Blog by the Social Justice Services Team
The news out of the Middle East has, of late, been distressing, to say the very least. War is most often something that young minds have a hard time comprehending. Recent reports from Israel and Palestine, alongside harrowing media images and descriptions of destruction and death, combined with the vast numbers of children who are affected by the current warring conditions in Gaza, make this conflict even more difficult for parents to explain to young people.
We’ve culled some advice for adults from psychologists to give parents and caregivers some insight as to how to navigate these treacherous times with kids:
- Children younger than 10 should be "protected and shielded" from news about this war, advises Jamie Howard, a senior clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. “This is too much for their development to make sense of," said Howard.
Despite your best efforts, it is likely that most school-age children, regardless of their ages, have seen images or heard things about this war that are unsettling. Experts have the following advice:
- Dimitry Anselme, executive program director at the education group Facing History & Ourselves, advises “Be sure to educate yourself before you talk with your kids. "Brush up and make sure you have an understanding of the basic elements of what's happening in the conflict."
- Make sure you tend to your own emotions about the war before you talk with your kids. Abigail Gewirtz, professor of psychology at Arizona State University tells parents, “It’s not until you recognize what your stress level is—how you are feeling—that you are really able to help anybody else.”
- Encourage children of all ages to think critically about the things they see and hear. Let them know that misinformation is flooding social media and the entire internet as people sort out what is real and what is fake. “It is important to help children understand what is happening and it is not recommended to hide information, but on the other hand, there is no need to go into too much detail.
- Most importantly, let your kids know that they are safe processing their emotions about this war with you. It’s also crucial that you let kids know that you may not have all of the answers to your questions, and that’s okay. “If you say to your kids, 'Listen, that's a big question that I actually don't know the answer to. But why don't we look into it together? Why don't we gain more knowledge on this topic and come back? Just set a date. And then make sure you do follow up so they trust you."
Below are some books in our collection to help you understand and talk about this war with your kids.