MILWAUKEE — If you’ve wondered just how, or whether to, discuss the Holocaust with a younger child, Simone Schweber has a workshop that should be able to help you.
The Goodman Professor of Education and Jewish Studies at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Schweber will be working with the Jewish Museum Milwaukee this week to host the online event: How to Talk to Your Kids About the Holocaust.
Taking place from 7 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. on March 4, the interactive workshop is designed to help parents, caretakers or educators figure out how to talk to young kids about the Holocaust and other difficult topics.
According to an event description, the workshop is designed to make sure parents are able to balance the competing pressures of protecting a young child’s idealism while also being truthful about historical harms.
Attendees will get advice on how to approach their child with age-appropriate information, address the tough questions, and shut down conversations they feel their child is not yet ready to hear, or that may not be worth opening up in the midst of a global pandemic.
People can register for the free event by visiting the event page at https://jewishmuseummilwaukee.org/events/talk-to-kids-2.
Schweber will start the event with a short lecture, and then participants will break into small groups to discuss and share their ideas.
“During the first half, I will be discussing arguments around why some people say you should teach young kids about the Holocaust, and why others say you absolutely shouldn’t,” Schweber said. “I have done research around that very question, so I will share that research. But ultimately parents are the ones who know their kids best. … So, I will give parents some strategies and resources for whatever they choose.”
The workshop is primarily aimed at showing parents how to respond should the subject come up.
“I don’t have a standard answer from when you should start discussing it with your child. But I do think there are really good strategies (for handling things) if the topic does come up and you want to delve into things but perhaps not so deeply that you end up scaring your child,” Schweber said.
An older child could be reading something related to the Holocaust, for example, and that might spark questions on the part of a younger sibling, for example.
Although the event is designed for all parents, Jewish parents may handle the topic differently than parents in households where the family doesn’t have any a Jewish heritage or faith. There can also be other factors for parents to consider, like whether the child has experienced violence firsthand, or is more sensitive in general to such things.
“It doesn’t always go along religious lines. But it can. Sometimes Jewish kids will identify more with Jewish victims, just like stories from the Civil Rights era can resonate more with African American students. I think it can have really different resonances for different kids, partly based on their group identities, partly based on their familial heritage, partly based on their own experience and their own proclivities,” she said.
And discussing the Holocaust with kids now, as they continue to experience the pandemic, or discuss elements of the Black Lives Matter movement, may have more of an impact, Schweber said.
“You have to be really careful about drawing comparisons … but I do believe that it is important to draw comparisons and not isolate one time period from another. Most of my teaching life, I bring in the present. I believe it is worth teaching about the past for the present, and not in and of itself,” she said.
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How to go?
What: How to Talk to Your Kids About the Holocaust – an interactive workshop
When: Thursday, March 4
What time: 7–8:15 p.m.
Where: Online via Zoom
How: To register for the free event visit: JewishMuseumMilwaukee.org/Events