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Resources for Helping Children Understand and Cope with the News of War and Conflict

Editor's Note: The first resource below in this topic was created by Member Beth Tobin for the parents, grandparents, and concerned members at her church at the start of the Fall 2023 Israel ~ Hamas War. That said, it can be used any time the need arises (which is all too often).

There is the parental impulse to "keep things from our children," to protect their innocence and sense of safety in the world, but in today's world, they usually learn about terrible and troubling events whether we want them to or not. Such moments require our attention, and they are not only opportunities to explain, but to console, as well as to share our faith and values with them.

Beth is the Children's Minister (Deacon) at the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Olympia, WA.

You are welcome to adapt the following, and you are welcome to post your own thoughts and resources for children and families on this subject.


World events are heavy on my heart and I keep thinking about you and your children. Depending on their age and what they are being exposed to they may be feeling and experiencing lots of questions, emotions, anxiety, or uncertainty. Even if children are not exposed to world news directly, they can pick up on what adults are feeling.

If you sense something is “off” with your child(ren) check in with them. They might not have words to express how or what they are feeling, but you can assure them of God’s love and your love, and that they are safe. Parenting is hard and my heart and prayers are with you. ❤️

We know these truth and need to reaffirm them:

  • That God loves you. God sees you. And God is with you always, no matter what.
  • That God loves all people and all of creation, and does not like that people are hurting, fighting, angry, hurting others, etc.
  • We also know that God is there in the midst of war and turmoil, working for good, walking alongside those hurting in spirit but also through helpers. Mr. Rogers is famous for many things, among them his advice that children, “look for the helpers,” in the middle of conflict to see and understand that God is at work for good in the midst of scary times.

Holding hard things, like people and places in conflict, in prayer is another way we can cope, put in perspective, and help.

Our hearts just ache, we’re exhausted, or there are too many thoughts swirling in our heads to even get them out. Below are some prayer suggestions, but keep in mind that when we don’t know what to pray, the Holy Spirit will pray for us.

A Prayer of Three Breaths:
Try pausing and breathing just for a moment. Take a deep breath in and slowly let it out.

Say: In the name of the Father (or Creator), [Take a deep slow breath in…... And exhale.]
Say: In the name of the Son (or Jesus), [Take a deep slow breath in…... And exhale.]
Say: In the name of the Holy Spirit, [Take a deep slow breath in…... And exhale.]

Pray out loud the following so that your children can learn how to pray to God about conflict and war:

  • Pray for those hurt by war -- on all sides of the conflict.
  • Pray for those doing the hurting (Matthew 5:44)
  • Pray for those making the decisions will listen to God's wisdom and work for peace.
  • Pray that you would become a voice and champion for the peaceful resolution of conflicts in your own relationships.

Art can be really helpful in praying.

You might try a Prayer Doodle. You could doodle while listening to some music, or while listening to “A Healing for the Nations” (see below), or while just having some quiet time.

  • Write a name for God, the name of someone you’re praying for, a place or thing you are praying for, or a scripture verse.
  • Draw a shape around it and begin to doodle.
  • Pray as you draw. Ask God to be part of this prayer time.
  • Keep drawing as you release these prayers to God.
  • For more information:

Music can help us pray and understand.

Here’s a recording of one of my favorite sung prayers. It’s called, “A Healing for the Nations" and includes all of the Washington State indigenous tribes and nations of the world, sung in two sections. This recording was made at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.

Ideas for using "A Healing of the Nations" recording:

  • Display a world map. Print one, use a globe, display one on a computer screen or on your phone. Touch it. Hold it. Find where we live. Find where places you want to hold in prayer are located. Find where relatives live. Reflect on how God loves all of creation and is working for good.
  • Light a candle, battery or flame, or draw candles on paper and draw lighting them as the prayer continues. Pray that God will bring light to the darkness and hope to those feeling hopeless.

    This photo comes from a group praying for the Healing of the Nations:


  • Paint or draw or color a beautiful picture of creation while you listen. Where are some of your favorite places to be out in creation? Remind children that the bad news isn't the only news!

