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How to Talk to Your Kids About What's Happening in Israel and Gaza

This is from a guest blog I did for Jewish Family and Children's Services, and reposting it here for my broader community.

I'm coming to you with a heavy heart about the situation in Israel, but also an important message for parents who might be struggling to make sense of their role in their children's lives right now.

Currently, I'm out of town. And yesterday, I tried to talk to my teenagers about this on the phone at an inopportune time, and they literally blew me off.

So I learned something. And it had me thinking about what new tips I might share with you.

So first of all, don't be silenced at home, even if you feel silenced elsewhere. I've heard from parents that it's hard to speak up, especially on social media because no matter what they say, they seem to receive a barrage of unhelpful or hateful comments. And that instills more fear about speaking up. That's how we get silenced.

Do not be silenced at home. I suggest you initiate conversations with your grade school kids about what's going on. In an age-appropriate way, we can help you with that. But when you do it, use good timing. I learned this the hard way.

Now, if your child initiates a conversation with you, it's good timing. You want to respond right there, ready or not. So you can help them feel safe.

And by the way, if you can't answer a question right away, just make a plan with them for when you're going to, and then follow through.

Now, they may be hearing news that you don't want them to hear. One client told me that the kids' grandparents were blasting the news in the living room and wouldn't turn it off. Well, in that case, don't just hurry your kids out of the room and be done. Find out what they heard and ask if they have any questions about it. You want to keep those lines of communication wide open by telling them that they can ask you anything.

And tell them not to Google their questions. Just like you don't want them Googling their questions about sex, let them know that they can ask you, not Google, anything they want about Israel if they're confused.

For older kids, tell them which news sites to look at for information that you trust.

And then social media. Don't obsess over the news right now and social media in front of your children if you can help it. You want to role model a little inhibition. I know it's hard, but if there was ever a time to limit their social media and yours, it's now. Just like with porn, the images streaming online are not things that they can unsee, and it can terrorize them, not to mention you.

Now, if you can't limit their consumption, don't be afraid to have hard conversations with them about what they're seeing. You want to help them process what they see and hear. The most important thing you can do is teach them to question what they see. Teach them to wonder what that post wanted them to believe and whether or not it's aligned with their values. You want to teach them to ask themselves, "Well, what do I believe and what is true for me?" And that's how we teach them to protect their own minds, and it's also how we role model protecting ours.

You also want to let them know that they can feel safe going to school right now, and if that changes, you're going to be the first one to tell them and the first one to keep them home. You want to let them know that the adults in their lives are paying attention to safety so that they can focus on play and school. Now, your kids are going to have a range of reactions, but you've got this, okay?

And if you feel like you don't have this and you need more support, I'm here for you. So please just reach out.


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