Today, after taking a break to release my ebook Refugees in the Bible, I’m excited to jump back into our series on how to talk about refugees. In the first installment of the series I covered some general principles that apply no matter who you’re talking to. Today I want to address how to talk to children about refugees.
Half of refugees around the world are children, so forced displacement is a children’s issue as much as it is an adult one. It’s important for kids to hear about current events in ways that they can understand so that they won’t be overwhelmed or afraid. So, here are a handful of tips for talking about refugees with children, whether they are your own kids or you work with kids in another setting.
Find Age Appropriate Resources
You and I learn about refugees primarily from the news, but the evening briefing is probably not an appropriate tool for teaching young children about refugees. However, there are plenty of age appropriate resources you can use to help kids grasp concepts of displacement, conflict, and hardship. Books are a great place to start teaching kids of all ages about refugees through the stories and experiences of others. You can find a great list of picture books about refugees for younger kids here, and chapter books for older kids are included at the end of this list. Reading some of these books to (or with) children allows them to ask questions and begin a conversation with you about refugees.
There are also other resources you could use to talk to children about refugees. For example, this Syrian Refugee Simulation from the BBC could be a great tool to go through with older kids to teach them about the difficult decisions that refugees face every day. A quick internet search will turn up even more ideas like those listed here by Amnesty International.
Don’t Explain Everything At Once
This especially applies if your audience includes young children. If you are just beginning to introduce concepts like displacement, war, or poverty, go slowly so you don’t overwhelm or frighten them. Taking your time to introduce various facts and ideas about refugees will help kids feel comfortable asking questions as you go, which can result in some great discussions.
Introducing information little by little doesn’t mean hiding painful truths from kids, though. As a Christian, I don’t think we should try to hide the truth of a broken world from our kids. Our job as Christian parents and teachers is to be available to answer questions and concerns and comfort children as they learn about difficult realities like war, death, and poverty. Talking to kids about refugees offers an excellent opportunity to remind them that life on earth is not as God planned it to be, and that Jesus came to restore everything that is broken.
Make It Natural
Refugees and displacement are weighty topics. In addition to introducing information slowly, incorporating your conversations into everyday activities can help to make it less overwhelming for children who are hearing about these issues for the first time. For parents this means bringing up these topics as organically as possible, weaving them into the times you would normally read together or have conversations with your kids. For teachers this means incorporating the topic of refugees into other subjects like geography or history. Sunday school class would also be a great place for kids to learn about refugees through the stories of refugees in the Bible.
Don’t Just Talk to Children About Refugees
While finding effective way to talk to children about refugees is the first step in helping them learn more about these issues, don’t stop there! Once kids are familiar with who refugees are and the challenges they face, help them do something about it! If you are a school or Sunday school teacher, help your class organize a fundraiser for an organization that serves refugees in your community. If you are a parent, consider volunteering as a family with an organization like World Relief so that your children can make friends with refugees and learn first hand about a different culture. Just as we should take our knowledge of refugee issues and find practical ways to welcome the stranger, we can help children to do the same.
If you have additional ideas or resources that you think might be helpful for other readers, feel free to mention them in the comments below.