How can we help kids when their space becomes unsafe?


Illustrative (photo credit: CASANOVA/TNS)
(photo credit: CASANOVA/TNS)
We are Jerusalemites, but we spent a recent weekend with friends in the north, near where the Israel Air Force jet fell after an Iranian missile from Syria hit it. It caught us by surprise and made us very anxious. It could have fallen on us! Our six-and-a-half-year-old daughter heard the terrible noise from the crash and saw the news reports on TV but didn’t react immediately to them. Within 24 hours, however, she became very nervous, and her behavior has changed for the worse. What can we do to help her?
P.T., via email
Dr. Maayan Ziskind, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Safed’s Ziv Medical Center and director of its clinic for the treatment of anxiety victims, answers:
Even if it seems that children don’t pay attention to what is happening in the news, the parents’ anxieties and the general discourse are there. Children hear everything and absorb their parents’ feelings of distress. As a result of recent security escalation, children and adolescents may experience emotional distress and need assistance and guidance from the most significant adults in their lives – primarily parents, but also teachers, counselors and school counselors.
Exposure to a life-threatening event raises serious physical and emotional reactions. Yet these reactions are completely normal. The return to routine occurs gradually and naturally. As children and teens are in the process of building confidence in the environment and themselves and their life experience is short, their coping resources are limited compared to those in adults. Parents are usually a source of security and strength for their children, so the way their elders behave during crisis situations affect their children’s response.
Don’t deny your feelings when you speak to her, even though it may be difficult, but there is also no need to overwhelm her with your fears. Your message should be: “The situation is indeed worrisome (annoying, depressing, frightening...), but we can overcome the difficulties.”
You can share with her similar experiences of the past and the way the family successfully coped with them. You should also initiate an active dialogue rather than wait until your daughter raises questions about the situation.
Like adults, children and adolescents need information about what is going on around them, so that they can build a clearer picture of the world and thus increase the sense of control and self-confidence. The process of creating a safe space for expression and dialogue gives parents an opportunity to assess their children’s understanding of what is going on and provide them with reliable information that helps correct distorted or exaggerated perceptions of the situation.
If her anxiety does not moderate with the passing of time – and if she develops nightmares, difficulty sleeping, obsessive thoughts, loss of appetite, lack of energy and severe bodily reactions – do not hesitate to consult with professionals.
My nonagenarian mother suffers from an overactive bladder. Of course she has a prolapse, has had an operation in the past (but they only last five years as it only cosmetic), and now at her age she has to use a ring pessary.
Even so, it is getting worse. She has been told to cut out coffee (caffeine) and tea (irritant). She suffers from urinary infections, so she takes cranberry tablets and drinks a lot of water. I was wondering if there are other foods that can either help to control the overactive bladder, or make things worse.
I understand that cranberries, if they are eaten without sugar, are acidic and thus not good, but on the other hand, they are said to prevent urinary infections. Tomatoes are also acidic. My mother also drinks orange juice, which is certainly acidic, but it has potassium, which is supposedly good for her. I read that pumpkin seeds are also helpful. Is this true?. As white chocolate contains no caffeine, is it better for her than milk chocolate? Is there a specific diet for this complaint?
E.N., Givat Shmuel
Dr. Opher Caspi, director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva, replies:
At the age of 90, your mother doesn’t have a problem with diet but with the elasticity of the tissues in her urinary system. The first thing for such a person who suffers from an irritable bladder is to make frequent visits to the bathroom and limiting drinking to a minimum – especially after 5 p.m., depending when she goes to bed.
Whether the liquids she drinks are acidic or alkaline does not matter at all. Depending on the condition of the heart and other drugs she takes, she may consider medications with anticholinergic activity and drugs that reduce the contraction of the bladder.
In the world of integrative medicine, it is recommended to try exercising muscles (Kigel and Paula techniques), biofeedback and physiotherapy of the pelvic floor, which are available from all the health funds, as well as acupuncture and herbs.
Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 9100002, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527 or email it to, giving your initials, age and place of residence.