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Research shows that one of the best ways that you can help prepare children to cope with discrimination and intolerance is by being open about it. When you show children that these topics, though tough, are not taboo, you let them know that they can always share their questions or thoughts about life’s scary situations.

Given the rise in anti-Semitic acts and bias crimes, such as the mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, we may have to have these conversations sooner than we’d like.

To help you navigate through these conversations we’ve included information about talking to your kids about scary situations and anti-Semitism on the back of this insert.

For more resources that parents may find helpful in discussions with their children.

visit pjlibrary.org/beyond fear

Talking to Your Kids…

For kids ages 5 and up

The Child Mind Institute recommends parents do the following after a frightening incident like a tragedy or an evacuation:

  • Break the news
  • Take the cues from your child
  • Model calm
  • Be reassuring
  • Help children express their feelings
  • Be developmentally appropriate

For a developmentally appropriate approach to talking about school safety with your children, use the following guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • Young children need brief simple information that should be balanced with reassurance.
  • Upper elementary and early middle school children can handle the same information parents have about the school’s safety plan.
  • Upper middle school and high school children may have strong and varying opinions about causes of violence in school and society. Parents should stress the role that students have in maintaining safe schools.


First, find out what your children already know. As with any challenging topic, you want to answer the questions and address the worries that your kids have,  not raise new ones they didn’t think of yet.

Remind kids that such events are rare. While the US has experienced a sharp rise in anti-Semitic acts in recent years, attacks like the one in Pittsburgh are still extremely unusual. Point out to children that the grown-ups around them are taking action to keep them safe.

Any violent act is scary, but violence against Jews may feel closer to home. Some children may feel vulnerable, while for others, the events may not even feel real. Children don’t always know how to voice their anxieties; you might notice disturbances in appetite or sleep instead. If your child is reticent to talk right away, that’s okay. Remain open to the conversation when your child is ready.

If your children as why people sometimes hate Jews, it’s okay to say that you don’t know. Hatred is irrational, after all. But you can also talk about the ways anti-Semitism is similar to other forms of prejudice based in fear of difference. This is an opportunity to talk with children about the Jewish injunction to “love the stranger” and to actively welcome new people into our communities. The more we learn about the people around us, the less we notice differences, and the more we focus on how much we all have in common.

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