Sometimes children, like adults, ask the hard question: Why did God let this happen?

It’s an important and valid question. And a safe question to ask wherever we are, even at church. Here’s my attempt at an answer. I would love to know how you might answer this one!

God does not cause bad things to happen. God is good and works for good through everything that happens.

One of the gifts God gave us is the ability to make choices. We make choices every day. Some people choose to make choices that are harmful to others or harmful to themselves or harmful to creation. God is at work encouraging us to make good choices. That’s one of the reasons why church is so important. We as a community of faith hear and listen to and study God’s word, and wrestle with God’s word, and ask questions, and encourage each other to live as followers of Christ as best as we can in our daily lives. We get reminded of God’s love and forgiveness, and filled up at church so that we are better able, strengthened, to make good choices during the week in our daily living, and sharing God’s love with others. This includes loving our enemies and praying for them (Matthew 5:44).

Hearing God’s word, reading Bible stories, creating time for prayer, chatting God up, attending Sunday school, going to worship, singing in choir, fellowshipping with other believers — these are all ways we get to know the heart of God and are better able to hear God’s voice and encouragement to make those good choices. Church helps support us in doing all of these things.

When we make a choice that is not good (and we all do!) we know that God will give forgive us. Forgiveness doesn’t take away the bad consequences of our choices, rather, forgiveness restores our relationship with God and tells us to heal the relationships with those we have hurt.

The consequences and repercussions of war are awful. God did not cause them, but God is at work for good to bring healing and hope to all affected and to all the world.

Prayers for the world.
Prayers for peace.
Prayers for peace in our hearts and minds.
Prayers for you and your children and grandchildren.
Prayers for God’s love to surround and guide you this day and always.

~Deacon Beth


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Last edited by Neil MacQueen
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Helping children understand the world and war

Talking to Your Kids About War

a few resources for parents, teachers, and caregivers

The web is full of good resources. Here are a few to consider.
Feel free to add your own recommended resources.

Talking to Your Kids About War
By Amy Morin, a Licensed Social Worker and Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind.
(This list is very similar to UNICEF's seen below in this topic.)


  • Strike up a conversation
  • Ask what they have heard
  • Explain the "purpose" of war (which some people believe is to protect the good and punish the bad)
  • Hold back when necessary. Address what they've heard but don't get into the gruesome details.
  • Don't engage in harmful stereotypes (such as, "as ______ are bad").
  • Limit media viewing in your home and discuss as needed what they are hearing/seeing
  • Point out the good, encourage compassion
  • Keep watch for distress

How to Talk to Your Kids About War (Age by Age)

By Melanie Rainer. Includes scriptures and perspective by child's age. A thoughtful discussion from a Director of Ministry in a local church and mother of young children.


  • Don’t pretend war doesn’t exist.
  • Reassure kids of God’s character.
  • Teach them how to respond with grace and love.
  • Remind them that one day, there will be no more war.
  • Pray with your kids (for strength, understanding, not to be afraid)

10 tips for parents and teachers of elementary school children in a time of war

From the American Psychological Association's website:


  • Talk to your children
  • Watch for signs of distress
  • Limit exposure to media
  • Reduce daily stresses and keep to routines
  • Assure them of their safety (children don't always know "where" war is happening)

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An Explanation for Children of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

A short, easy to understand video for kids created by the Canadian Broadcasting Company

Balanced, doesn't take sides. Begs the question, "How will they resolve their competing claims?" -- which is an excellent question to ask kids. You may also want to ask, "Until there's a solution, what SHOULDN'T they do to make things worse?"  The story of Jacob and Esau should be helpful here!  How not to make conflict worse is a life skill, as is reconciling like Jacob and Esau did.

An Explanation for Children of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

UNICEF's 8 Tips for Talking to Children About War

UNICEF is the world's most respected children's well-being agency. A branch of the UN, they go into some of the toughest places on earth to advocate for the safety and health of children.

