How to talk to children and young people about conflict

Our guide will give you confidence to discuss conflict with school aged children, using an impartial and neutral humanitarian approach

ICRC staff and volunteers deliver aid
5 - 19
Guidance and advice
Citizenship, PSHE, Tutor time
Conflict, Humanitarianism and the Red Cross

Coverage in mainstream news media and social media of world conflict and refugee emergencies mean children and young people are increasingly being exposed to news events and are turning to parents and teaches to discuss and explain the stories they have seen and heard.

Use this guidance for support before delivering our conflict and its consequences resources. The Afghanistan crisis in 2021 and Ukraine crisis in 2022 are two such events that have been played out in real time in news coverage that children and young people may want to talk about or need support for their own wellbeing. 

How to talk to children and young people about conflict

It can be difficult to know how to approach these topics in an appropriate way for school aged children. This resource helps teachers and educators to explore impartial and neutral ways to teach their learners about global conflicts in a classroom or group setting. Using this guidance, you can create a safe space for children and young people to ask questions and discuss conflict, with a focus on protecting their wellbeing and offering a balanced view on complex situations.

Through our resources we aim to help learners become more aware of conflict and its human impacts as well as the vital work humanitarian organisations like the Red Cross do to help people in conflict. It provides information to help educators prepare for a conversation and introduce the topic to learners as well as ways to tackle difficult questions and possible bias. It also includes activities you can use to help children and young people explore International Humanitarian Law, the concept of neutrality and impartiality and tackling anxiety that may be caused by conflict. Use the factsheet provided to explore what International Humanitarian Law is and the rules people must follow in conflicts.

This resource is suitable for primary and secondary school aged students, 5 to 19.

Learning objectives

You will:

  • Reflect on your own biases and learn ways to manage them
  • Explore how to start establishing reliable information about conflict
  • Consider ways to acknowledging learner’s feelings and how conflict impacts and is impacted by emotions and values
  • Consider humanitarian responses to conflict
  • Consider ways to create inclusive, impartial, and neutral spaces for discussion
  • Explore some suggested activities to run with learners to explore conflict and cope with its emotional impacts

Resource overview

This provides an overview of what to expect from the resource.


1. What does it mean to be impartial and neutral?

Explore the Red Cross Movement’s understanding of these terms, why it’s vital for our work and how it’s relevant to learner led education.


2. How to prepare yourself: evaluating bias and reliable sources

Advice for teachers and parents on how to prepare for and approach the subject. Understand ways you can reflect on your own biases and emotions in relation to conflict, how to ensure your sharing the best information with learners so that you can more confidently teach this topic.


3. How to prepare what to say to learners: A humanitarian approach

Use these key steps to evaluating how to approach this topic with learners and consider how they are feeling emotionally about conflict that may be ongoing.


4. How to answer questions and comments from learners

Tips and advice on how to navigate difficult questions, possible biases and misconceptions, debate and disagreement that may arise and maintain a non-judgemental atmosphere for discussion.


5. Discussion activity: Principles and values

Encourage learners to explore three core Red Cross principles: neutrality, impartiality and humanity and how and why these are important in conflict situations.


6. Video activity: Breathing with colour

Use this video activity for primary school learners who may be feeling overwhelmed and anxious about an ongoing conflict.


7. Video activity: Circles of control

Use this video activity for secondary school learners who may be feeling overwhelmed and anxious about an ongoing conflict to focus on what they can do to help themselves and others.


8. How can your learners help?

Explore ways your learners could help people in conflict.


This resource was created in March 2022 by the British Red Cross.

Discussing world news events

This resource can be used to discuss recent events that have been given extensive coverage in the news and on social media. Explore all International Humanitarian Law and refugee and migration resources, or try one of these news-related activities:

Supporting resources

Support your learners when discussing difficult topics with our wellbeing resources. These activities help children and young people to build empathy, kindness and resilience skills that can help them cope when faced with challenges.

> Wellbeing teaching resources