SAMPLE BLOG POST
July 12, 2017
TALKING TO CHILDREN ABOUT TRAGEDY
Rabbi Alan Berkowitz
Dear Magen David Families,
In a letter I recently wrote to you, I pointed out that only God can absolutely guarantee safety at any time. For many people it is always comforting to be in God’s hands while for others there may be a sense of anxiety that comes with the human inability to be in complete control. Sadly, it seems that every day we are forced to struggle with this challenge. On a daily basis, news reports from near and far engender conversations in which we share concerns about safety, especially with regard to our children. There is no doubt, that the world around us has changed and many of us do not yet know how to adjust our daily habits and adapt to the new reality. But we are strong and resilient and together, we will figure out how to live our “normal” lives and properly balance concerns for safety and security. At this point, we don’t have another option and we will need to figure this out.
However, as we engage in these important discussions, I’d like to offer a few cautionary words and some advice. Reacting to terror attacks and articulating fears are part of adult conversation and as such, children should not be fully included. While we cannot shield our children from the news, they will certainly hear or read something somewhere, we can make smart choices about how we interact with them around this topic and our own anxieties. We can and should decide what to say and what not to say to our children. We can also make choices about the timing of their access to social media and unsupervised interactions even with their peers. The most disturbing emails I receive from parents raising concerns about their children’s safety are those in which they refer to their children’s increasing anxiety as they read their friends’ messages in their group chats. This is a recurring pattern that has emerged after each tragic incident and it need not be this way. Our children need to hear from us and we should recognize that at times, we have to tell them to turn off their devices and engage in a family conversation.
We know that we do not have all the answers. Still, in the face of this uncertainty, we must demonstrate strength to our children. They expect “their adults” to be in control and for their sake it is our obligation to provide stability and guidance for them. Our school psychologists have offered suggestions and provided resources for parents to help us in speaking with our children and addressing their concerns (see attached). Please take advantage of this material. If you have further questions or concerns specific to your child please contact us. We can help.
We are living in challenging times, working together thoughtfully we will be equal to the challenge.
Rabbi Alan Berkowitz