How you can support your child during bombing
Tips for parents on physical safety and how to reduce stress
The increasing rate of armed conflicts worldwide poses a serious threat to the development of children in many areas of the world. For children affected by crises it is a time of fear and confusion that often means separation from families and friends, destruction of their homes and belongings or even worse, the loss of loved ones.
Evacuation and the siren alarms also constitute a big cause of disruption to children’s lives. Trauma, whether momentary or long term, as you know will affect children in different ways. While the very young ones may not understand the need for evacuation, others will go through fight, flight or freeze responses. It is in these times that parents need to remain as calm, collected and positive as possible.
Here are some important tips for caregivers to be aware of during bombing
- Try to remain as positive as possible. Children read in your behavior what is going on. You do not always have to remain ‘strong’; you are already doing the best you can. Engage in self-care, self-compassion, and express positive emotions.
- Hug your children if they want and allow children to ‘nestle in’ on your lap.
- Sing together childhood songs. It gives a sense of security.
- Avoid open conflict and confrontation among friends and family.
- Accept the way your child feels whatever emotions they show.
- The more you obtain support from others, the better you will be able to help your kids.
- Pray together with your child.
- Do not encourage feelings of angriness or revenge in your children. This would only increase their anxiety.
- For adolescents, ensure to balance between treating them as adults (telling the truth, sharing your thoughts with them, giving responsibility) but also allowing them to ask for support.
- Try to ensure that basic needs are met (food, drink, clothes, nappies, toileting).
- Try to build up a daily routine. Daily routines provide stability and reassurance that at least something is constant and under control.
- Avoid exposing children to graphic or audio details: in real life, on TV, on radio or on your phone.
- Try to avoid directing your child to feel a certain feeling. Some might be very reserved and quiet during attacks while some may be angry. Validate and accept their feelings
Most importantly, don’t forget about physical safety guidelines:
- Show your child how to cover themselves when there is a bombing nearby: lay down on the stomach, cover ears and slightly open the mouth.
- If there is no shelter available, it is better to stand in the staircase of a building and stay away from windows
- Remind your child to avoid touching unknown items or ruins after the bombing to avoid interaction with explosives.
- Practice with your child: What do we do when there is active bombing? What do we do after? If there is a shelter available, practice running to the shelter. Making a routine out of the bombing can significantly reduce stress and provide your child with some sense of control.
- Have an ‘emergency run-bag’ of basic supplies that you can take with you when you move to a shelter or cellar. A backpack is the best option to keep your hands free, but a suitcase with wheels or a rolling bag might also be an option. Keep in mind that you could be running with your luggage.
Here is what to pack in your emergency run-bag:
- Include a three-day supply of non-perishable food and water for everyone in your household.
- Pack a change of clothes for up to a week and personal hygiene items, including wet wipes and hand sanitizer.
- Pack a supply of prescription medications and vitamins. Don’t forget a first aid kit with supplies to treat injuries.
- Bundle up what you’ll need for the little ones. Infant supplies, such as formula or milk, bottles, baby food, diapers, and wipes, may be hard to come by, so pack what you’ll need.
- Carry your ID, important papers, and cards. You’ll want to bring your legal documents and financial records.
- Include a flashlight with batteries, your cell phone and charger, along with some cash in case power is out in the area and ATM’s are not available.
- Don’t forget your pets. Include food, water, medications, travel crates or cages, leash, and/or litter box and litter for your furry friends.
- If you have time, pack valuables or other irreplaceable items, laptop computers, etc. It’s best to back-up all of your computers to a cloud or put the data on a disk or drive to be stored somewhere safe, ahead of time, so you don’t have to do it in a rush.
- If you have time, also grab a few small toys or books, pencils and paper or other small items that will be of help to your children.
Here are some breathing and positive imagination exercise to help reduce stress:
- Smelling flowers: Tell your child to imagine they are smelling a flower, breathing in deeply through the nose and out through the mouth. They can also imagine the flowers in their head.
- The little bunny: Just like a bunny in the garden, encourage your child to take three quick sniffs in through the nose, and one long exhale out through the mouth.
- Stress ball: Make your own stress ball by filling cloth, plastic bags or balloons with dry lentils or rice. Squeeze the ball when feeling stressed to release muscle tension.
Positive imagination exercises:
- Imagine a safe space together, wherever this may be. Let your child express what they see and feel in this place.
- Remind your child about positive past experiences, family and friends.