How should I explain to my kids the recent tragedies across the globe?

My kids are ages 8, 5, and 3, and my oldest boy is especially sensitive.

I don't want to scare them, but I feel that they need to know.


Parents all over the world are asking the same question in light of this most heart-breaking tragedy: What should we tell our children?

It's important to tell children only as much as they need to know. If your son is not aware of the specific circumstances of this child's abduction and death, don't inform him. Do, though, allow him to talk about it so that you know just what he's heard.

Every child needs to feel secure. Every child needs to know that her/his world is a safe place. From the very first time a child ventures to take a step, you're there with arms outstretched to let them know that they are protected and safe. And this is what a child needs throughout his growing years – secure and confident knowledge that his world is a safe place to grow in.

The obligation of every parent, the goal of every parent, is to raise a child to be independent, fully realizing all of his potential. We teach children that there are no limits to what they can achieve. As parents, we need to constantly nurture their wings, from infancy onwards – turning over, sitting up, taking steps – we need to show them the door and the whole world outside.

And we need to enable them and empower them by giving them tools. From kitchen safety to biking safety to water safety, showing them the roads to cross, and then teaching them the rules for crossing; bringing them to the water shore, and teaching them the rules of beach safety. This goes on day after day and year after year as we allow them more and more independence.

Independence means self-autonomy. It means that we teach them that no one has a right to appropriate what belongs to them – their lunch money, bike or their personal intimate privacy. We need to teach them this throughout their growing years, their personal safety at each stage of life.

To sum it up, it is about boundaries - others' boundaries which they must respect, their own boundaries which others must respect, and the boundaries that their parents set and they must respect.

At ages three and five and eight, each child knows his/her own boundaries – where he is allowed to go, where he is not permitted. The eight year old may have your permission to go to his friend next door, while the five year old is not yet permitted.

It's important to establish boundaries very firmly, but making sure to re-evaluate and adjust as the child grows. You need to be clear to your children about each one's boundaries. Some rules continue from toddlerhood all the way into adulthood: no approaching strangers (a stranger is anyone you don't know, even if she or he is familiar); never getting into a car with a stranger; if you're lost, stay where you are and ask an adult (preferably a woman with children) to call 911 – never going with any adult whom you don't know. These are just some of the rules you'll want to lay down firmly.

Most of all, you need to convey to your child that the world is safe; kids will learn to cook and bake, go biking and horse-back riding, swimming and hiking and build campfires. They can do these activities and many more as long as they know the safety rules that accompany the fun.

Please see Can Parents Be Too Protective? from our section on Protecting Our Children.

Bronya Shaffer
for The Judaism WebsiteChabad.org


Thank you so much for the beautiful and enlightening email you sent me.

Best regards,