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Emergency Routine with Children

How do you create a routine during emergencies at home? How do you enhance resilience among children? What can be done, and what should not be done?

In times of war, parents have a double challenge: cope with the situation themselves as well as mediate the complex circumstances for children.
First of all, as parents, take care of yourselves! Enhancing your own resilience helps you be there for your children.
Remember to drink and eat healthy foods.

Try to find a way to allow yourselves several moments to gather your strength. Deep breaths and physical activity can help (even at home).
If possible, it is recommended to meet in a safe place, spend time together, and share childcare with other parents, friends and family, or do anything that helps you feel calmer and more relaxed.

How to create a routine during emergencies

Maintaining a daily routine (as much as possible) is particularly important for both children and adults. For children, having a routine at home is essential and comforting, especially during times when numerous changes are happening around us.

  • Sustain a cycle of sleep and wakefulness. Follow consistent sleep hours by going to bed at a reasonable time and waking up at a reasonable hour.
  • Brush your teeth before going to bed and in the morning.
  • Wear clothes during the day and pajamas at night.
  • Eat regular meals at predetermined hours, and do not skip a family meal if possible.
  • Take breaks around the house, if feasible, and use them for movement or meeting with friends.

Further ideas for everyday and especially during emergencies

  • It is advisable to involve the children in the preparation of nutritious and healthy meals. Engage them in the cooking process and assign tasks based on their ages and abilities. This may include decorating the plate with vegetables, creating flowers or drawings from vegetables, setting the table, and clearing the table after the meal.
  • Sit and eat a family meal together.
  • Engage in moderate physical activity to release bodily tension, preferably with the whole family.
  • Listen to music, read books, draw, and write.
  • Meet with friends in a secure location.
  • Breathe slow, soothing breaths.

How to inhale (and exhale) to calm down in a state of anxiety

  • The bubbles that soothe: a short video will give you some air (Hebrew). Liat Dotan, an educational psychologist, demonstrates a simple and effective way to calm ourselves or our children down with breathing exercises. Take a minute and take a deep breath.
  • It is advisable to limit exposure to news and content related to the security situation as much as possible, especially in the presence of children. It is recommended not to turn on the television in the presence of children of any age, even without a sound. The same precaution applies to videos on the phone. Children pick up our facial and vocal reactions. when we use our phones. It is advisable to do updates away from the children. Children, even infants, can hear everything, so it is essential to censor conversations even when they seem busy or far away. If the child is exposed anyway, it is important to mediate the information and let them talk about the things they saw or heard.
  • Talk to the children about issues that instill confidence, such as going into a safe zone during a siren. It is advisable to tell them about the people that help all of us, such as the security forces, caregivers, volunteers, or the Iron Dome.
  • It is recommended to repeat calming but true sentences such as “You are safe now”, “I am here with you”, and “I love you”.

To explain the situation to children, we wrote an example story for 3 and 4-year-old children: “We have a fight with our neighbors over the land of Israel where we live. This is a quarrel that has been happening for a long time, and sometimes it becomes stronger. Our army knows what to do and how to protect us until this fight is over”.

For older children, you can add and say that our neighbors are sometimes shooting missiles at us, but our army knows how to handle these situations. We have something called the Iron Dome that helps us stay safe. We trust our army to protect us and keep us informed. It is essential to talk about these things with confidence.

Let your child ask questions and reply accordingly. If you do not have the answer, it is OK to say so, or that you check, or that you think about it and answer later. It is advisable to respond thoughtfully and carefully, avoiding panic and considering your words carefully. In any case, it is essential that your answer preserves the child’s sense of confidence.

Allow your child to talk about whatever they want, whether it seems important to you or not. Let the child ask questions and express themselves emotionally. Do not dismiss unpleasant feelings such as fear or anger with the situation.

Try to engage the children in doing things for other people, such as drawing pictures for the family (maybe grandma and grandpa) or for soldiers. These actions provide a sense of importance and significance.

Expression of distress

Children may express distress through various signs, including restlessness, withdrawal, or, conversely, outbursts of bad temper, aggression, and stubbornness that were not typical of the child before. Some children may report physical complaints, such as stomachaches or headaches. Additionally, there may be signs of hypertension or increased dependence on parents. In young children, developmental regression may be observed, such as speech withdrawal and bedwetting.

Emergency situations pose unique challenges. Children have the resilience to overcome these complex and tense times. On these intricate days, it is advisable to provide the children with a sense of security and relax some of your usual rules (for instance, sleeping in their own bed). However, in cases of unusually adverse reactions, it is recommended to consult healthcare professionals. This can be done through the support call centers.