Here are their 8 tips for talking to children about war

  1. Find out what they know or have heard. Listen.
  2. Keep it calm and age-appropriate. Young children often need more emotional support than words.
  3. Spread compassion, not stigma (hate, prejudice, "bad" people).
  4. Focus on the helpers. Lift up stories of help. Take action.
  5. Reduce their anxiety and leave them in a state of care not distress.
  6. Continue to check in and measure stress. Watch for adverse reactions in other contexts that might signal an underlying worry or fear.
  7. Limit the flood of new. Turn of the TV.
  8. Take care of yourself (employ all 8 tips for yourself!)

Let's add to all these lists: "Do Something Constructive and Helpful"

  1. Raise and send money to UNICEF or your favorite denomination's relief fund.
  2. Remember the children of war in your prayers.
  3. Help children identify points of conflict within their own family and friendships and make a plan to reduce the stress and heal.
  4. Give children in your home small chores, such as, collecting unused clothing and canned goods and taking them to deliver these goods to a local shelter or food bank.
  5. Your great idea here!


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  • Helping children understand the world and war
  • In all wars it is the children who suffer first and suffer most
  • CBC Kids News
Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Two children’s sermons with lesson options…

You prepare a table

Preparing a Table in the Presence of Enemies

This children's sermon about "enemies" is perfect for a Communion Sunday or at a fellowship meal, but works great anytime --especially when you have an actual table to gather at. It can also be expanded into a lesson plan by inviting students to help label various "foods for the table." See notes at the end for more about that.

Begin by asking the kids or congregation to recite as much of Psalm 23 as they can, ABRUPTLY STOPPING THEM when they get to verse 5 -- "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies."  Tell them that's the one you want to talk about today.  Ask them what they think that means and accept any answer, then continue with the next section here.

The Psalm 23 image of a table "prepared in the presence of my enemies" has sometimes been unfortunately thought of as a table of exclusion --a feast that the enemies could only see, not share. (Say it like a bratty kid:"I get to sit at the table and YOU DON'T, nana-nana-boo-boo!") Ask them if they think that's what it means. When they "no it doesn't mean that," ask them what they think it means and accept any answer.

Teach them that the primary meaning of "table" to Jesus and his followers is a place where sinners are welcome and healing can begin. Reference: Mark 2:13-17.

"Enemies" can be two people who don't get along, say or do hurtful things. They can be strangers. Or oddly enough, an enemy can be a friend or someone in your family. The point is, the "enemies" God prepares a table for is US!

So how do we prepare a table in the presence of enemies -- people who are sinners just like us? People who make mistakes, say hurtful things, people who argue and hold grudges?  Let me show you how to "prepare a table" like God would to so enemies could meet at it.

In a grocery sack you have collected a number of food items. See each numbered item below for a suggestion of food to pull out and set the table with.

  1. Groceries-Table-EnemiesThe table has to be a safe place. They have to know you won't seek retribution or hurt them.  (Toss a marshmallow, or gummie bears, or piece of lettuce or licorice --i.e. symbols of things that don't hurt or intimidate.)  (You might mention that Jesus used bread at HIS table and broke it to be shared.)
  2. It has to be peaceful. They need to know you won't raise our voice or threaten them. (Peanut butter might be a good symbol for food that keeps our mouths busy instead of being able to shout. You could even demonstrate that by having a child eat a spoonful.)
  3. It has to be persistent. Love doesn't give up or run out of chances. Keep trying. And keep remembering that even our enemies are loved by God -- even if they don't love us or get along with us, we still treat them with respect -- as much as we can! (Pour out a bag of beans or rice and keep pouring while you say this.)   
  4. And most importantly, you have to have already forgiven your enemy BEFORE you reach the table. Forgiveness is not something you reward others with. It's we give away because Jesus gave it away freely too.   Pull out a cookie that you have gift-wrapped and say, in fact, I have already prepared to give you a cookie from my bag -- whether you liked or understood this children's message or NOT!  Or whether one of us will ever say something hurtful or misunderstood to each other. When you start a Table with forgiveness, you will begin to see that your "enemies" are just sinners like you, and all of us are God's children whether we're cranky or not. So whether you want to be my friend or not, and no matter what happens between us, I love you in the name of Jesus and chocolate chip cookies. (Now hand out the cookies.)

