What if I work with children with experience of war?

You may teach or work with young people who have experience of violent conflict, perhaps having joined your group as refugees. For example, there may be children from Afghanistan. This does not mean they cannot participate in Fly Kites Not Drones activities, but you should consider whether and how to approach their involvement safely and positively. Discussing feelings and thoughts in a safe, collaborative space can help build resiliency.

Considering Trauma

Some young people who have experienced armed conflict may be traumatised, meaning they continue to experience mental distress in their everyday lives. Not all young people who have experienced dangerous or scary events are “traumatised” however, and trauma itself can take different forms.

The role of educators is not to provide therapy, so if you think a young person experiencing post-traumatic stress, you may want to investigate other ways to help. However, a calm consistent environment can “buffer” the experience of trauma, helping minimise distress. Educators may also be in position to help identify trauma in the behaviour of young people, looking out for the behaviours listed in the box.

Behaviours associated with trauma

  • difficulty in concentrating and completing tasks
  • tiredness because of lack of sleep
  • avoidance of particular activities and situations
  • physical ailments, such as headaches, vomiting or stomach aches
  • irritability or hyper-alertness
  • impaired memory
  • exaggerated startle responses
  • preoccupation with violent events (conversations, drawings)
  • unrealistic worries about possible harm to self and others
  • excessive distress upon separation or when anticipating separation from parent
  • recollection of traumatic events Students who manifest the above behaviours may be experiencing
  • violent nightmares or flashbacks
  • disturbing memories
  • feelings of being in danger • feelings of betrayal
  • anger
  • denial
  • pervasive or generalized anxiety

Source: Students from Refugee Backgrounds: A Guide for Teachers and Schools


You will probably know your class well, but before exploring a serious issue such as drone warfare, you may need to know more about your pupils’ previous experience.

Speak to parents or key pastoral staff, sharing your plans and taking advice. There may be general adjustments made for the young person, or specific ones linked to Fly Kites Not DrtonesThis might be providing alternative activities for the pupil, but not necessarily.

And of course, find an opportunity to speak to the young person one-to-one to check their comfort levels.

A safe space

Discussion in circle time can be a good way for young people. If the expectations or contract you have for circle time are being met, it can act as a safe space for young people can understand and express their feelings.

Provide an exit

Make sure there is a way for young people who would like to step back from the activity to do so unobtrusively, and monitor their responses (including non-verbal cues) to the content which may lead you to suggest they step back.

Consider involving pupils in peer learning

Where young people with experience of violent conflict feel able, you can give them a voice to share their experiences. This can focus on positive experiences: What was their favourite thing about that country? What did they play? What did they eat? Having someone with direct experience in the group can help avoid generalisations and provide a healthy opportunity for them to talk about their experiences and be the "expert". This could involve discussion as well as more creative ways to explore the topics including drama or music.


More advice:

Headlines: War and Conflict - Tackling Controversial Issues in the Classroom by Marguerite Heath (2010) | http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/headlines-war-and-conflict-9781408113578/ 

Aiming High: Guidance on supporting the Education of Asylum Seeking and Refugee Children | http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130401151715/http://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/DfES-0287-2004.PDF

Strategies to support the child of a refugee background | http://www.psych4schools.com.au/excerpt/refugee

Emotional Well Being | NALDIC | http://www.naldic.org.uk/eal-teaching-and-learning/outline-guidance/ealrefugee/refem

Students from Refugee Backgrounds: A Guide for Teachers and Schools   | https://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/ell//refugees_teachers_guide.pdf

Child Trauma Toolkit for Educators | http://www.nctsn.org/resources/audiences/school-personnel/trauma-toolkit

Peacemakers | In Focus:Teaching Controversial Issues | http://www.peacemakers.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Peacemakers-Annual-Report-2014.pdf