The news in Israel is, unfortunately growing worse every day. With so many terror attacks taking place, even the most oblivious child can sense that things are not okay. It is important during these times that we communicate with our children both effectively and responsibly about the events taking place. Our kids look to us for support and guidance and we need to make sure that no matter how we are feeling inside, that we remain strong for those that depend on us.
Children Have Ears! — It is critical that you remember that kids can hear everything we adults say, even when we may not want them to. As parents, we have all had those embarrassing moments when our children have repeated information (usually out of context) at the most inopportune time. If we make statements that promote worry, hate, or other strong emotions, there is a decent chance that our children will hear these statements and will repeat them. Be careful what you say when the kids are around. Firstly, you do not want them to lose sleep (even if you are), and, second, you do not want them to repeat your statements, made out of frustration to friends or teachers.
Talk to the Kids — One look at any Israeli highway or city entrance, and it is obvious that something is not right. Chances are, your children have heard things about the current situation in school or from their friends. As with other, difficult to discuss subjects, it is better for them to hear the facts from you, rather than the misinterpretations of others. Explain to your kids that the police are doing everything possible to make sure that we are all safe. It is okay to tell them to be cautious and to pay attention to their surroundings, but be careful not to portray Israel as unsafe. This will scare the kids and will make them uncomfortable. Tell the kids what they need to know to stay as safe as possible. Unless your children are older, you do not need to discuss politics or your opinions of how the government is handling the situation.
Remember the Heroes — With all of the tragedies that that taken place over the past several days, there have also been a lot of brave Israelis that have prevented the situation from being even worse. If your children ask questions or bring up recent events for discussion, focus more on the heroes, not the victims and terrorists. If not for countless soldiers/ police, paramedics, doctors, and other emergency workers, even more lives could be lost. The people who stopped the attacks did not wake up planning to be heroes, but by stopping the attackers in their tracks, they made sure more lives were not lost. One of my colleagues actually works during the day in a building in Jerusalem that was next to one of the recent attacks. If it had not been for the security guard of her building, who knows what would have happened? There are many stories like this that can serve as inspiration for all of us.
An Opportunity for Education — One of my high school students, who has been keeping up with the online news and knows the events taking place, asked me how there could still be people in the world with such hate for others. Of course, I was not able to give him a direct answer to this question, as I am not sure if there even is a possible answer. We proceeded to discuss as a class why people would act this way and where these types of behavior are learned. It was amazing to me to see first-hand, how even high school students with an understanding of the world, were asking some of the same questions as me. We talked about the origins of hate both in society and history and we also talked about how people could be driven to commit such horrible acts.
While we certainly did not solve the world’s problems during our 45 minute class, it was helpful for the students to be able to express their feelings and to ask their questions. Even though it meant that I would have to delay the day’s planned lesson, this was a much more important use of the period and the students actually told me at the end of the class that I was the first teacher to let them just talk. Sometimes, as we adults already know, just “venting” can help make us feel better. This class was an opportunity for the students to be able to express their opinions and to be able to learn some of the history involved behind the current situation.
It would be great if someone had a perfect solution for ending the violence and hate that we currently face. While, unfortunately, this is not the case, we as parents and teachers need to make sure that the younger generation is both informed and comforted during this time.