Chana Hughes

How to talk to your children about Hamas's invasion of Israel

As parents we need to we need to validate our children's feelings, make time to be emotionally present and reassure them that they are safe


Middle aged asia people old mom holding hands trust comfort help young woman talk crying stress relief at home. Mum as friend love care hold hand adult child feel pain sad worry of life crisis issues.

October 09, 2023 16:55

With the news of the horrific and shocking attacks in Israel we are all feeling understandably shaken. How can we support our children during this terrifying time?

There is no one right answer to how we can get through these times as each family is so different. This is not only the case regarding the different links we all have to people living in Israel but also how each family responds so differently to managing crises and loss.

Here are some tips to think about during this incredibly difficult time.

Parents wear different "hats". All parents have at least two main roles. We are both independent people with our own emotional responses and previous experiences; as well as parents who are responsible for our children’s safety and well being. We need to make sure to honour both those roles during crises.

We can rely on our own partners, friends, family and network of support to manage our own feelings. If the news is affecting us, we can increase our self-care and think about reaching out if we are struggling significantly or it is interfering with our functioning.

At the same time, with our parent "hat", we need to give thought to how our children are experiencing and processing the news and how to both inform and reassure them in age-appropriate ways.

As parents, to support our children’s emotional responses we need to validate their feelings, make time to be emotionally present with them even though this might be uncomfortable and reassure them that they are safe and looked after.

Different family members usually respond very differently to threat and fear so it is important to be compassionate and accepting as there is no particular correct response. Children might have lots of questions or they might have very few - each child is different.

Often, their worries or questions might come up exactly when we are preoccupied with something else or about to go to bed. This can be frustrating but it is normal. When parents focus on something else or are trying to unwind at the end of the day children can sense the distance and sometimes this makes them more anxious particularly during times of uncertainty and potential danger.

Some families have a particular time during the day in which they sit as a family and can focus on and discuss the crisis. Children know that if their parents are busy or can’t respond fully at other times, at least they will have the opportunity for more conversation at a later point. This may work for some families but not be helpful for others.

There is no better time then now to remember to put down our phones. It is important to keep informed but it is also important to limit our own and our children’s exposure to the news. Some of the footage is shocking and graphic and it is important to make sure that younger children do not see it. And, if we are constantly engrossed in our phones, we risk being emotionally unavailable to a child who may be observing.

If older teens want to have more exposure, and parents say no, chances are that they will access the footage anyway from friends or social media. It is important to be as open and non-judgemental with your children at this time so that if they have watched something disturbing they feel like they can come to you for support.

As well as taking your parenting responsibilities seriously, parents also need to know that they are not alone. The Jewish community and our wider networks are all mobilised during this time. Although you may be the most important adult caring for your child, you are not the only one.

Contact school teachers, pastoral support, older relatives and close friends to join together to support your child. If your child is struggling significantly you can also reach out to professionals for more support. It can also be helpful to contact your children’s friends’ parents so that you can all reassure each other.

During these uncertain times we need to lean on each other more than ever. If your child is doing ok, why not reach out to other families and check in with their children to see if you can support someone else.

Finally, we feel so helpless during this time and feel that we can do little to control the terrifying situation in the Middle East. But there are many ways in which we can get involved from afar to support the Israeli soldiers and communities.

From raising and donating money to making cards to be distributed in Israel. Each of these activities is a way of playing our part. Jewish schools are gathering together to say prayers for Israel which is a powerful way to make a difference.

If you and your children would benefit from these initiatives get involved. Even in a small way, your contribution can make a difference. May this horrific situation end swiftly and may we all hear good news in the near future.

October 09, 2023 16:55

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