Remember You Are Loved
Responding to Acts of Hate in the Community
By Chantel Bratcher, LPCMH, Interim Clinical Director & Joanne Kassees, LPCMH, Child Therapist
As counselors at Jewish Family Services of Delaware (JFS), it is our role to care for members of our community during vulnerable times in their lives. In light of all that is happening in the Jewish Community in Delaware and around the country, we are sharing communication tips for parents about how to discuss these events with children and strategies for community members to practice self-care.
Advice for Talking to Children
Starting a conversation with your children about acts of hate in the community lets them know that they can talk to you about these topics. Small children in particular might not understand how these events are affecting them. Remind them that they are loved and emphasize the importance of being kind to others. Sticking to a normal, structured routine with safety precautions always in mind will help children feel safer.
1. Be direct and open. Start the conversation by saying “I want to talk to you about something going on in our community.” Watching the news together with older children can be a good starting point as well.
2. Allow children the space to feel whatever they are feeling. Let them express their emotions and be there to listen and support them. Try to validate a child’s emotions rather than tell them how to feel. Instead of saying not to worry, say something like “I can understand why you might be feeling this way.”
3. Be your child’s source of information. Children learn things from the media and hear things from others, but it is best if they hear it from you. Keep information simple, accurate, and age appropriate.
4. Provide children with reassurance. Let them know that it is okay to feel anxious or scared, and that the community is doing everything in its power to keep them safe. Talk about the strategies that you both use to feel safe.
5. Remember that children are resilient. Keep things as normal as possible and model how to look at the world as a good place. When children have a good day, treat it as such, even if you are worried.
Situations like these are opportunities to foster empathy in children and teenagers. Talk to children about the importance of being kind and supportive of others. Hate happens when people are not kind to each other. Our community has received many messages of love, support, and solidarity from our neighbors. Take time to share those messages with your children. Remind them that they are loved, that they can talk about what is happening as a family and as a community.
Advice for Practicing Self-Care
Remember to address your own feelings first. As adults and as parents, it is normal to feel fearful, anxious, or uncertain in the wake of acts of hate in our communities. Give yourself time to process your emotions.
Next, take the time to identify strategies that help you feel safe. You might find that you want to get active and do something to help, or that attending community meetings helps you feel connected. Ask questions of leadership to avoid the spread of misinformation and to get a clear understanding of what has happened and what is being done. Connect with community groups and resources and notice if events are impacting your habits or day to day life.
Lastly, be mindful of yourself and your family. It is normal for adults and children to continue to feel anxious after these kinds of events. If you find that day to day functioning is being affected, or if you notice prolonged changes in habits (such as sleeping to much or too little or having trouble eating), you might want to reach out for someone to talk to or professional support.