Yes, We Should Talk to Our Kids About Difficult Things

As parents and educators, we can get nervous about broaching challenging subjects with children. We can feel unprepared ourselves, or think we are protecting children by shielding them from discussions of violence and other potentially terrifying subjects.

Yet the work of Sivan Zakai, the HUC-JIR Professor who directs the Children’s Learning About Israel Project, suggests just the opposite: It is vital to establish a healthy dialogue about difficult subjects in order to promote a feeling of security for our kids.

In a recent article in Kveller, Zakai and her third grader, Ilan, provide three key tips for creating just such a conversation:

1)      Don’t try to control or hide information. Not only is it futile, it leaves children piecing together bits of incomplete or misunderstood information, which simply creates more anxiety for them, because they need your help to process it correctly.

2)      You can’t change the information, but you can frame its message. Kids need information to be placed in a context—is a story about danger or anti-Semitism, or is it about resilience and how hard it is for people to manage their differences? Our conversation can help kids not only get more accurate information, but also understand what it might mean.

3)      The conversation is more important than knowing the answers. It’s ok if you don’t know—kids do not need their parents and educators to know everything, They need them to be willing to engage in a conversation, even about the unknowable.

You can read the full article here.


Are you looking for help in broaching the complexities about Israel in your school?

We have two new resources for grades 6-8 that will help.

The Israel . . . It’s Complicated Teacher Resource Guide (with a foreword by the Center for Israel Education) provides a package of lessons; source materials like maps, documents, charts, and news articles; and compelling strategies for creating conversations with kids about Israel that do not shy away from complexity. A matching set of free digital resources including videos and downloads is available at

The student edition of Israel . . .It’s Complicated puts a variety of key source materials directly into kids’ hands, together with activities and questions that structure both small group and individual encounters as you guide them through their own exploration of their personal relationship with Israel. Contact us for more information.