With global attention turned toward the conflict in Israel, many parents might be struggling to answer their kids’ questions about war.
It’s important to check in with your child about these subjects regardless of their age, according to Dr. Anisha Abraham, the chief of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children’s National Hospital in D.C.
She encourages parents to be direct: Ask your child if they know what’s going on, offer to answer any questions they have and listen to their feelings.
“This is a time to check in and see what they’re doing, what they’re seeing and how they’re experiencing it,” Abraham told WTOP. “Just don’t presume that they’re OK.”
While kids under the age of 13 still might see violent images on social media or other platforms, Abraham said it’s especially important to see how your teenagers are feeling, since they might be following such issues more closely. For example, she shared that her 15-year-old child has been keeping up with news about the Middle East regularly.
“Knowing your child and knowing their interests, but also knowing what effect it can have in terms of things like sleep or how they’re feeling, stress, can also be very important,” she said.
If you try to discuss war with your child and they express feeling more anxious afterward, Abraham said that could be a sign they aren’t ready to talk about it more.
She added, “if you think your child is experiencing significant stress or other issues, it’s also really important to make sure that you’re getting them the support that they need, whether that’s through another adult or from a health care professional.”
Abraham also wants parents to know that it’s “OK to tell them that you’re also upset and to talk about those feelings.”
She said discussions about violence aren’t just relevant to the war in Israel, but to any other global conflict or notable event, so it’s important to “remember to support young people and to check in terms of how they’re processing challenges around the world.”
Resources are available to help guide parents through conversations like this. Abraham recommends Common Sense Media as one place to look for guidance.
Abraham said that checking in with your child is especially important in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, as young people are widely struggling with mental health issues like anxiety and depression in general.
“Certainly, a young person that’s already predisposed or struggling with those issues may have even more difficulty with this particular issue,” she said. “So for those kids that are, again, perhaps more vulnerable or at-risk, all the more reason that parents and caregivers need to check in and to reach out and get the support that you might need from a trusted health care professional.”
WTOP’s Mike Murillo contributed to this report.