In today's world, it's impossible to shield our children from the complex and often unsettling events happening around the globe. One of the most challenging topics today to discuss with young ones is the ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine. These are indeed unsettling times, and it's natural for children to feel anxious and confused. As parents and caregivers, our role is to provide a safe space for open dialogue while imparting understanding and empathy.
Acknowledge Their Feelings
First and foremost, it's essential to acknowledge your child's feelings. Start the conversation by asking how they feel about what they've seen or heard. Validate their emotions, whether it's the deep-seated fear that something bad might happen, the perplexing confusion surrounding the conflict, the profound sadness for those affected, or the frustration and anger they may be experiencing.
Tell them it's fine to feel like this and that you'll be there to help them through it. Talking to them and caring about how they feel can make them feel safe when things are uncertain.
Simplify Complex Concepts
The Israel-Palestine conflict is a deeply intricate issue, and it can be overwhelming even for adults, let alone children. When engaging in conversations with your children about this topic, it's crucial to simplify the concepts to make them more digestible. Use age-appropriate language when describing historical events and modern-day situations. There are many resources online that can help with this.
It is important to remember that there are real individuals in the conflict areas who are going through tough times. These people should be the focus of our attention. They are just like us. By focusing on human stories and experiences, you may help your child grasp the essence of the situation.
Empower Through Education
Education is a powerful tool for easing anxiety, and it can empower your child to better understand the world around them. Encourage your child to delve into the topic by exploring age-appropriate books, documentaries, or even online resources. Find materials made for their age to make sure the information is easy for them to understand.
In addition to presenting the facts, aim to provide your child with a balanced perspective. Share stories of challenges, hope, resilience, and peace efforts in the region. This approach can help them see that even in difficult times, there are individuals and communities working towards positive change. It teaches them that they can make a difference by understanding and promoting peace and understanding in their own lives.
Teach your child about the conflict and have meaningful conversations by actively listening and participating. Create an open and non-judgmental space where they feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and asking questions. This space can serve as a safe haven where they can voice their concerns, share their confusion, and explore their emotions.
Be patient and attentive during these conversations. Resist the urge to rush in with all the answers.
Sometimes, children simply need a sounding board to process their emotions and thoughts. By listening carefully, you understand their point of view and make them feel important and respected. This builds trust and encourages them to come to you for help with tough topics or challenges later on.
Stay Mindful and Calm
Children are keen observers and often look to adults for cues on how to react to stressful situations. It's essential to model mindful behavior when discussing sensitive topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict. Here are a few more details to consider:
Stay Calm and Composed: Maintain a calm and composed demeanor during your conversations. Your poise can have a reassuring effect on your child, helping them feel more secure in the face of difficult subjects.
Share Your Feelings: It's okay to share your own feelings about the situation but do so in a way that demonstrates emotional regulation. Explain that you, too, feel sadness, concern, or empathy, but emphasize how you manage these emotions constructively.
Healthy Coping Strategies: Talk to your child about healthy coping strategies that you use. This might include deep breathing, meditation, or engaging in activities that bring you comfort. Teach them that it's okay to have many different feelings and that there are good ways to handle them.
Mindfulness: Introduce the concept of mindfulness to your child. Explain how being mindful means paying attention to the present moment without judgment. Share easy mindfulness exercises to do together, such as deep breathing or focusing on body sensations. This can help both you and your child stay grounded during challenging times.
By showing your child how to be mindful and discussing your own experiences, you help them learn important emotional skills. This also creates a family where discussing feelings and ways to handle them is normal.
Seek Professional Support & Treatment Options If Needed
If you notice that your child is struggling to cope with the trauma of witnessing global tragedies, it's crucial to stay aware of the potential long-term effects, including the risk of developing mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, anger issues, grief, and dissociative disorder. Children can be particularly vulnerable to mental health problems because of the emotional impact of such events.
If you see signs of distress or if your child's behavior greatly affects you, get professional help right away. Therapists help kids with anxiety and tough feelings, giving them the support, they need to feel better.
At Innerspace Counseling, we deeply understand the importance of mental and emotional well-being, especially during trying times like these. Our Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) and Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) are tailored to meet your specific needs and those of your child including kids (8-12 years old) and adolescents (13-17 years old). The programs also feature Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Both the IOP and PHP programs are led by expert mental health professionals including psychiatrists and counselors. Our team will help you and your child with treatment plans, including individual and group therapy, family therapy sessions, and medication management. For children who may need less intensive care but still require regular therapeutic support, our IOP can be a fitting solution. On the other hand, if there's a need for even more structured, daily therapeutic intervention, our PHP offers the right environment for healing and growth.
Remember, you're not alone on this journey. Whether your child needs the structure of a PHP program or the flexibility of an IOP program there is always help available when you need it. Your child's emotions are a priority, and we are here to support and care for them, ensuring their success.
In times of global turmoil, it is of utmost importance to recognize that children look to us as their anchors amidst uncertainty. In order to help them understand the Israel-Palestine conflict, we need to address their concerns honestly and openly. This will provide them with the reassurance they need.
Acknowledging your child's emotions is the first step toward fostering trust and emotional well-being. Validating emotions like fear, confusion, sadness, or anger shows that these feelings are normal and acknowledged.
Education is a powerful tool for helping children make sense of complex global events. By offering age-appropriate resources and stories that humanize the conflict, we empower them to comprehend the situation without becoming overwhelmed. This educational approach cultivates empathy and broadens their perspective.
Additionally, our actions serve as powerful examples. When we remain composed and demonstrate mindfulness during these discussions, we teach our children that even in challenging times, approaching issues with a sense of calm and compassion is possible.
Let's not forget that we are part of a global community. By teaching our children empathy and resilience, we are helping to create a kinder and more understanding world. Together, through these thoughtful steps, we equip our children to navigate the intricacies of our complex world and inspire hope for a brighter future.
Resources for education: