How to support a child during shelling and help them cope with fear
Air raid alarms, air defense systems, or the sound of explosions can scare any child. The All-Ukrainian Mental Health Program initiated by Olena Zelenska, "Are You OK?", shared methods that can help children cope with fear.
Svitlana Royz, a child and family psychologist, provided recommendations on how adults should behave in a critical situations. The tips were published on the resource's Instagram page.
To support a child during shelling and help them cope with fear, the expert advises following a certain algorithm.
The expert recommends saying phrases like "I'm with you," "We'll make it," and "We're in a shelter now, we're together."
Support the senses
According to Royz, you need to explain to your child what the air raid sound means. For example, you can say that it was made on purpose so that everyone would pay attention to it. The psychologist emphasizes that it is necessary to explain to the child that it can be really frightening, but it is a way to let them know that the military has noticed a threat and must neutralize it. They are protecting our citizens.
Explain the sounds of explosions
The expert advised telling children that the sounds they can hear mean that air defense is working and that the defenders are taking care of their safety by shooting down enemy targets.
Support the child
Royz emphasizes that you should ask the child if he or she is scared and support him or her with words like: "This is really scary and unpleasant. But you are doing great. You're doing great. I'm with you."
Support with actions
The psychologist notes that when a child has a sense of at least minimal control over the situation, it will help him or her cope with anxiety. In this case, you can offer to help with something, for example, to bring water, or to take care of their toy or pet.
In particular, Royz advises using some techniques as well:
- Breathing exercises - inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth, and accompany it with sounds that would entertain the child.
- Blowing soap bubbles to stimulate slower exhalation.
- Sing songs or blow something off a hard surface.
- Listen to audio stories.
- Suck on a lollipop or chew on dried fruit.
- Say a witty tease for every loud sound.
- Play "Elephant," which waves its ears - open and close them with your palms.
- Play "Insects" - "catch mosquitoes" in a shelter, clapping your hands.
The psychologist also advises telling the child that he or she is brave and resilient when the threat has passed. In particular, you can support them with the words: "It's over. We are safe. You held on or held on like that. We were together, and we made it. We did well." She adds that it is also worth telling the child in which situations he or she behaved well, for example, breathing, helping someone, etc.