Events continue to unfold in the United States, Israel, Ukraine, the Middle East, in Jewish communities around the world and in Europe that could affect adults and children. Images from the media, whispered conversations and street demonstrations will continue and perhaps cause heightened anxiety and confusion. War, terror, and violence are complex themes. For adults, these ideas may be discussed through the lenses of politics, ethics, affiliations, and economics. For young children, the most important lens is safety and security. And yet our children may also ask questions about their neighborhood, Israel and Jews around the world. It is important to unpack the issues, to work out the basic emotions of safety and security and then to explore some facts that are developmentally appropriate to children at different stages.
We know that some parents share information with children on these events and some do not.
The following tips are excerpted from a piece on terrorism from the American Psychological Association. The general recommendation is to assure children of the safety that the adults in their lives, at school and at home, are providing them.
Tips for helping children cope:
“For preschool through second grade, TFK’s (Time Magazine for Kids) approach is hands-off…Young children should not be burdened with news they cannot begin to understand. There is plenty of time to learn that the world can be cruel.”
When addressing things young kids see in the news,
PBS Kids offers general guidance for talking to children of different age groups. These strategies are important to keep in mind, because “at every age and stage, children are affected by what’s happening in the news, whether parents share this information or shield them from it — because the news is everywhere.”
The Jewish Social Service Agency has suggested ways to talk to children about tragic events.
As adults, the issues are complex and layered. Remember that when the news makes you anxious, your children may catch that anxiety. Take a break from monitoring news on the media. But in digestible doses, you, too, should be able to explore the background of the conflict, share your cognitive and emotional responses with other adults, and take some concrete actions to help you feel grounded.
Resources for families about Israel at War (updated October 2023):
Links to sensitive “scripts” to talk with children about the crises in Israel:
Resources for families about elementary school shootings:
Resources for families about Ukraine:
Resources for families about the refugee crisis:
Links to sensitive “scripts” to talk with children about the specific situation in Las Vegas:
Links to sensitive “scripts” to talk with children about the specific situation in France:
Resources compiled by PJ Library in Greater Washington.