How to talk to your children about refugees

As we are grappling with one of Europe’s worst refugee crisis, it’s normal to be wondering what to share with your children and how they are processing all the news.  

Whilst we try to shield our children from the current terrible war in Ukraine, it’s highly probable they will have heard about it. Whether it’s a neighbour taking in a Ukrainian refugee family, or the school collecting donations, or overhearing a discussion on television, so it’s best to be prepared. 

How and what you tell your children about the refugee crisis, depends on their age and personality. For example, one may be a worrier and the other a warrior. Here are some guiding points to help you support your kids and answer questions or worries they may have. 


Do some research

In order to be prepared to handle the hard questions it is helpful to check some reliable sources on the topic (the UN Refugee agency, UNCHR, is a recommended one). Globally we are facing the highest level ever of people displacement on record, and even before the war in Ukraine started global refugee numbers were estimated at 26 million. Almost 12 million people are believed to have fled Ukraine and 6.6 million were forced to flee due to conflict in Syria. On top of that, half of these refugees are children. Alternatively, if your child has access to the internet, explain to them to be careful of social media news sources and if you can, give your own tips on trustworthy sites to check data. 


Listen to them

You can break the ice and start with an open-ended question by asking your kids what they already know about refugees. In addition, you might want to ask a follow up question such as ‘Why do you think these people had to flee their homes?’ and ‘What can we do about it to help?’. Listen, and give them space to express their worries feeling and questions. Try to answer their questions truthfully and don’t be afraid to say you don’t know or express your own feelings. Name the feelings you / they might feel and keep your answers simple using child friendly language. For the very sensitive child it might help to get them to write down their worries and put them in a ‘worry box’ and revisit later. After you can throw them away if the child is ready to let go of those feelings. 


Make them feel safe and protected

It is natural that some children might relate to the refugee children and feel powerless and scared. Some children might be worried they would have to leave their homes and become refugees too if the war spreads. Acknowledge their fears and reassure them that they are in a safe place. If they are concerned about the current wellbeing of refugee children, you can tell them about how charities like Save the Children are creating safe spaces for children to play and learn.  


Talk about values and how they can help the refugees

This could be a good opportunity to teach our children about humanity and values of compassion, kindness and inclusivity. Encourage your kids to put their energy into positive action to help the refugees! You could pass on a message of solidarity by signing our petition asking the government to do more to safeguard Ukrainian refugee children. Together you could further write a letter to your local MP calling for more help for refugees seeking asylum in the UK. Or you could run a fundraising activity together with your family and friends to raise awareness.  


Read together about refugee children with our Wonderbooks 

Our collection of children’s books features a real life story book about a Syrian refugee boy, Asif and the Songbird. It’s an endearing book that tells us about Asif and his pet bird, living a happy life in Syria before they had to escape to Lebanon. It has a  heart-warming feel and it teaches us about resilience, friendships and humanity. The book comes with a parent guide helping you and your child to reflect together on important questions such as ‘What do you think the refugees might miss about their home?’ and ‘What would you ask Asif if you could? 

By signing up to our children’s subscription stories you will be helping many more refugee children like Asif. Find out more here 

Asif and the Songbird - a true story about a boy escaping conflict in Syria and his pet bird
Asif and the Songbird – a true story about a boy escaping conflict in Syria and his pet bird
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