Tag Archives: tough topics

What to do when kids are scared & worried

Here are a few tried-and-true books for kids and resources for parents to help deal with violence and upsetting news.

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The Moon Came Down on Milk Street by Jean Gralley
You’ve probably seen a quote attributed to Mr. Rogers about his mom telling him, when he saw something scary, to “look for the helpers.” That’s this book in a nutshell, as firefighters and rescue dogs and other helpers put things right after a disaster.

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Sometimes Bad Things Happen by Ellen Jackson
Mentions some of the bad things that happen in the world and presents some positive ways to respond to them.

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And God Cried, Too: A Kid’s Book of Healing and Hope by Marc Gellman
The angel Gabriel helps Mikey, an angel-in-training, to understand why bad things happen for what seems to be no reason and how to hold on to hope and faith during difficult times.

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What to Do When You’re Scared & Worried: A Guide for Kids by James J. Crist
This self-help guide has lots of practical and specific advice about how kids can handle their fears.

Someone also shared an article from PBS Parents that was new to me, How to Help Kids Feel Safe After Tragedy, which is a quick read and has simple, practical suggestions.

Comforting Reads for Difficult Times

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The Association for Library Service to Children has released a new list of recommended books called Comforting Reads for Difficult Times, which you can download and print here:
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In addition to suggested books for different ages on topics like depression, resilience and violence, ALSC also suggests resources for adults. These books, articles and websites provide additional book suggestions and advice on topics like talking to children about the news.

Thoughts of home

Lately the news has been making me think of the place I grew up, which was historically a Jewish suburb.  There was a centrally located Jewish Community Center, and I was familiar with seeing a sukkah outside in the fall or girls in knee-length skirts (the Jewish community was largely, but not exclusively, Orthodox and Hasidic) playing softball in the parking lot in spring or summer.

Last night I was on Facebook and saw one of my friends join in a conversation with several of her friends about how to talk to their young, Jewish children about recent acts of anti-Semitism.  One mom described her preschooler talking about lockdown practice (Many of the Jewish Community Centers receiving bomb threats house preschools, and they have to be prepared).

The first resources I thought about were ones I had turned to in other cases of violence, prejudice, and scary topics in the news.  The American Psychological Association has some resources for parents and Teaching Tolerance has classroom resources.  Not surprisingly, I found the most at the Anti-Defamation League, which has a whole section on confronting anti-Semitism and recommended books for children and teens (“The Best Kid Lit on Bias, Diversity and Social Justice”).

Here are some titles from their Jewish Culture and Anti-Semitism list:

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Always Remember Me: How One Family Survived World War II by Marisabina Russo
After many years during which her grandmother skirted the issue, a young girl finally hears the story of how several of her female relatives survived the Holocaust.

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I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy
Traces the achievements of the celebrated Supreme Court justice through the lens of her many famous acts of civil disagreement against inequality, unfair treatment, and human rights injustice.

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Molly’s Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen
Told to make a Pilgrim doll for the Thanksgiving display at school, Molly is embarrassed when her mother tries to help her out by creating a doll dressed as she herself was dressed before leaving Russia to seek religious freedom.

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Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco
A long-lasting friendship develops between Larnel, a young African-American, and Mrs. Katz, a lonely, Jewish widow, when Larnel presents Mrs. Katz with a scrawny kitten without a tail.

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Sharing Our Homeland: Palestinian and Jewish Children at Summer Peace Camp by Trish Marx
Photo-essay focusing on two Israeli children, one Jewish and one Palestinian, who, in spite of their differences and the longstanding conflicts in the region, learn to play, work, and share ideas together at Summer Peace Camp, a day camp located in Israel. Includes glossary, map, and resources for readers.

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The Whispering Town by Jennifer Elvgren
In Denmark during World War II, young Annet, her parents, and their neighbors help a Jewish family hide from Nazi soldiers until it is safe for them to leave Annet’s basement.

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The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark by Carmen Agra Deedy
Retells the story of King Christian X and the Danish resistance to the Nazis during World War II.

If you’re looking for more books besides the ones on the ADL lists, you might try the page for the Sydney Taylor Book Award, presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries “to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.”  There are also children’s and young adult literature categories for the National Jewish Book Award (It looks like this year’s winners will be announced March 7).

The first time I encountered the story of the golem was when I pulled it out of a book display at the public library (I wasn’t really thinking about it at the time, but it was probably a Passover display).  That book was the first window I had to try to understand what it meant to be in danger from anti-Semitism.  This memory is part of why I try to do displays of everyone’s holidays– both so people can see themselves reflected, and also so people can see where their neighbors are coming from.

Tough topics for any age

I can hardly imagine what it’s like to be a preschool-to-primary teacher right now trying to plan a lesson on some of the typical beginning of the year curriculum topics.

“All about me”: I describe myself.  My classmates describe themselves.  We talk about similarities and differences.

“Community helpers”: We learn about the people who work in our community, like the police.

Whether you’re a parent, a student, or a teacher you may be having a really hard time this week as you watch the news (or react to grown-ups watching the news).  I’m certainly seeing this among family and friends.  While I don’t have easy answers, I want to share what we have at the library.  We have some books to help you talk to children about scary things in the news, general resources for coping with stress, and old favorite books and movies if you decide to take a break from news or social media and just gather together as a family.

I really don’t know of any children’s books that talk about contemporary police shootings.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has an online collection of resources at http://www.tolerance.org/racism-and-police-violence to help with discussing the topic and help make students feel safe and supported so they can learn.  We have books at the library that can help you talk to children about race and racism.

We have also helped recommend books for a police officer who was visiting a classroom and wanted to read aloud to the students.  (He wanted funny books.  I asked if his feelings would be hurt if I suggested something with donuts?  The answer was no, and he did check out a doughnut story.)  We have funny picture books and simple factual books about police.  Whatever you need, we will do our best to help you find it.