Our Chicago: Talking to children about the Israel-Hamas War

By Chicago 3 Min Read

CHICAGO (WLS) — The images we have been seeing from Israel and Gaza since the surprise attacks by Hamas can be very difficult to watch.

Airstrikes, kidnappings and the death toll continuing to rise.

Locally, an Evanston mother and daughter were among those held hostage by Hamas for nearly two weeks. And a six-year-old boy from suburban Plainfield killed because he was Muslim, police say.

All of that can be hard for adults to process, and it can be even more difficult for children.

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“I think a general question to any age child around, just have you heard anything scary in the news lately,” says Dr. Colleen Cicchetti, a child psychologist and the Executive Director of the Center For Childhood Resilience at Lurie Children’s Hospital. “What are your friends talking about. What have you seen about what might be happening in the Mideast or even locally around these issues.”

For younger children, she has a suggestion for responding with reassurances, without dismissing their fears.

“Many time kids, especially younger kids, don’t differentiate between local and national news and so they don’t really understand where this is happening. So some basic information about where these are events are taking place and that they are safe,” Dr. Cicchetti said. “I always want to remind little kids in particular that the adults are there to protect them. And we want to create that protective shield as best as possible. So reminding them that if they see something scary or they hear something that worries them that they should come to you as their parent or caregiver as well as talking to teachers.”

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“When it comes to social media, we’re talking about sometime real-time graphic images and a host of opinions. What’s the advice for talking to kids about social media and how to navigate that content? I think this is a place where we need to be in that space with them and find out what they’re seeing. So, even saying ‘show me what you’re looking at, what are your Twitter feeds saying about this’, getting them to show you could be helpful,” says Cicchetti. “There is a lot of misinformation. There’s also a lot of history to this conflict. And so as kids get older and are able to think more abstractly encouraging them to learn more, encouraging to do some of their own investigation. Some high schools now and even middle schools are talking to kids about being good consumers of social media.”

For more information and resources:


Talking to Children about High-Profile Acts of Violence – Center for Childhood Resilience

Mental Health Resources in Response to Armed Conflict


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