How to Talk to Kids About the Israel-Hamas War

Landscape of Jerusalem

PJ Library and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation have a deep, unshakable connection to the State of Israel. We are proud to share stories with families around the globe that celebrate Israel and promote a sense of responsibility to the country and its people. And we are proud to reach hundreds of thousands of Israeli children and their families each month through PJ Library’s Hebrew-language counterpart, Sifriyat Pijama, and Arabic-language companion program, Maktabat al-Fanoos

In the aftermath of the horrors of October 7, parents have shared with us that their kids are asking painful questions. Even very little children have very big questions, and older kids and tweens have their own emotional, intellectual and social responses. As parents, we may be struggling to answer versions of these same questions for ourselves.

  • Is it safe to be Jewish?
  • Can I love Israel and disagree with its leaders sometimes?
  • What about all the Palestinians who have been killed?

As parents, we invest untold energy into raising our children with values, including kindness, honesty, and respect. We strive to teach the fundamental Jewish belief that every person is created b’tzelem Elohim, with sacred worth, and that both Israelis and Palestinians deserve safety, freedom and dignity. We struggle to explain why these ideals are so difficult to achieve.

Even in the darkest times, it’s developmentally critical for children to experience hope and joy, and to develop pride in their Jewish identity and community.

PJ Library is here to help your family do just that: continue to experience Jewish stories and togetherness, and to strengthen our connections to Israel and its people.

Related: PJ Library's Israel Hub

How to Talk to Kids

Older kids and tweens have vastly different emotional, intellectual, and social responses to the war in Israel. Sometimes they ask questions that are no different from those of a small child, and sometimes they ask the types of deeply thoughtful questions you might expect to hear from a teenager.

There is no one-size-fits-all way to approach the questions your tween or teen may ask. Instead, our experts recommend you spend time with your children on their terms, take time to really listen to them, and help them feel safe. Read on for simple approaches that might help you engage with your kids: 

1. Make time to talk
The older our kids get, the busier they get, which makes it extra important to find time to connect with them. Invite them to run errands with you (car time is great for conversations!), take them out for cocoa and cards, or toss a Frisbee. Keep it casual. There might be a specific situation or incident to discuss, or you can just ask them what’s on their mind. Follow their lead — if they don’t want to talk about it, that’s OK! Just find the time and they’ll open up when they’re ready.

2. Stay curious
The best way to keep your kid talking about tough topics is to stay curious. Resist the urge to correct or explain. Listen and ask questions about what they mean when they say certain things, how they feel about what’s happening, and what they think might be going on. Listen carefully, and take their responses seriously. If you do have concrete advice to offer, you can ask them if they want you to listen or offer suggestions. (If you ask that question, be sure to respect their answer, no matter how hard it might be!)

3. Let it be OK not to know
You don’t have to have all the answers (so few of us do!). If they ask you something you don’t know, just tell them that. If it’s something you can look up, do that together. If there’s someone else — a rabbi or counselor or teacher — who might have a useful perspective, reach out to them together. And if it’s a particularly sticky question with no clear answer, just say that. At least your tween will know they’re not alone in not knowing!

4. Keep connecting
Whether it’s about Israel or something else, your kids will need your support and guidance as they face life’s tough questions. The best thing you can do is show up, listen well, get curious, and let your kid know that they’re not alone!

The links and resources below may also be helpful:

Resources for Grown-ups

It can feel so fraught for parents, educators, and colleagues to address concerns and questions that young children may have. The following resources offer both expert-level as well as peer-to-peer support for adults navigating these complex conversations.

Embrace Jewish Joy

It's important to remember that we can hold both the pain of this moment as well as every day moments of Jewish joy and pride. 


PJ Library's Israel Hub
How to Talk to Children About Antisemitism
Questions Children Ask About Israel in General