Monday, 23 May 2016

What Happened When I Spoke To My Kids About Refugees

I watched BBC2's programme last night on the IPlayer, where Stacey Dooley (who I really like) was documenting the journey and the experience of unaccompanied migrant children.

Usually I don't get to watch much television, but when I do, I like to watch documentaries.  I also don't usually get to watch much tv around the kids, but I'm finding more and more, that when I do, they also like to watch with me.

Last night was no different.

Ethan slipped onto my knee and under my blanket and we watched together in our comfort and safety, with full bellies after our evening meal, just before I got him ready for his warm bed.

This was not lost on my five year old son.  Not at all.

Some might argue that the content of the documentary is too much for a child.
Some might say that there is no need to burden them with the world's problems at such a young age.

It wasn't a graphic documentary. Situations were described, but there was no blood, no dead bodies.  Just some normal people, normal families, with normal, upset, tired, hungry and scared children who had made some really epic journeys in order to flee their war-torn countries.

Inevitably, I had to answer a lot of questions.

  • What are they all doing?
  • Why are they not at home?
  • Where are all their things?
  • Why is the daddy crying?
  • Have they not got a pram?
  • Why don't they have enough food to eat?
  • Where will they sleep?
I answered each question as well as I could.  I tried to taper it all down to the appropriate age level.  I tried to be quite matter of fact.

I always feel it is important to let children know what is going on in our world.

I need my kids to know that we are lucky, us here in our nice house, eating food we like and going to school.

I need my kids to know and to appreciate that we might not always have everything we want, that sometimes the things we like or want or even need are not always there for us, but that indeed, we need to share, and see the positives and try harder sometimes.  

I need my kids to see the unfairness meted out to others and to feel empathy too; I need my kids to have that balance in their lives.

I would really like my kids to be helpers.  I don't mean the kind of people who give up their lives solely for others (only if they really want to), but the kind of people who think of others.  Who maybe pop some food in the trolley for the foodbank when they shop, or donate old clothes to charity, or put bird feeders in the garden in winter.

I guess I want my kids to have some kind of social conscience.

What happened when I spoke to my kids about the refugees?

We talked about how unfair their situation was.  How awful it was that babies and sick people had to sleep on the streets.  We talked about war and how scary it must be to live in a country at war.  We also talked about how nice our own home was.  How lucky we were.  How nice it might be to take some of our old toys and donate them so that the migrant children might have something to play with.

Essentially, nothing happened.

No bogeymen came in the night and stole their innocence.

There have been no nightmares. No stupid questions.

There was some empathy, a bit of understanding, and a realisation on my part that when explained in the right way, we can take the scary things, the strange things, the unjust and unfair things and speak to our kids about them in a way they understand without destroying their innocence.

Ethan: "Mum, I think we should definitely make friends with them when they get here.  They need a friend."


If a 5 year old gets it, why are some adults having a hard time?

Now if we can just bottle that up and spread it around a bit, the world would be a better place. 


  1. It is a difficult thing for adults to really get their heads around, let alone children. Well done for tackling the subject and seeing them as the loving people they are just like us. The situation is truly tragic and we should all understand this in our own way. #Letkidsbekids

    1. They asked...I answered. I suppose you have to be careful, but there's no point in pretending it isn't happening.

  2. It is such a difficult subject, but an important one. Sounds like you explained things very well and I agree five year olds I think often have the best thoughts and ideas.
    Thanks for sharing with #LetKidsBeKids

    1. I wish everyone thought in the same simplistic way as a 5 year old. Well...sometimes! Ha ha!

  3. Gosh, I nearly cried reading this. Well done for sharing what's going on in the world so excellently with your children. NG isn't three yet but I have talked to her about death (a bit - a family friend died quite recently and so did a dog she knew well) and she doesn't seem scared by it, just thoughtful. Thanks for sharing #stayclassy

  4. Its great that you have shared what's happening in the world with your children. 5 year olds have that innocence and always try and see the best. It's a shame adults are not like that. xx

    thanks for linking up with #stayclassy


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