LHP author Laurie Zelinger was featured on CNN today in an article Helping children process hate: A Jewish perspective
Connect it to childhood feelings
We all, old and young, have an instinct to trace hate back to its source. Where does it come from? And how does it take shape?
Children (and their parents) might get some insight into how hate develops by studying the behavior of their younger siblings, cousins or friends. Wariness of all people and things unfamiliar begins to unfold in the early years of life, explained Fred Zelinger, a New York-based psychologist who previously worked in schools.
“We are wired to be uncomfortable with things that are different,” he said. “Most kids outgrow it past age 3, but some environments can make it flourish.”
If a child is never exposed to other cultures or is told that these other cultures are bad, then that perfectly natural “stranger danger” can morph into something more menacing and permanent. This is particularly the case with people who have fragile self-esteems and seek to improve their standing by putting down or eliminating those who they see as a threat.
A good way to show children how all this works is by deliberately modeling the complete opposite, explained Laurie Zelinger, child psychologist and author of “Please Explain Terrorism to Me: A Story for Children.” Speak kindly about other groups of people; eat in their restaurants; play alongside them at playgrounds; learn about and, when possible, celebrate their holidays; invite them over your house. This is especially important during moments of communal fear, when calls for diversity in speech are not often met by diversity in action.
“When people feel scared, they have an instinct to insulate their children and keep them away from anything they are nervous about,” she said.