Anxieties and tensions following the wave of terrorism: our children need attention

We have not yet had time to recover from the uncertainty and pressures that accompanied, and still accompany, the corona plague, and here the latest wave of terrorist attacks is once again flooding with anxieties, pressures and worries. The feeling of lack of control, insecurity and fear of continuing with the routine, along with intense news broadcasts about the escalation in the situation, affect not only us but also our children.

Naturally, we are more sensitive to negative information in our environment. Survival-wise, our brain is wired to scan for potential threats and protect us from existential danger, so it is more susceptible to adverse events. Studies show that this human tendency, a phenomenon called “negative bias”, has a far-reaching effect on our attention, memory, decision making and behavior.

For example, we recognize negative positive words faster, and process negative information faster. Negative events gain more weight and permeate over a longer period of time into our awareness, affecting the way we interpret our reality, ourselves, and the world around us.

Corona – anxiety during isolation (Photo: Ingeimage)

This brain bias may lead to a constant need to be connected to the news in order to “be up to date” and prepare for the worst, but there are costs to this on a psychological and physical level. Prolonged exposure to the news has been found in studies to be associated with exacerbation of worry, catastrophic thinking, feelings of helplessness, increased nervousness and worry, increased pessimism and also increased vulnerability of the immune system, digestive system and hormonal system.

For children, the situation may be even more complex. Uncontrolled exposure to news broadcasts from an early age can undermine the sense of protection and lead to restlessness, difficulty concentrating and falling asleep, behavioral problems such as aggression, increasing anxiety and even depression. So what can be done?

Start ourselves: Personal example – As we are reminded of flight safety guidelines, in an emergency, before we are able to assist another person, we must start by wearing an oxygen mask ourselves. If we are worried, restless and checking the news at any given moment, we will have a very hard time reassuring our children. Self-regulation is important both in the dose of our exposure to the news, and also in our recovery that can recharge us with the energy to cope.
For each of us it may be different but identification and action are very important, both on a personal level, and as a modeling for our children how to cope. Does it mean for you to listen to music? Going for a walk? Listen to an inspiring lecture? Talk to a close person? Or just take a deep breath?

Treatment of anxiety and depression (Photo: canava)Treatment of anxiety and depression (Photo: canava)


Mediation dialogue instead of avoidance –
When we try to protect children from overexposure to the news and avoid talking about the situation at home, we are actually causing the opposite result. Instead of talking “over the head” of the children or “in between”, it is important to deliberately create the conditions for a close and open discourse. Sit down with the children and ask them to share what they know or have heard about the events, and what they think and feel in their wake. It is important to help them separate facts from opinions or rumors and to mediate the information in a way that is tailored to their development, while avoiding the flood of unnecessary information.

Produce islands of routine and stability – It is important to help children identify the things we can actively influence (as opposed to the things we can not control like the situation, weather or traffic jams) and build together rituals and habits that produce order, protection and a sense of control. With younger children, it is possible to create together an imaginary or concrete object that gives security and a feeling of protection such as a “worry doll”, “bitter-flexible” or a picture reminiscent of a “safe place”.

Legitimacy, empathy and support – It is important to allow children to express the full range of emotions and remind them that all emotions are normal and natural as part of our being human. It is natural to feel helpless and uncertain in such situations. With young children projective stimuli can be used to express emotions such as drawing, writing in a diary, doll, or children’s book. This is an important opportunity not only for developing children’s awareness of the emotions they are experiencing and for developing emotional intelligence, but also for identifying the forces that exist within them that will enable them to deal with challenging situations in the past, and developing self-efficacy.

Remind them of the positive that exists – it is important to show children the full picture and also expose them to the “good news” that occurs daily alongside the negative events. Encourage children to actively seek out the good things that are happening in kindergarten or school and also in the wider environment, and share them daily. By doing so we can enable stress reduction and broadening of perspective on reality, as well as strengthening their optimism and mental resilience muscle.

Along with all this, it is also important to be aware of the situation of the children and consult with qualified professionals if necessary.

The author is an expert in positive psychology, resilience and meaning, head of the Department of Education and a senior faculty member at Achva Academic College


Source: Maariv.co.il – סגנון-לייף סטייל by www.maariv.co.il.

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