    Here's a link to a printable/colorful table showing a person setting a table for two people who are each other's enemies. A screenshot of the image is seen in this post above.

    Turn the above into a lesson... pass out various types of canned goods and have the kids come up with new labels and descriptions of "what's in the can" that helps resolve conflict between enemies.  Have them "create a commercial" for their food -- showing two enemies in conflict, being invited to the table to eat your food,  explaining how it can help people forgive and come together again.

    For further extension, show a photo of an Israeli and a Palestinian and ask what kind of "table" would bring them together so that they could begin to resolve their issues?  Do people have to "agree on things" not to be enemies? Do friends have to agree on everything?  What does God want us to agree on?

A children's sermon about conflict, hurting other's feelings

Originally written by member Nathanael ("rfour") on his website at and modified here by member Neil MacQueen.

The object demonstration in this children's sermon is a balloon that you pop by over-blowing it (i.e. what happens to us when we are continually hurt (or hurt someone).

The demonstration uses Matthew 18:15-20 -- "If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault" which often doesn't go well between people!   INSTEAD, let me suggest using Ephesians 4:29

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,
but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs...."
Ephesians 4:29

Speaking and thinking bad thoughts and words will eventually "hurt" and they can even destroy a person's sense of well-being, safety, and your relationship with them. Nobody likes to see another person hurt. Nobody likes the person who bursts another person's balloon. etc etc.

As you say these things, keep inflating that balloon! (If you need help inflating the balloon, use a bicycle tire pump or enlist a volunteer.)


To add to this children's sermon balloon metaphor, or to extend it into a lesson plan, add this simple but effective "balloon pricking trick" demonstration after the main point is made about popping other people's balloons. This "pin prick" demonstration takes the metaphor about "hurt" in a different direction -- introducing the idea of protecting from hurt and patching hurt. Adjust your language and metaphor as you wish.


  1. Blow up a balloon to normal size and then pull out a safety pin.
  2. Ask the kids what will happen when the pin hits the balloon.
  3. Pop the balloon.
  4. Pull out another balloon and blow it up. "This is you again, thin-skinned, a little too quick to have your feelings hurt and explode on people with hurtful words."
  5. Now pull out a piece of colorful packing tape and press it onto the side of the balloon. Call it love and faith, a desire for peace, being thougtful instead of "reactionary." Whatever you like.
  6. Now ask them what will happen when I put the pin to the balloon!  It won't pop.
  7. Slowly stick the pin into the tape. It won't pop. Remove the pin.
  8. Add another piece of your metaphor over the pin hole to seal it again. God "seals and heals."

Point: When you have love for others, even your enemies, you won't explode on them with hurtful words and fists. Things like love, prayer, forgiveness can prepare you to act in godly ways towards others, instead of "exploding on them." And when you are feeling hurt, ask God to "seal and heal" your feelings. When you do that, there's a real opportunity for healing with the person who brought you pain in the first place.

It's not a perfect metaphor (what is), but it's a comforting and instructive one!

The "tape" on the balloon is strangely synonymous with bandaids, which of course, KID LOVE TO WEAR. That brings to mind one of the great "healing" traditions kids have to look forward to when they or a friend breaks their wrist or arm and they ask people to SIGN THEIR CAST.

So in this final "reflection" portion of our plausible lesson, why not create "casts" for each kid's arm and work on having everyone sign each other's casts with positive affirmations that protect and build up each other.  Ask for suggestions and make a list. Include a number "what would Jesus write on your cast?" suggestions. (The teacher could add a verse segment to from our lesson.)

Healing Casts and Positive Affirmation LessonQuestion: What can you use for a quick "cast" material that will hold up to the kids winging it around?  Construction paper tears too easily. How about cutting "cast" sections from a vinyl table cloth -- the inexpensive kind you buy for a party table. Tape these around the kids' arm like a cast and write on them with permanent markers. Before you do, make sure the kids understand the importance of saying something positive and not messing around.


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  • mceclip0
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  • Groceries-Table-Enemies
Last edited by Neil MacQueen

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