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Talk to you kids about what's happening in Israel
A difficult but necessary conversation.
As parents, we have an instinctual drive to protect our children, be it from immediate dangers in everyday life or from events and news that are terrifying, like shootings, vicious crimes, and wars. There is value in shielding a child from unnecessary pain that will affect him negatively, but completely keeping your child in the dark about important current events is a disservice to him or her. Children will eventually be exposed to the news, they can hear comments made by a friend, they can see a random video or ad on TV or online, a family member can ask them about it, etc.
If you talk to your child first and explain what is happening, she will not be caught off guard once someone else approaches her with the topic and their particular worldview. This is true for every possible subject.
In Israel, the number of Jews killed is second to the Holocaust. Imagine living in the same time as the Holocaust, with what we currently know about anti-semitism, and choosing not to tell your kids about what was done to the Jewish people.
It’s crucial, however, to keep it age-appropriate, kids do not need to see everything, especially images and videos that are too graphic. If you don’t have much information about what is happening in Israel, then you should first catch up, so you’re better prepared to talk about it.
If in your house the TV is constantly on, now is a good time to turn it off at times, so you and your family are not caught off guard by “breaking news” every instant, which can cause anxiety in kids who are not capable of understanding the bigger picture. Find a quiet time during the day to have a conversation with your kids, where they have the space to ask questions and you have the time to answer them. It’s important to address the facts and ask if they have heard anything about it at school, for example, your kids might have heard other kids saying that World War III is about to start and there’s going to be a draft - simply state the facts and clear away any confusion or lies your kid might have been exposed to.
The details coming out of the terrorist attack perpetrated on Israel are too gruesome and barbaric for even adults, so what you share with your kids will depend on your assessment of their maturity and how you think they will handle it. I do think kids should be made aware of the evil that happened in a greater context, that the terrorists committed awful acts that hurt and killed many Jewish people, children included.
I know some people dislike the label “evil” when explaining things to kids, but I do not. I will always call evil by its name, what was done to Jews is not subjective, it’s not relative, it’s a pure manifestation of evil, and relativizing this to kids teaches them that sometimes barbaric actions can be justified by past events. There are world events that do require more nuance and even a subjective analysis, this is not one of them.
It’s also helpful to look at a map with kids so they can locate where the war is happening. You don’t have to be a geo-political expert for this, keep it simple and age-appropriate. Remind your children that you are all safe in your home, and how grateful you should be for that. Let your kids voice their concerns while providing helpful answers, and if you don’t know the answer to a particular question, it’s fine to admit that.
Look for people and organizations that are in the area helping, and try to emphasize their service, like the military, health workers, and volunteers. There are usually positive stories of hope even in conflict zones and it shows kids that even in the darkest of times, there’s always a beacon of light to be found. If your kids want to help, find an organization together that you would like to support as a family or volunteer, if that is an option. At the end of this post, I offer some suggestions of organizations that are working in the area to help.
Stay vigilant about how your children react to the news in the following days. Remind them to come to you for questions, so you can talk about it as a family, and keep the door open for future conversations that will surely come as time evolves. These difficult conversations, while feared by some parents, often lead to a stronger bond between parents and children.
International Fellowship of Christians and Jews - Working to help orphans and families, the elderly, and anyone affected by this war.
United Hatzlah - Volunteer community of medical emergency services in Israel
Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces - Helps and provides for the Israeli soldiers
I would like to add organizations that also provide aid to Palestinian citizens in Gaza, but unfortunately, there’s a record of humanitarian aid in Gaza being used to fund the terrorist group Hamas.