On October 7, 2023, the terrorist group, Hamas committed a surprise and deadly attack on Israel. While the conflict in the Middle East has been going on for several decades, this latest attack has shocked and devastated the world, with the death toll in the thousands and even more suffering serious injuries, while many others have been taken hostage.
It's hard to escape the distressing and tragic news, with most TV news channels, newspapers and online news resources covering the conflict 24/7, and as much as you might want to try and shield your young children from being exposed to the headlines, it's normal for them to ask questions or feel anxious after hearing or seeing the different reports. Especially as there has been a lot of conflict in recent years such as when you might have had to speak to your children about the Ukraine war, there's never been a more important time to calm any anxieties they might have.
While it might be tempting as parents to dodge the subject and distract them with something else, it's best to discuss these difficult subjects with your children to help calm their anxieties or concerns about things they might have seen or been exposed to to help promote healthy emotional wellbeing in your children.
Calm your own anxieties and be clued up on the facts
Before you even think about speaking to your kids about the conflict, try to calm your own anger or anxieties around the war. Kids can pick on up your anxieties, and you don't want your own anger to get in the way of them learning the facts.
With so much information available at our fingertips, it's a good idea to read a few reliable news sources to get your facts right before answering any questions your children might have. You don't want to make something up or confuse them with an unsure answer.
If you feel the news is impacting your own mental health in a negative way, there are many helplines and support services to help you through difficult times as a parent.
It's okay to be proactive about starting the conversation
You might prefer to leave the topic unmentioned and leave it in your child's hands to bring up and ask questions about, but the majority of children won't mention it. Instead, try starting the conversation with an open worded question. You might want to try something like "Have you heard anything about Isreal recently?" Or "Have you seen anything in the news that's worried you?" and see what they say.
Consider your child's age
For younger children, you'll want to reassure them about their safety first and foremost. They may feel more at ease if you show them a globe or map of where the conflict is taking place, so they know how far away they are from it. You may also want to give them a little history lesson about the area and past conflicts to provide some helpful context.
For older children who have access to the internet, it's a good idea to speak to them about how to evaluate news sources to make sure any information they are reading is reliable and well-researched. They may also be exposed to a wider range of imagery and video content, and in the age of AI, it's important to make sure anything they view is taken with a level of scepticism.
Don't worry if you don't have all the answers
These conflicts can be confusing to understand, and we're not assuming you're an expert historian with a passion for foreign affairs and world conflicts. There's only so much us mums and dads can be clued up on, so if you can't provide all the answers, that's okay.
Being a listening ear and calming any anxieties they might have is enough, as well as guiding them them through this difficult time in history.
Ways to help
It's easy for both us and our children to feel hopeless at a time like this, but there are ways to help, and doing something positive to try and help the civilians and innocent children in Israel can be a great way of helping your child through their own worries about the war.
Many schools and community groups are raising vital funds for various charities on the ground in Israel and Gaza. Whether it's a toy sale, bake sale or coffee morning, there are many ways you and your child's school can raise some funds.
Donate with your kids
Save the Children are currently seeking emergency donations to help the vulnerable children impacted by the war. We love that you can see exactly what your donation can purchase for these children, and it's a great way for your child to see what their money will be going towards.
Lorna White is a Senior Digital Writer and has written for Mother&Baby since 2020. She has a keen interest in a range of topics, from potty training and nutrition to baby names and maternity fashion.