St Paul's Anglican

Helping kids know God in times of war

By Sarah Lancaster, Children's Pastor at St Paul's Anglican

Has world war 3 started? Why doesn’t God stop war? Can God really keep me safe? Does God love everyone in the world? What did those people do wrong?

As conflict rages in Ukraine and other parts of the world, kids will hear quite a lot about war – from school, friends, news or social media. With their own devices, they also may have access to more than they are able to understand or cope with. 

What are the questions in the minds and hearts of your children? Here are some ways we can help them know God and find comfort in him.

1. Pray and prepare for conversations

There’s no perfect way to talk with your kids about war. But we do know our Heavenly Father cares deeply for our kids, and we can rely on him to help. Start by finding out about the war, so you can explain things simply. Stories of Ukrainian and Russian families might help, remembering that government actions don’t represent each family. Spend time praying and reflecting on how knowing God helps you cope with the news. Pray for your kids – that living in uncertain times will teach them to trust God only.

What are the questions in the minds and hearts of your children? Here are some ways we can help them know God and find comfort in him.

2. Listen to your kids

Once you’re ready to talk, give your kids opportunities to explain what they know. You might think about whether to talk as a whole family, one on one, or similar ages together. Let them keep talking, so you know what’s on their mind and how it makes them feel. Ask them why they think these things are happening.

The kind of questions kids ask will help guide how much detail they need. Young children may just need a simple overview; 6 to 9-year-olds may be fascinated by weapons, death and all things gruesome; older children might feel deep empathy and therefore distress for those in trouble; tweens may need to understand more about the particular situation. All feelings and responses are valid. Reassure them that it’s okay to feel the way they do. It’s also okay if they aren’t worried, or if they find it hard to show compassion for people they haven’t met and whose lives they can’t imagine. Bigger emotions might be hard for you to cope with – pray and prepare for that too. Their response may cause them to be angry or withdrawn, so try not to the that personally.

3. Explain the truth

After listening carefully, choose which questions to answer or which misunderstandings need to be corrected. For example, children may not realise how far away Ukraine and Russia are from us. Or they may think war starts without realising the history that builds to this point.

Make sure you tell the truth, and don’t promise things you aren’t in control of. This is an opportunity to teach kids to trust God – not in our circumstances. Keep it simple and let them ask more questions if needed. Keep calm as you explain, as kids will catch your emotions and mimic them. Model how to cast your cares on our Father who cares for us when you get emotional.

4. Remind them of who is in charge

Take them back to the things we know for sure and never change. Read some familiar stories and remember what our God is like: powerful, caring, in control, full of love. Reading the Exodus story, the life of Joseph, or Jesus calming the storm in your kids story bibles can help. Or try reading Psalm 103 in CEV or NIRV with older children. Point them to the day when Jesus returns and war will end. Remind them that God is working towards a day when wars end, but for now, the world keeps going so more people can turn to Jesus.

5. Help them respond

Ask kids what they think we can do in response, and run with their ideas as much as is practical.

Here’s some suggestions to add in:

  • Pray together – we can pour out our feelings to our Heavenly Father. Write a prayer together remembering who God is; praying for peace; asking for help for those in trouble, and looking forward to the day all war will end.
  • Make a picture to put on the fridge to remember to keep praying
  • Learn a memory verse about who God is
  • Give money to organisations caring for Ukrainians (or people in need more generally). The Bible Society and Barnabas Fund have projects you can give to
  • Help kids start a project to raise money for others in need, e.g. collecting bottles and cans for Return and Earn
  • Decide on something to give up as a family and donate the money you save
  • Invite people to church. Kids may see the bigger picture of the need to be sure of heaven

Our kids have faced years of uncertain times with bushfire, pandemic, war and flood. Many of the things they look forward to have been cancelled or postponed. Different kids will respond to these things differently, and at different times. If you notice that your kids don’t seem themselves, please seek help. If you are concerned, look up the signs of anxiety and depression in children (the Kids Helpline has some helpful information) and then see your GP.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13