On 4th June 2015, the UN’s International Day of Innocent Children’s Victims of Aggression, the Parenting and Families Research Group launched a three-day exhibition at Z-arts in Manchester in partnership with non-governmental organisation Watan and its institutions Generation Freedom and Khayr Charity Foundation to raise awareness of the psychological effects of the Syrian conflict on children, the challenges that parents face in trying to protect the children they care for from harm and ways that we can provide psychological support to families to prevent harm to chiildren. The exhibition is the result of research we have conducted with Watan over the past three years with families on the Syrian-Turkish border and resettled in the UK.

We were also pleased to be joined by Rethink Rebuild, Syria Relief and Jasmine of Peace: Syria who all play an enormous role in a variety of ways to support people affected by the Syrian conflict.

Like in so many other conflicts, children are suffering the most in the Syrian conflict. Those looking after children play an essential role in protecting children from psychological distress in war. Parenting is one of the most important and difficult things one can do and in the face of war and displacement keeping children safe and away from physical and psychological harm is extremely stressful and difficult. Living in the harsh and challenging environment combined with being traumatised themselves from violence and loss often impacts on parents’ and caregivers’ ability to care as they would normally like to for children.

For most of us, this is simply unimaginable. The hardships of day to day life for families living through war is often forgotten about especially the psychological suffering endured. This exhibition aimed to take visitors on a journey through the Syrian conflict from the perspectives of children and parents who have had to face the terrifying and sad reality of living through this conflict.

Sadly, there is currently no solution in sight for the Syrian conflict and it may continue for years. The exhibition showed how parenting is experienced in this war, the challenges parents and caregivers face, the urgent need for parenting support and what we are doing to provide families with this support to reduce psychological distress and help build a positive future.

The exhibition was funded by the Wellcome Trust (105610/Z/14/Z).