Dear Rachel,

I have three young children: ten, seven and five-years-old. Up until this point, they have been fortunate that they have never really dealt with death first-hand. They have all their grandparents who are alive and well, and even great-grandparents. But with this recent horrible tragedy in Mumbai, my children have become much more aware of things than I would like. They listened as other kids spoke about it in school, as I cried about it in the house, and without my being aware, they paid attention when I read the paper, watched the news and surfed the internet. They want to know what happened, why it happened, and they are scared that if it happened to the people in India, it could happen to them. How do I reassure my children that they are safe and will be fine? How do I tell them something that I myself do not believe? I am also scared, and I am not sure what I should do…Please give me some advice.

Philadelphia, PA

Dear Traumatized,

Dealing with your own emotions after such a devastating tragedy is hard enough. Having to figure out how to handle the emotions of your children is most definitely overwhelming. I definitely think that before you can help them come to terms with this and have a sense of safety and security, you need to for yourself.

We cannot understand why so many innocent lives were taken. And yes, there is the possibility that it could have happened here and not there. But if you worry about everything that could happen, you will create a fear in which you will never be able to leave your house. Think about all the car accidents that happen on a daily basis. Yet we get in our cars every day and drive. Think about the number of children that are abducted. And yet our children need to be able to play and be outside. There are endless horrible things that can and do happen. And if we really do spend our time thinking about them, the only result will be utter depression, paranoia and paralysis.

Ultimately, in order to live healthy lives and feel secure, emotionally and physically, we need to have faith. We need to believe that there is a Creator in this world and that we will be taken care of. Does that answer all the "whys" in this latest tragedy or the tragedies before them? No, not at all. Yet, faith is a requirement for being able to move forward.

And there are some security measures – aside for the obvious ones – that you should consider implementing. One of them is having a mezuzah placed on the doorways in your home. The mezuzah is like the spiritual alarm system in one's house. When we enter any room in our home, we stop place our hand on the mezuzah and kiss it. The mezuzah contains the Shema prayer rolled inside, and thus reminds us that there is one G‑d and that He is always protecting us. If you do not have mezuzahs already on your home's doorways, this is definitely something I would urge you to do. If you do have mezuzahs, remember that mezuzah scrolls require checking every so often to ascertain that they are still kosher.

When traveling, there is a beautiful custom that the traveler is given called "shaliach mitzvah," which is a dollar or small amount of money that is intended to be given to tzedakah, charity, upon arrival to one's final destination. The term "shaliach mitzvah" means that you are being an agent to do a mitzvah. Because you have been given this money, the entire time you travel you are in the process of "discharging your assignment," the deed of giving charity. Judaism teaches that our good deeds serve to protect us, so therefore we always want to be in the process of doing a mitzvah when we go from place to place.

Now, you might be thinking that all the Jews in the Chabad House were doing mitzvahs, they also had mezuzahs on all the doors, etc. And you are right. Again, we do not and cannot know why it happened. But we must do everything on our end to ensure our security. It is hard sometimes to deal with the dichotomy, but just because people die even when they are wearing seatbelts, and sometimes because of their seatbelt, we do not stop wearing our seatbelts in the car. All we can be responsible for is doing our utmost to protect ourselves, physically and spiritually.

Now, dealing with your children…firstly, I don't think there is anything wrong in children knowing that you are upset and horrified by what happened. To tell them it was nothing or to try to downplay the intensity of what happened can cause confusion when they already sense that this was a very big deal. Clearly you need to discuss the situation with each child according to his or her age level, but even a young child can be told that a very bad thing happened to very good people and it makes us very sad. They should know that we all choose if we want to help someone or hurt someone. Unfortunately, a group of people chose to hurt other people. Allow your children who do understand what took place to grieve in their own way. Let them write letters expressing their feelings and their hope for peace. Let them draw pictures that can be sent to the young victims recovering in the hospital. The more they feel that they can react and have an outlet for that reaction, the easier it will be for them to process their pain.

But, it shouldn't end there. You also should explain to them that the way we counter the bad that someone did is by doing even more good in our lives. Sit with your children and discuss the things that they can do and that you can do as a family that can add more goodness to this world. Again, if you don't have mezuzahs in your home, discuss how this is a way to secure your home in a Torah way. Go with them to pick out the mezuzah cases and involve them in the mitzvah. Your local Chabad House can help you with putting them up.

Put a tzedakah (charity) box in your home and in the rooms of each of your kids. Give them a stack of pennies and each day have them put a penny in the tzedakah box. Then let them decide where they want to send the money. Perhaps they will want to donate to the funds to help the victims of Mumbai or to another cause that they care about. If you have daughters, have them light the Shabbat Candles with you on Friday evening before sunset. There are numerous positive deeds and acts of loving kindness that you can each do individually and with your entire family. Talk about them and reassure them that every positive thing they do does make a difference and helps to make this world a better place.

Your children will be looking to you for their guidance and their support. When they sense that you feel secure, they will feel secure. When they see you making additional changes in your life to help others, they will likewise want to make changes in theirs. And when you are all doing more positive things and you are focusing on the good you are capable of, you will find that the fear will naturally lessen and hopefully disappear. You will soon find that you are so busy creating light that there is no longer any room for the darkness.

May we all be blessed only with joyous occasions and acts of kindness in our lives.