Helping Children Cope

July 16, 2014
We are living in very difficult times. In less than a week, from Tuesday July 8 to Monday, July 14, some 1,000 missiles have fallen in major population centers throughout Israel. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli children are living with constant fear.Sharon Moskowitz, a Social Worker for the Achiya Developmental Center offers some practical advice what we can do to help our children cope.
Children naturally experience fear. But today, as a result of the present explosive (no pun intended) situation, with its constant air raid sirens, and frightening media reports, many children, and even adults, experience real distress.The most important recommendation is to make sure to keep the lines of communication between you and your child open. Children react differently, and almost every reaction is normal in a situation that is far from normal.
Children express their fears in several ways:
Physical- elevated pulse, heavy breathing, perspiration, difficulty sleeping, frequent need to urinate, headaches
Cognitive – lack of concentration, difficulty solving problems
Emotional - fear, depression, anxiety, sadness, anger 

Behavioral- hyperactivity, incessant talking, constant touching, social disengagement, and a return to earlier behavior patterns, such as thumb sucking, baby talk, and so on.

 

Advice to parents differs according to the age of the child.

 

Up to age two, a child’s ability to express feelings is very limited. Children might feel that because of the situation, they are not getting as much attention as they need, and as a result, they will become angry and upset. The solution: love, warmth and attention.

 

Between the ages of three and five the child is able to express himself, yet lacks the ability to think logically. During these years, children are ruled by their emotions. If children sense that the parents are under extreme pressure, are not able to cope, and are confused, the child will feel that he is not protected, and become confused. It’s important to provide the child with an opportunity to express his emotions through games, books, and art. Make time for your child, but refrain from long conversations about the “situation.”

 

Children between the ages of 6-11 understand that we are presently in an emergency situation and that life is temporarily different. He may display fear and anxiety. It is important to speak openly with your child, and provide him with reliable and clear information, while trying as much as possible to continue with the normal daily schedule. Practice basic safety measures, such as what to do when the siren goes off, and give the child responsibilities. In fulfilling his duties, he will forget about his sense of fear.

 

Between the ages of 12 to 14, peers play an important part in the child’s life, and determine his sense of normalcy. As with children between the ages of 6-11, it’s important to provide the child with reliable, clear information, and give him responsibilities.

 

Between the ages of 14-18 children have a real sense of what’s going on in the world, and their fears are similar to that of an adult. They usually will want to be together with their parents, and feel protective of their families. They might try to appear strong and fearless, and therefore there might be physical manifestations, such as headaches or stomach aches. Encourage the child to talk about his feelings, and give legitimacy to his emotions.

 

In every case, the most important key to helping your child cope is your ability to cope with the situation! When parents succeed in transmitting a sense of trust in Hashem, while calmly taking the necessary precautions to assure the family’s safety, their children will feel secure. If the child is extremely anxious and frightened, remember to hug him, listen to him and give legitimacy to his fears. Remain calm and refrain from criticizing his fear. Encourage conversation, and give the child opportunity to express how he feels and what is bothering him. Ask him what you can do to help him cope, and let him know that you believe he has the ability to cope. Remember that knowledge reduces fears, yet, limit the child’s exposure to newspapers and radio reports, which can be very frightening. And of course don’t forget to encourage the child to daven for a positive outcome, and let him know that his prayers are very precious in the eyes of Hashem.

*If a child’s fear continues after the conclusion of the present hostilities, it is important to bring the child for a proper evaluation.

Photo: We are living in very difficult times. In less than a week, from Tuesday July 8 to Monday, July 14, some 1,000 missiles have fallen in major population centers throughout Israel. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli children are living with constant fear. Sharon Moskowitz, a Social Worker for the Achiya Developmental Center offers some practical advice how to help our children cope. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Children naturally experience fear. But today, as a result of the present explosive (no pun intended) situation,  with its constant air raid sirens, and frightening media reports, many children, and even adults, are experiencing real distress. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>The most important recommendation is to make sure to keep the lines of communication between you and your child open. Children react differently, and almost every reaction is normal in a situation that is far from normal. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Children express fears in several ways: </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Physical- elevated pulse, heavy breathing, perspiration, difficulty sleeping, frequent need to urinate, headaches </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Cognitive – lack of concentration, difficulty solving problems</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Emotional - fear, depression, anxiety, sadness, anger</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Behavioral-  hyperactivity, incessant talking, constant touching, social disengagement, and a return to earlier behavior patterns, such as thumb sucking, baby talk, and so on. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Advice to parents differs according to the age of the child. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Up to age two, a child's ability to express feelings is very limited. Children might feel that because of the situation, they are not getting as much attention as they need, and as a result, they will become angry and upset. The solution: love, warmth and attention. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Between the ages of three and five the child is able to express himself, yet lacks the ability to think logically. During these years, children are ruled by their emotions. If children sense that the parents are under extreme pressure, are not able to cope, and are confused, the child will feel that he is not protected, and become confused. It's important to provide the child with an opportunity to express his emotions through games, books, and art. Make time for your child, but refrain from long conversations about the "situation." </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Children between the ages of 6-11 understand that we are presently in an emergency situation and that life is temporarily different. He may display fear and anxiety. It is important to speak openly with your child, and provide him with reliable and clear information, while trying as much as possible to continue with the normal daily schedule. Practice basic safety measures, such as what to do when the siren goes off, and give the child responsibilities. In fulfilling his duties, he will forget about his sense of fear.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Between the ages of 12 to 14, peers play an important part in the child's life, and determine his sense of normalcy. As with children between the ages of 6-11, it's important to provide the child with reliable, clear information, and give him responsibilities. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Between the ages of 14-18 children experience fear. They have a real sense of what's going on in the world, and their fears are similar to that of an adult. They usually will want to be together with their parents, and feel protective of their families. They might try to appear strong and fearless, and therefore there might be physical manifestations, such as headaches or stomach aches. Encourage the child to talk about his feelings, and give legitimacy to his emotions.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>In all instances, the most important key to helping your child cope is your ability to cope with the situation! When parents  succeed in transmitting a sense of trust in Hashem, while calmly taking the necessary precautions to assure the family's safety, their children will feel secure. If the child is extremely anxious and frightened, remember to hug him, listen to him and give legitimacy to his fears. Remain calm and refrain from criticizing his fear. Encourage conversation, and give the child opportunity to express how he feels and what is bothering him. Ask him what you can do to help him cope, and let him know that you believe he has the ability to cope.  Remember that knowledge reduces fears, yet, limit the child's exposure to newspapers and radio reports, which can be very frightening. And of course don't forget to encourage the child to daven for a positive outcome, and let him know that his prayers are very precious in the eyes of Hashem.  </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>*If a child's fear continues after the conclusion of the present hostilities, it is important to bring the child for a proper evaluation.