How to Talk to Your Children About Tragedy and Anti-Semitism

Resources to help parents through difficult conversations

We are all shocked and saddened by the events in Pittsburgh. And it’s important to know that you’re not alone and that you have someone to reach out to – either family, a trusted friend, a community or clergy member.

If you’re a parent, talking to your children about senseless tragedy and anti-Semitism can be particularly challenging, so below are some tips for how to have these difficult conversations:

  • Before talking to children, make sure you process your own feelings.
  • Get down to your child’s level.
  • Find out what they know about the tragedy.
  • Explain what happened in a simple way. Our friend and teacher Rabbi Meir Muller suggests the following:
    • “There was a very sad event that happened at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. A person used a gun to hurt and kill people. The police will make sure he never hurts people again. If you have any questions, you can talk to me and know the adults in your life are keeping you safe.”
    • Of course, this script will change based on the age of the child and the information they know.
    • Make sure your child knows they can ask you questions. Remember that children process information through questions and may ask you the same questions over and over.
    • Check back in with your child at a different time to see how they are processing the information.
  • Make sure your child knows that they are safe, and the adults in their lives are there to protect them.
  • Keep your daily routines. Make sure meal times and sleep schedules are not disrupted.
  • AVOID MEDIA around your children.
  • Lastly, be prepared for your own feelings. If your child sees you expressing emotion, particularly a sad emotion, let them know that yes, you are feeling sad at that moment, but that you will feel better with the help of friends and family.

Parents may also have questions about the safety and emergency measures at your school. Make sure to check in with your schools and institutions directly.

To view more resources on books and stories that can assist your conversation, visit PJ Library.

The Federation enacts its mission in many ways – through collaboration with agencies like JCRC, convening partners, coordinating volunteer opportunities, providing philanthropic support, and developing resources to strengthen the security of our Jewish organizations. In that spirit, the following are some ways that you can help.


October 30, 2018


Denise Moyes-Schnur