What Do I Say to My Kids?

What Do I Say to My Kids?

Tips on having conversations on the aftermath of a tragedy

Carlos A. Bermeo. LCSW, NBCCH – Director of JFCS Clinical Services

On the morning following the tragic and senseless shooting that took place in Vegas many parents found themselves asking the same what’s and how’s to explain to their children what happened and  offer comfort and a sense of safety.

While many parents struggled to find what to say to their children, others opted to say nothing or avoided the conversation in hopes that this will shield their children.  In efforts to provide some help to the parents, here are some suggestions for broaching the issue with your children, being mindful of the ability of your child to take in and comprehend information…

  • With younger children (preschool and kindergarten): Let them take the lead in the conversation, make sure your child knows you are there to answer any questions. The issue does not need to be brought up unless a child hears about it first
  •  With older children (elementary school): Parents should be more direct.  Parents should preemptively help their child know about the tragedy and share basic details and leave the door open for them to ask questions.  Note that they may initially say that they are ok but that does not mean that you shouldn’t talk about it.
  • With teenagers: Parents should have a more detailed conversation with children. Start by asking questions like, “Have you heard about this?” and “What do you think about this?” to find out what they know and what may be bothering them.
  • Children want to know if they are safe.  Talk about creating a safety plan with your child and what to do in an emergency.
  • Adults should not to say everything is okay, that it happened somewhere else , and it will not happen here. This may seem like it is comforting to a child however it is not the truth.  This varies for where your child is developmentally.
  • Although these suggestions are for talking to your children, parents and adults cannot forget about their own care.  Take time to reflect and for time for self-care.  You cannot help your child cope if you yourself cannot.

If you need help talking with your children, or your child needs guidance, contact the JFCS Counseling Department at 856-424-1333.


New Additions and Exciting Events for JFCS Special Needs Programs

Zumba, Zinburger, and more!  That’s what the participants of the JFCS SAIL (Supports to Achieve Independent Living) Special Needs Program are up to this summer, and it is thanks in part to the newest addition to the JFCS family, SAIL Coordinator Kimberly Liebovitz, MSS, LSW.

Kimberly joined the JFCS team in June, and she brought along her enthusiasm and passion to share with the many SAIL members, who enjoy social and recreational offerings through the program.

“When I saw there was an opportunity for me to work at JFCS with the special needs population to support young adults in their social and community functioning,  I was beyond thrilled.   I knew that JFCS was one of the few local programs that helped support families in transition to adulthood and becoming independent. I then saw the opening for SAIL, and I thought it would be such a a blessing for me to be able to continue my work of supporting families and students after their graduation,” says Kimberly.

We are excited to have Kimberly, who will be responsible for developing and planning the monthly activities for SAIL,” says Barbara Abrams, Director of the JFCS Special Needs Program. “Kimberly has hit the ground running, coming up with many new and innovative program ideas to keep the SAIL participants engaged and interested. SAIL currently has 45 active members who are always eager to try new things, so this is a great match!”

Kim worked as a school social worker, school counselor and as a child study team coordinator, which has provided her with experience to understand the needs of SAIL clients.

“It is not only my goal to help create fun activities for the SAIL participants, but to help participants build new friendships. One of the major benefits of having friends is that they improve our lives. They help us develop a sense of sharing, be it tangible things or just inspirational or motivational words of wisdom,” says Kimberly.

In addition to Kimberly, the JFCS Special Needs Program also welcomed Robin Cohen as the Soups and Sweets Special Needs Culinary Training Program Coordinator.  “I was drawn to the position because I was looking to incorporate my teaching skills with my passion for cooking and baking … and this is that job,” says Robin. “As a former special education teacher, Soups and Sweets allows me to see what happens to young adults with learning needs after their high school education is completed. It is rewarding to watch them obtain culinary skills and know that there is employment in their future.  The positive environment, the dedicated staff, and the volunteers inspire me to provide the best possible opportunities to our students.”

Robin was a member of the JFCS special needs job coaching team for the past year, prior to assuming her new role. “Robin came to JFCS after spending her 39-year career as a special education teacher, mostly for the Mt. Laurel School District. Upon her retirement, she knew that she wanted to stay working with individuals with special needs,” said Barbara.  “Robin brings a great deal of spirit, wisdom, and experience baking to her new position and we look forward to having her in our Soups and Sweets kitchen.”

JFCS is excited to see the strides the programs will make with Kimberly and Robin as part of the team.  Stay tuned!

**We invite you to learn more about information about SAIL Program, by visiting here!

For the brand new, delicious High Holiday catering menu brought to you by the Soups and Sweets Special Needs Culinary Training Program, visit here, and place your order!


Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation In Summer…

Food insecurity is a family’s inability to deliver enough food to live a nourishing lifestyle. 1 in 8 people in the United States battle with hunger and the ability to provide nutritious foods at the dinner table.  Thousands in Southern New Jersey rely on the JFCS Betsy and Peter Fischer Food Pantries each year to do just that.

Six out of seven low-income children who eat a free or reduced-price school lunch during the academic year do not get that free meal during the summer. The absence of a meal in the middle of the day can be more detrimental to a growing child than one might believe. Children who lack proper eating habits often have low blood sugar, have trouble focusing, and do not have nutrients that children require to retain good health. With help from the good Samaritans of Southern New Jersey, JFCS can help make sure that no child has to go hungry this summer.

Summer food insecurity facts are quite staggering. Here are just some that resonate*:

  • New Jersey ranks 12th in the nation in the percentage of eligible children who received a free lunch last summer, according to a report released Tuesday.
  • 57,000 children in Southern New Jersey are food-insecure.
  • Families no longer visit “emergency food” sources for temporary relief; they rely on food pantries as a supplemental food source
  • 53% of households report having to choose between food and paying for medicine in the past 12 months; 29% face this choice every month
  • 68% of households report having to choose between paying for food and paying for utilities in the past 12 months; 24% face this choice every month.
  • One out of every 3 people who are hungry in New Jersey is a child.
  • About 1 of every 5 children in New Jersey is hungry.

Food insecurity can happen so quickly, due to unexpected events or accidents. Many families find it is an ongoing battle to choose between paying bills and buying healthy food.  Most of the time the family has to choose to pay bills.  In addition to regular pantry items, JFCS is asking farmers and gardeners to share their surplus with our clients during these summer months, via the JFCS Gardens For Good produce donation program. The importance of fruits and vegetables is essential, as they contain vital vitamins, minerals and contain fiber.

JFCS wants your help to make a difference for these families by donating items to our pantry.

Pantry Items Most Needed 





Snacks (pretzels, granola bars, crackers)

Tomato Sauce

For more information on our needs for our food pantry, please contact Andi Loew aloew@jfedsnj.org.

*Map the Meal Feeding America Study, 2014