By Rachel Sklar, MSW, parent coach at Parents Place of the Center for Children and Youth

Hello friends. I’m Rachel Sklar, from Parents Place of the Center for Children and Youth. I’m coming to you with a heavy heart about the situation in Israel but also an important message for parents who may be struggling to make sense of their role in their children’s lives right now.

I’m out of town right now, and yesterday, I tried to talk to my teenagers about this on the phone at an inopportune time and they literally blew me off.

So I learned something and that had me thinking about what new tips I might share with you.

1. Don’t be silenced at home

First, don’t be silenced at home even if you feel silenced elsewhere. I’ve heard from parents that it’s hard to speak up, especially on social media because no matter what they say, they seem to receive a barrage of unhelpful or hateful comments, which instills more fear about speaking up. That’s how we get silenced. Don’t be silenced at home.

2. Use good timing

I suggest you initiate conversations with your grade school kids about what’s going on, of course in age-appropriate ways ~ you can find articles about that too, but when you do it, use good timing. I learned this the hard way.  Now if your child initiates a conversation with you, consider it good timing. You’ll want to respond right there, ready or not, so you can help them feel safe. If you can’t answer right away, make a plan with them for when you will, and then follow through.

3. Find out what they heard and ask if they have any questions about it.

They may be hearing news that you don’t want them to hear. One client told me that the kids’ grandparents were blasting the news in the living room and wouldn’t turn it off. In that case, don’t just hurry your kids out of the room and be done. Find out what they heard and ask if they have any questions about it. Keep those lines of communication wide open by telling them they can ask you anything.  Tell them not to google their questions. Just like you don’t want them googling their questions about sex, let them know they can ask you, not google, anything about Israel if they’re confused. For older kids, tell them which news sites to look at for information you trust.

4. Limit their social media (and yours)

And lastly, social media. Don’t obsess over the news and social media in front of your children if you can help it. Role model a little inhibition. I know it’s hard. But if there was ever a time to limit their social media (and yours), it’s NOW.  Just like with porn, the images streaming online are not things they can unsee and it can terrorize them…not to mention you.

And if you can’t limit their consumption, don’t be afraid to have hard conversations with them about what they’re seeing. Help them process what they see and hear. The most important thing you can do is teach them to question what they see. Teach them to wonder what the post wanted them to believe and whether or not it’s aligned with their values. Teach them to ask themselves, “What do I believe, and what is true for me?”   In this way, we teach them to protect their own minds, and we role model protecting ours.

5. Let them know that they can feel safe

You also want to let them know that they can feel safe going to school right now and if that changes, you will be the first one to tell them and the first one to keep them home. Let them know that the adults in their lives are paying attention to safety so that they can focus on play and school.

Your kids will have a range of reactions, but you’ve got this. And if you feel like you “don’t got this” and need more support, we’re here for you. Please reach out to us.

We know this is a painful and personally difficult issue for many in our community, and we are here for you. If you or your child could benefit from counseling or support, please contact JFCS’ Center for Children and Youth at 1-888-927-0839 or contact us online.