By Elisa Magidoff, MA, Director of Parents Place at the Center for Children and Youth
We are all heartbroken about the horrifying violence unfolding in Israel right now. And as much as parents may want to protect their children from such news, it’s okay not to hide it from children. In fact, it serves our children best when we have open, honest conversations with them and provide information that is developmentally appropriate for each age group.
For Preschool-Age Children:
For preschool-age children ages 4-5, assure your children that they did not do anything wrong but you are sad about the war in Israel where people are getting hurt. You can say a lot of people are feeling sad right now and I want you to know you are safe here where we live. Encourage them to tell you how they feel. Do not provide details, as preschool-age children can only understand emotions and are unable to process abstract ideas.
For Elementary School Children:
As for children in elementary school, you can expect that they have been exposed to conversations about the war. Be available to talk about it with them. You can explain that many people have been injured and killed because of a war between Israel and Hamas. You can validate that you are worried and sad but that they are safe here in the US. Encourage them to come to you for questions instead of their friends, because it is confusing to understand. Consider the sensitivity of your child and only tell them what they can handle.
For Teens and Tweens:
Middle and High school children will probably have Googled the events or heard about them from peers and social media. Explain the facts that there is a war between Hamas and Israel and explain that Hamas is a terrorist group. Emphasize that many innocent people have been killed in both Israel and Gaza which is a terrible circumstance of war. Tell them it’s okay to be worried and sad because it’s a very sad situation. Let them know you are available to answer any questions and talk about it.
Overall, be aware that children can sense when you are sad and worried. It’s best to be upfront about why, so children are clear that it’s not about them or anything else. Be honest and willing to answer questions, and be available to offer comfort when it’s needed.
A warning for US parents about social media use during this time: Several sources indicate that additional videos of brutality and murder, specifically about those held captive in Gaza, are likely to be released on social media channels (mainly but not limited to TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube). We strongly encourage you to limit access if possible and/or check in regularly with your children about their social media use.
Other Helpful Resources:
- Talking to Children about Antisemitism and Hate Crimes
There is no doubt that the horrifying and violent attacks in Israel have escalated our fears. Find guidance to help prepare you for conversations at home.
- Age-Based Strategies for Talking with Your Child about Tragedy
Advice for answering the questions children ask about tragedies according to their age, temperament, and level of development.
- 5 Ways You Can Help Your Kids Feel Safe in an Unsafe World
Tips for helping your child to feel safe and to manage their feelings associated with tragedy and violence.
- Building Honest and Open Dialogue with Your Child
Talking with children about difficult topics is never easy, but there are moments when it becomes necessary.
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.