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How to talk to a child in an emergency: a crisis manual


“For Tel Aviv, this was probably the most difficult night in history. Never before have so many missiles been fired at our city at the same time and with such frequency. About three hundred missiles were fired at us”.

The events of May 2021 are recalled by Tatyana Lieberman. It's hard to read, it's impossible to comprehend.

"My child and I spent about an hour in the bomb shelter listening to sirens and shot down rockets.

Since the morning there was not much change in our routine life. The only thing that added a little stress: citizens did not get enough sleep and kindergartens and schools canceled classes. Besides this everything was working.

The history of the Arab-Israeli conflict is a hundred years old, but the state of Israel didn’t exist until 1948. It sounds crazy, but the residents are used to the sirens. It is their reality.

But that does not mean that Israelis are unfamiliar with the feeling of fear. Especially for children.

Shellings, terrorist attacks and other emergencies. How do you protect your child from psychological trauma, and survive with the least losses in the escalation of relations with neighboring countries?

Employees portal detki spoke with psychologists and prepared a special crisis manual for families with children. Read it!

Anna Rose, a social worker at the Center for Psychological Assistance to victims of wars and terrorist attacks in Israel "Natal", advises how to cope with an emergency situation:

"You must remember that the relationship between the state of parents and children is inextricable: calm parents - calm children.

To know what to do and what to say requires professional help, you should not be afraid to ask for it, you need to learn to express your feelings. It is very important for adults in a state of stress to stick to one line of behavior. In order not to get into a situation: mom is hysterical, dad is quietly watching TV, grandma is hurriedly packing things, going somewhere.

Remember that taking care of someone helps calm down: you take care of the child, the child takes care of the toy.

Even in a tense situation, keep to the daily routine as much as possible, talk to your children, let them speak out. Explain what is happening, stress that it is only temporary. Remind them of similar experiences in the past and what helped them cope then.

Tell what precautions you are taking and what the child must do. Allow him or her to take an active position: take a toy or water bottle into the protected room. Constantly let your child feel that he or she is not alone, you are all together and will cope with what is happening.


  1. Adaptation. The psychological state of many children, mostly in adolescence, may not be negatively affected by an emergency at all.
  2. Temporary maladjustment. As a result of the experience, the child has difficulty sleeping and loses motivation to do anything. But everything normalizes within a few days or weeks.
  3. Long-term inability to adapt. In this case, the reaction is more abrupt, the condition does not improve over time, on the contrary, it worsens. Such children are at risk of developing behavioral disorders, the most well-known of which is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Inna Sokolovskaya, an IGUM family counselor, tells how adults can help a child avoid psychological trauma during shelling and sirens:

"Parents, first and foremost, must help themselves.

In order for the little ones not to be frightened, it is necessary that the adults who are near them are not scared.

Everyone is familiar with the situation when a very small child, faced with something unpleasant, first looks at their parents and tries to understand how they feel about what has happened. For example, the baby falls and gets hurt, and he looks at his mother, as if asking her how to react. If mom is frightened, the baby will also be upset and cry, but if she smiles at him or her calmly and encouragingly, the child is also likely to calm down right away".


"You shouldn't focus on the external threat, on the fact that our enemies wish us harm or are trying to do us harm. It is better to say briefly that you have to go to a protected room at the signal, because it is more reliable than other rooms. Now it is necessary to be here. If kids will persistently ask why they cannot go out, you can say that it is safer and quieter here now.

There is no need to answer unasked questions.

If the child does not ask what is happening outside, there is no reason to discuss the subject. If such a question arises, you should give truthful but as general answers as possible: "It may not be safe there, but it is better here. When trying to specify what kind of danger is involved, it is better not to go into details, showing with all your appearance that there is no reason for anxiety.”


- When you are in a protected space, practice deep breathing through your nose: fill your belly with air, then slowly let it out. These actions will help to calm you down.

- Try to live a normal life, including eating on time, going to bed and getting up at regular times, and going to school or work.

- Make sure children don't break the rules set at home: cleaning their room, doing their homework, etc. Allow them to walk in safe areas and be sensitive to their needs.

- Sports, dancing, yoga or massage can help with stress and anxiety.

- Keep an open mind between family members. Keeping your cell phone on all the time helps maintain a sense of security and reduces anxiety.

- Don't watch more television than usual. Excessive information exacerbates anxiety.

  • Children who have experienced trauma may show signs of tension and anxiety in their behavior.
  • The child often brings the experience to life in stories or games.
  • He asks the same questions over and over about the events that occurred.
  • The child appears "detached" and self-absorbed.
  • A reminder of the event (a word, a picture, a memory) leads to changes in behavior or physiological changes (trembling, rapid breathing, increased sweating).
  • The child is less sociable and loses interest in things that attracted him or her before.
  • The child is restless, prone to irritation, anger, bouts of rage or violence, often cries for no reason.
  • The child has difficulty concentrating.
  • The child is stressed and impatient for no apparent reason.
  • The child suffers from pain (headaches, stomach aches, etc.).

Be patient, if possible, the child needs to be seen by a specialist. PTSD is a serious psychological trauma, it needs to be worked out as soon as possible.

Regression - the child "falls into childhood. Deteriorates in speaking level, stops asking a potty-train, etc.

Gently help regain previous skills by treating the child according to the age for which he or she is feeling. For example, if the child is wetting the bed again, accept this and go through the weaning process again.

Difficulties in breaking up.

Be patient. Give children more time when changing environments, especially when separating and before bedtime.


Show your child that it's natural to be afraid and you don't have to be a hero. Tell them that you are always there to protect them.

Breaking the rules.

Try to follow the rules in the house. When children stick to routines and know what to expect, they feel more confident.


Encourage children to express their anxiety during the day. Talk about bad dreams. Try to come up with a good ending to the nightmare you see with your child. This situation provides an additional opportunity to adequately explain to your child the changes that are happening to him or her.

 By Ekaterina Komova on the basis of an article by Olga Ben-Arie


"After the basements, everything seems like heaven. The child asks if we are going to be bombed here.”