Hi. As our children are getting older, we’re scared they will hear about the crazy things going on in the world. Terrorists are shooting up places and blowing themselves up. Countries are threatening each other, and violence is permeating our atmosphere. How can my wife and I shield our children from this so they don’t hear about everything? Jason
(This reply assumes that your child does not personally know any of the victims. In the event of a personal tragedy, chas veshalom, there are different steps that need to be taken.)
This is a great question, one that I’m sure many parents have to confront. A few years ago, while I was driving one of my sons home from Yeshiva, I inadvertently had the news on. The radio blared “A man blew himself up…” I quickly turned it off, but after a few moments my son asked me, “Does it hurt to blow yourself up?” As I began stammering while trying to focus on both the road and the question simultaneously, he continued, “What kind of air pump can blow up a person?”
I know we believe that our children understand everything, but the fact is they don’t have the same grasp of these situations as us. In most cases, they don’t give this information a second thought, and only get nervous if their parents are nervous.
Many grandparents clearly remember practicing hiding under desks during the cold war, and they dealt with it. One grandfather told me they welcomed the drill so they didn’t have to listen to the teacher drone on (times haven’t changed much apparently). September 11th was almost 15 years ago, and many kids that were younger then were not horribly affected.
On the flip side, the graphic images and practically instant online access of current events certainly make things more challenging. Whether we like it or not, our kids are definitely being exposed to far more traumatic experiences and images than we ever were, and we do need to be careful.
Additionally, even if you minimize your child’s access, he will most definitely hear about these things from a child whose parents are more open.We even have drills in most schools to be vigilant. There are active shooter drills, bomb drills, and kidnapping drills. Your child is instructed to hide in corners and stay low. This can also have an effect on your child’s mental health and he can start developing anxiety as a result.
Oddly enough, some parents try to protect their children from gratuitous violence, but have no problem letting them watch inappropriate movies or play violent video games. If you think that your child in not being affected by these violent images, I have a Nigerian prince to introduce to you who has over 35 million dollars in a locked account.
You mentioned you wanted to “shield” your children, and I’m not sure if that’s the best thing to do. It might make more sense to prepare your children. It’s much smarter to introduce sensitive topics in a proper environment, this way they can understand events on their level, and won’t be as susceptible to anxiety. Here’s an example of what to say to a seven-year-old who might hear of a violent attack. “Yesterday, a bad man hurt a lot of people in Turkey. We feel so bad for the people that were hurt. This doesn’t happen very often, because bad people are usually in jail. When we Daven today, we’ll ask Hashem to bring Moshiach so this never happens anywhere else.”
To make this conversation with your children easier, I have included some tips for parents;
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.