Experts: Speak to kids about their fears

Even young children should be given as much information as they can understand in organized, clear way.

kids in shelter 298 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
kids in shelter 298 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Although most Israeli adults have lived through threats of missile attacks, children are the most vulnerable to emotional trauma. Dani Lotan, director of the trauma clinic at Schneider Children's Medical Center of Israel in Petah Tikva, advises parents in threatened areas to give children - even small ones - as much information as they can understand in an organized and clear way. Just talking to them gives them a feeling of control and understanding about the situation, he says. "Do not hesitate to speak to children about what is known up to the moment and ask them what they think will happen. When the child registers the fact that the parent is open to discussion and explains it to him quietly and with assurance, he feels safe about raising difficulties and questions," Lotan continues. The trauma expert advises adults not to promise children that there is no danger or that they are 100 percent safe. Instead, give them the feeling that all the responsible and necessary actions have been taken. If a child shows great anxiety, "don't get flustered and don't try to calm him down constantly, because this can cause more anxiety. Just explain that everyone is under pressure, that it's normal and that the dangers are being dealt with constantly by the authorities." Playing games, watching movies and doing crossword puzzles are ways of keeping children's attention on other things. Prepare meals and organize photo albums together, for example. Teach children in shelters how to breathe slowly and in a controlled way to reduce tension. Inhale and count to two or three and then exhale while counting to four or five. Repeating this process five to 10 times lowers blood pressure. One can also tighten fists and count to four and then release them. Kupat Holim Meuhedet experts added that children should be told that catastrophes can happen anywhere in the world and that stressed individuals are normal people reacting to abnormal situations. Adults who are anxious should discuss their feelings with a person close to them. Avoid being alone, carry out physical activity and try to observe a normal routine. If symptoms - including nightmares, sadness, lack of appetite and lack of interest in what is going on around you - repeat themselves for over a week, consult with your family doctor, who may refer you to a mental health team or social worker in your health fund.