Talking to Your Children About the War in Israel

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Frieda Schweky 

 

What do we say to reassure, educate, and enlighten the next generation about the war in Israel? Our children are looking up at us during these trying times and it’s up to us to model for them the correct behavior and the proper outlook concerning the situation. When my daughters ask me about what’s going on,  I try to be as honest as I can without oversharing details that will scare them. I try not cry in front of them. If we let all the crazy news get to us in a way that’s unproductive and depressing, Hamas wins. It’s up to us to use the current situation as fuel to do more. This is the message we want to send to our kids. We’re down but we’re not out. We have an incredible opportunity to raise lions. We are strong and our children can absorb our strength, too. Popular opinion about the next generation in America is that they are weak, have everything handed to them, and arere offended by everything. These attitudes will not bring about a positive future of our nation, no matter where we live. We must be empowered as mothers, fathers, and teachers to take our torches and light the flame of the next generation of Jews. We are oil and we always rise above. So, yes, the spotlight is now on the Jewish people, and we have the opportunity to show the world who we really are. We are a light unto the nations. Now, let’s hear what community members have to say. 

 

 

Mrs. C. 

 

I teach the fifth grade in a community school. Our school asked the teachers to deflect conversation and to not really discuss the war in Israel. Initially, I was really disappointed because I knew how much the students heard and were exposed to. Also, we are currently teaching about human rights. So watching or hearing about such obvious violations of human rights really made the students upset and confused. Human rights is such a broad topic, and our students must have so many questions. But, again, I have been asked not to address their questions. Even if I could, I’m not sure I have the answers.  

 

Jessica B. Cohen 

 

In my kids’ school, they did all the cute things like wear white and blue and perform different hesed programs for Israel – but they didn’t attempt to educate the children on what’s going on in Israel. For my son’s World News assignment he was asked to write about the conflict in Ukraine. I think it’s more important to know what’s going on with our own people!  

 

We’re living through history, so are our kids. Not only as Jews, but as human beings, we should know what’s going on. And there’s a way to educate kids on the topic. We can even talk to our kids about the hostage situation in a way that will not scare them. The schools should hire child therapists to advise the teachers on what to say and let them teach it in an appropriate manner. I feel that to ignore the topic in the classroom is a real missed opportunity. It shouldn’t exclusively be up to the parents to explain what is happening in Israel. We are juggling so much as it is.  

 

Chaya Lipschutz, LSW, Licensed Social Worker 

 

Here are a few quick tips I would like to share.  

 

Validate – always validate your children’s emotions, For example, yes, a war can be scary. 

 

Normalize – normalize the fear, because war is frightening. It makes sense to feel nervous and anxious.  

 

Inform – You can give factual, age-appropriate information that can help children feel safe. For example, yes, there is a war going on and people are getting hurt, but here in Deal (or wherever you are) we are far away from the Arabs and we are safe here.  

 

 

Melanie Falack 

 

As a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, I believe it is imperative to instill in my children awareness and pride in what it means to be a Jew. Throughout our existence, there have been countless nations who wanted to destroy us, but with Hashem’s loving protection, we have prevailed. Explain things to children in a way that is age appropriate. Some kids can handle more than others, depending on their personality and coping skills.  

 

When it came to the October 7th massacre, I informed my children before they heard anywhere else that there was a terrible incident that occurred in Israel. Jews were killed and taken hostage into Gaza and there is now a war. I can be sad in front of my kids if I feel sad in a healthy, controlled way. It’s important to feel sad when our nation is down just as it is important to celebrate our nation’s up’s. 

 

I assured my children that we are far away and “safe,” but just as our army will protect us physically, that we, as Jews around the world, have a job to protect our brothers and sisters through prayers and mitzvot. My goal is to instill a feeling of being special along with an unwavering pride in being a Jew and ignite a fire within them to ACT. We pray Tehillim together for the release of the hostages, we sing praises to Hashem each day that a hostage is released. We hung up a huge Israeli flag on a wall in our home, say berachot, and give tzedaka before I light my Shabbat candles for all the Jews who died on kiddush Hashem 

 

In the beginning I even put an empty place setting for all the hostages who weren’t able to sit at their own Friday night meals. We talk about being UNITED as siblings, families, communities, and as a nation and work on things like mitzvot ben adam lechavero, sibling relationships, and friendships.  

When we are weak as nation we can crumble, but when we are a strong and united nation, no one can penetrate us. We pray that Hashem bring Mashiach as soon as possible and we know no more suffering or pain! 

 

Elki Mor 

 

If my children were old enough to ask me about the war and were concerned I would tell them that throughout history the Jewish people have had enemies, and these enemies are bad guys. They don’t want us to believe in Hashem and they don’t want us to be Jewish, but that just makes us even stronger. We stand up to the bad guys. Hashem gives us the ability to win. The Jewish people are the eternal nation and we will always prevail and we will always win and Hashem is always on our side. Even though it can be scary and there are scary people involved, the good people will always win and Hashem will always have our back. I would really simplify it to that extent. I would make it historical and put in thoughts of emunah and Hashem being with us.  

 

Sarah Azar, LPC, Child Therapist 

 

How I would discuss with children the war in Israel depends on their age. Here are some basic tips. Most importantly: 

Be sure to ask what they know before you share any information. My go-to line for younger kids is to tell them “as much as necessary, and as little as possible.” 

Validate their feelings and concerns – war is very scary and confusing and they have every right to feel scared and confused. Some kids may appear to not feel anything or seem to not be affected and that’s okay, too. 

Create a safe place for children to ask their questions. Remind them that if they hear something they don’t understand or are worried about, they should ask you.  

Protect their innocence – do not let them watch any of the scary videos! It’s one thing to hear something, but to see it is much harder to erase from your memory.  

———- 

 

As the IDF battles to physically eliminate Hamas, we all have our roles to play. We, the Jewish people, are one unit and we know each parent and teacher plays a major part in the success of our nation. If you’ve been avoiding the topic with your children or have not been validating their worries, I pray that you heed the advice given above and try to rectify this. Things that get swept under the rug can’t stay there forever and this is too important a topic to ignore. If we apply some thoughtfulness and tact, we can successfully educate and empower our youth to be the future leaders of our great nation.  

 

Until next time,  

Frieda Schweky

Frieda is an event and portrait photographer. She also does corporate headshots. Check Frieda out on Instagram @ friedaschwekyphoto. For photography inquiries or article topic suggestions email her friedaschweky@gmail.com.