The current situation in Israel is very confusing for everyone, especially for children. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to do other than offer support during these confusing times.
Whether your kids are here with you or are back home worried about you – here are a few tips on how to emotionally support them during times of conflict.
Keep physical proximity
Your presence and physical proximity are the most basic forms of comfort for children at any age. By staying physically close, your children can remain calm as your presence provides a sense of security. Be sure to keep eye contact with your child, hold hands, sit close to one another, hug and pet them in an age-appropriate manner. There’s no need to over-explain the situation and repeat reassuring messages.
If your kids are far away, you can use technology to bridge the physical gap. Send them a selfie of you smiling, keep them updated on your current mood and situation, and initiate video chats so they will see you’re OK.
Be honest, yet confident
It’s important to provide credible and simple information. You can say that “The situation over the last couple of days is not simple” rather than “Don’t worry, everything will be OK.”
If your kids are with you, be sure to add information about how you personally plan to protect them. For example, you can reassure them by saying “We are now at a safe space” and “The proper authorities are working to protect us.”
Reassuring your kids who are back home is not necessarily simpler, just different. Instead of telling them how you plan to protect them, you can tell them about the measures you take to protect yourself. For example, you can share the location of the nearest shelter.
Create a healthy diversion
Initiate a fun activity such as playing a game, listening to music, cooking, etc. This is not the time for over explanations of this complicated situation.
While cooking and physically participating in fun activities can be challenging if your kids are far away, you can definitely divert their attention from the complexity of your situation by sharing fun memes or playing group games online.
Prevent exposure to age-inappropriate content
Keep a close eye on the subject of your own conversations. Especially watch out for adult conversations about the situation, rumors, and exposure to the news.
Share your concerns about inappropriate content exposure with other adults who care for your kids and try to create a diversion plan together.
Legitimize any type of feeling that comes up
It’s OK to be scared. It’s OK to cry, shake, or express any type of emotion that comes out of this situation. These are natural physical reactions to a very unnatural situation. Moreover, this is the body’s way of calming itself down. Don’t be alarmed by physical, emotional, or literal expressions of your children’s feelings. More importantly, don’t try to suppress these emotions, regardless of how they are expressed.
Tell a complete story
It’s important to tell a story with a beginning and an end. Stress out that this specific event is now over and you are going back to routine. You can say that “There were sirens tonight, which is why we went into a protected area, and now, we are going back to routine” all while being prepared for any upcoming situation.
Remember: You are the source of your child’s sense of confidence.
Regardless of their age, your kids are looking up to you. They see you – whether you are stressed or calm. Remember that your reaction is a mirror through which they understand the situation. Mind your own reactions and ask for help in case you need it.