How to talk to your kids about the refugee crisis

Kids are very perceptive creatures. You may think you’ve been shielding them from the big, bad world but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to avoid the sobering images flooding our screens. Here are some ways parents can support their children to not just understand the current refugee crisis, but perhaps even help.

Those heart-wrenching images of three-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi’s tiny body washed ashore, galvanised a world that had become numb to the plight of refugees. Parents half a world away hugged their children tighter, grateful for our peaceful land. But while we may think for our kids it’s out of sight, out of mind, it may not be the case. If your children have come to you with questions about the growing refugee crisis, UNICEF Australia has a host of ways to address their questions.

1. Ask questions, then listen

First, check that your child wants to talk about the refugee crisis. If it’s not something they seem interested in discussing, just let it go. But reassure them that they can talk about it to you, or any other adult that they trust, any time.

If they do want to talk, encourage your child to express what they are feeling through drawings or other creative activities that may make the discussion flow a little easier.

If your child has come to you with concerns, don’t play them down. Let them know that their feelings are valid and that it’s fine to feel sad and scared.

2. Be truthful, but gentle

While kids do have a right to know the truth, as parents we also have a responsibility to disperse the truth in a way that isn’t going to distress our children. Use language that suits that age of your child, and if you have a particularly sensitive or anxious child, be mindful of what you say.

If you don’t have the answers, take it as an opportunity to find them together, by looking at sites like Unicef.

This video from the ABC’s Behind The News is a great starting point. It outlines the crisis in simple terms, with images that are child-safe.

3. Assure children that Australia is a safe place

Kids often find it hard to disassociate themselves from what they see on television, so they may truly feel that they too are in danger. Point out that Syria and the other conflicts are far away from Australia. We are safe and there is no fighting in our country.

4. Let them know that there are good people helping

You can use the conflicts as a springboard to talk about the brave people who are trying to help – like aid workers and humanitarians that are trying to help the refugee children.

Also, tell them about the thousands of Australians who took part in Light The Dark vigils across Australia, in support of Syrians seeking asylum in other countries.

5. Tell them how we can help

Kids love to help, so let them come up with some ideas how they can raise money for refugee families. They can get their school involved, and UNICEF has a great fundraising guide that may help.

6. Ensure you are taking care of yourself

It’s difficult not to feel touched by what is happening in Syria, and children will pick up on our moods. If what you’re seeing on the news is having a negative affect on you, take the time to talk to someone – a friend, your partner, or contact an organisation like beyondblue.

7. When you’re finished your discussion, gauge your child’s mood

You know your child better than anyone, so take the time to ensure your child isn’t distressed or upset following your conversation. Reassure your child that they can talk to you about anything at any time, and that you’ll always be listening.

(via UNICEF Australia)

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