With the tragedy taking place in Aleppo, it is imperative now more than ever to discuss the Syrian conflict with our children and find ways to help as a family. I will be publishing a series of posts under Kids4Syria to help connect parents with resources and ideas of activities to help build our children’s background knowledge, nurture compassion and understanding, and inspire to act. In this post, I share some tips on how to talk to your children about Syria and have included a list of resources.
What Do They Know? Do not make assumptions as to what your child knows about the conflict. Simply tell them you want to talk about something important happening in the world. You can ask whether they know where Syria is, what language they speak, and other general information. Find out if they have heard any news about Syria and what is happening there. This way you can get a good idea of where you need to help fill in the gaps.
Keep it Simple for Younger Children. I recommend keeping it simple for younger children. Draw kid-friendly images to help explain what is happening, and have your child draw with you to get a better sense of what they are making of this new information.
I recommend parents watch this video, Explain Like I’m Five, to get a better idea of how you can explain the conflict to a younger child.
Give the Facts. It is important children are given the correct facts about the situation, but it may be overwhelming to expose them to violent images and too much media coverage. Be selective with the articles, videos, and news reports. Make sure that you help them make sense of it through discussion and asking insightful questions. I have listed below, a number of articles, news websites for children, videos that outline the conflict, and tools to understand the Syrian perspective.
Storybooks. There are a number of picture books and chapter books on life as a refugee. This can be helpful in simplifying the topic for your child’s appropriate age. If you are at a loss of how to bring this up, the best way is with literature. You can start by reading a pucture book from the recommended lists below, and help use the story to transition into the topic of Syria. The books can help parents answer the tough questions many children will have.
Be Positive. Try to remain positive and hopeful. Give your children examples of people that have made a positive difference in the lives of Syrian people. Discuss the different charities and the good work that they are doing. Talk about ways you can help: praying and donating.
How Do You Feel? At the end of the conversation, ask your children how they are feeling. Remind them that they are safe. And let them know they can come to you about this whenever they like with whatever questions they have.
Helping our children understand what is happening in the world will make them more empathetic and compassionate human beings. Hopefully, it will move and inspire them to care for and help others. In the next post, I will share some ideas of activities you can do to further understand the crisis and ways to act.
If you found any of these resources helpful, or have others to add to the list, please do in the comments section below!
LIST OF RESOURCES
- BBC: What’s Happening in Syria?, Ages 8+. A kid-friendly article outlining the Syrian conflict with images and videos.
- Cheat Sheet to the Syrian Conflict, Ages 10+. A PBS publication summarizing the war. Can be used with younger children with parental assistance.
- Quick Facts from MercyCorps, Ages 13+. This article has everything you need to know about the Syrian conflict. Please note, the current situation in Aleppo is not included. The article includes excellent infographics.
- UNICEF: Five Years of War, Ages 13+. A publication from UNICEF that explains the impact of the war on children. Includes pictures and infographics.
- UNICEF: How to Talk to Children in the Aftermath of Violence, for parents. This is an excellent article on how to talk to your children about violent and tragic situations around the world.
- An American Tail, Ages 5-11. This is a story about a Russian mouse and his family escaping persecution from cats. The story touches on their escape, the mouse’s separation from his family, life as an immigrant in a new country, and his search for his family. More details are on the site.
- Explain Like I’m Five: The Crisis in Syria, Ages 5-10. Two teachers explaining the crisis in Syria to five year olds and their reactions. (Note: I have mixed feelings about this video. I liked the idea, but thought it could have been executed a little differently.)
- The Most Shocking Second a Day, Ages 8+. A second a day viral video from Save the Children that depicts a young girl’s life falling apart when war comes to her doorstep. Very powerful video.
- Syrian Refugee Crisis, Ages 8+. An informative 5 minute video explaining the Syrian refugee crisis made by a teacher.
- BBC: Syrian Kids Explain the War, Ages 11+. Syrian children explain the war through their personal experiences. Very powerful.
- Rosling on Syrian Refugees, Ages 14+. A powerful short video that explains the situation with the Syrian refugees.
- 12 Children’s Books About Refugees, all ages. Picture books.
- Children’s Books about Refugees, all ages. Picture books and chapter books.
- Over Under Sideways Down, Ages 15+. A comic book series about a refugee fleeing conflict.
- Syrian Journey: Choose Your Own Escape Route, Ages 7+. This interactive tool places you in the shoes of a Syrian trying to escape. As you make the tough choices along the way, the tool shares facts and more information about the refugee crisis.
- Against All Odds, Ages 7+. An interactive experience created by UNHCR. It allows the children to step in the shoes of a refugee.