We have all been affected, either directly or indirectly, by the news of the atrocities in Israel. I thought it would never happen to me, but my youngest son is in the IDF reserves and was drafted on Yomtov along with his entire unit.
If we tried to shelter our children from the horrible stories, they will be going to school today and will likely hear it from their classmates and friends.
What shall we share with our kids here in the United States? It depends on their age.
- “You are safe. What happened occurred far away and it won’t happen to you here.”
- Preschool kids might need extra hugs and reassurance that they’re safe and ok.
- If they ask questions, answer honestly without sharing gruesome details or pictures/videos. If you don’t know something, admit that you don’t know it.
- Let them ask you questions. Don’t dismiss them or yell at them for asking ‘too many questions.’
- If your child has anxiety (not only now but in general), and is asking questions endlessly and round-the-clock, you can use some of the anti-anxiety strategies that have worked for him in the past, such as putting questions into a “worry box” and setting a time limit during “worry time.” Because it is a time of war and he has legitimate concerns, you might make an exception and allow him to have “worry time” multiple times throughout the day. But keep setting a time limit for each “worry time” so that you get a break, too, and don’t react with frustration to him.
- Focus on “hope.” Discuss that Hashem is watching over Israel and that Israel has a strong army with a good track record. Talk about and practice the positive things we can all do to make a difference (prayer, mitzvos, Torah learning, charity, kind deeds, etc.)
- Teens are more likely to find out a lot of information on their own and from their friends. Be a listening ear. Validate their concerns. Don’t deny or dismiss what they’re telling you. If they have some facts wrong, and it is making them feel overly frightened, listen first and don’t argue. Then, in a calm tone, share with them the correct facts that you are aware of.
- Share with them and model your own coping strategies, such as taking a ‘news break,’ breathing exercises, physical exercise, healthy eating, doing productive activities, etc.
Most importantly, maintain the usual structure and daily schedule in your home as that creates a sense of safety for children of all ages.
Most of the above information was taken from Ohel’s pamphlet “Israel at War: Managing the Trauma for Individuals and Families.” To get a free copy of the comprehensive pamphlet, click here.
May we only hear good news!