By Lauren Meltzer, MA, CLC, parent coach at the Center for Children and Youth
A lot has been written about how to talk to your child about the violence in Israel. But what happens if your child is neurodiverse? Neurodiverse children include those with ADHD, autism, and learning differences. Depending on their difference, communication style matters in how they take in information. They can be more literal, more likely to perseverate, more likely to jump to negative imagining, and more likely to have rigid ideas about what is going on.
With that in mind, here are some tips:
Calm yourself before you talk.
Kids might pick up on your anxious energy, so make sure that you take time to process your own feelings. This isn’t to say you can’t admit that you are also scared/sad, but you try sharing with a calm presence to help them co-regulate.
Meet your children where they are at.
If you notice certain new behaviors that seem like they are regressing, acting out, or even creating pretend play around war, don’t be alarmed or tell them to stop. Instead, use their behavior as an opportunity to find out what they are wrestling with and even consider joining their play if they let you.
If they are okay with answering direct questions, ask children what they have heard about what is going on with the war. Then, follow up by asking them if they have any questions. It’s important not to overshare because they will likely “negative imagine” or perseverate in a more extreme way.
Remember that you don’t have to talk about everything in one sitting. Especially those with attention differences might need a series of shorter conversations.
You can also just start with their feelings, asking them how they are feeling. If they just need hugs, be there to soothe them.
Validate their thoughts and feelings.
Sometimes, their feelings might be more extreme or seem not empathetic enough. Validate and normalize that it’s normal and okay to feel what they are feeling. You can even talk about how you are feeling in similar ways. You can also use social stories to help validate their feelings and introduce them to how they might interact with others who are struggling.
Focus on the idea that you, as a parent, will protect them.
Always end these conversations by confirming that are safe and you are there to protect them. You can even point out why the house, their room, etc is safe.
Offer up how they can help.
Discuss how you and your child can help those in Israel through donations, letters of support, or fundraisers. Children feel better if they can do something to help others.
Help Israeli Families in Need
As the violence in Israel wages on, we stand united, supporting the people of Israel who are suffering unspeakable losses. Jewish Family and Children’s Services is working closely with our partner agencies on the ground, and 100% of your tax-deductible donation will go to provide direct help to those in crisis. Donate to JFCS’ Israel Emergency Fund.
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.