light shines through in the overpouring of support and aid from the international community.

And even in the darkest corners of this invasion, where blood is shed, lives are lost, and homes are destroyed, Christ offers hope and peace to humanity, through humanity.

Remember you can keep in touch with PULSE by signing up for our monthly newsletter, or for further information contact our team via email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok.

Ofa Foiakau is the Field Officer (Central/West) and Youth/High School ministry lead as a part of the PULSE team.

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