Update: In response to the outbreak of violence in Israel and Gaza, Starr Commonwealth has chosen to re-publish this article from January of 2021, previously updated February 25, 2022. Please note that this conflict and region have deep historic, cultural, and religious roots that can have implications on a child’s sense of safety, belonging, and wellbeing. In conjunction with community support services, struggling families may want to consider seeking support and guidance from their religious/cultural leaders and organizations.
In addition, we would like to include a sample of childhood worry interventions to use at home, in the classroom, or in your clinic. You can download your sample of One-Minute Resilience Building Interventions for Traumatized Children and Adolescents here.
As much as possible, it is important to keep children away from media coverage following the violent traumatic events in Israel and Gaza. For younger children, this is easy. Keep the news turned off and avoid talking about the events when they are nearby. For school-age children, especially those with access to social media, exposure to images and details of both events is plentiful and hard to view and hear. In this case, it is important to 1) communicate and 2) limit media exposure.
It is important to share as many details with children as you feel is developmentally appropriate about the events, but please follow the lead of the child–if they have questions, answer them. If you are unsure of how to answer, simply tell them you will try to find the answers and discuss with them when you do. Some children will not have many questions at all while others may have several. There is no need to tell them more than they are asking about. If you are working with a group of children, carve out additional time for those who have more questions, need discussion, and can voluntarily participate.
Normalize the symptoms and reactions children display surrounding what they learn or already know about Israel and Gaza.With so many unknowns and very little control to do anything about the situation of children and families impacted, children may feel a significant sense of hopelessness and helplessness. Encourage all children to limit their exposure to media. Let them know that being informed is okay but to watch the news and media several hours per day over the course of days on end is not healthy. The developing brains of children and adolescents are not equipped to buffer the stress of a constant barrage of negative news that often includes terrifying images and videos. For this reason, limits should be established. When the media is viewed, a caring adult who can help them process what they read, see, and hear is necessary. Children should be encouraged to continue playing with their friends, attending sports and extra-curricular activities despite the devastation happening overseas.
Helpful articles from the American Psychological Association and NPR