How to Calm a Child During an Air Raid Alert and Panic

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Topic: Psychology

Air raids and shelling are extremely stressful events for anyone, especially for children. Their perception of safety is disrupted, which can lead to panic and anxiety. Here are some strategies that can help calm a child in such conditions:

  1. Ensuring Physical Safety First of all, ensure the child's physical safety by leading them to shelter or another safe place. Create a comfortable environment using favorite toys, pillows, or blankets. The physical feeling of safety is fundamental for further calming.

  2. Stay Calm Children are very sensitive to the emotional states of adults. Your own ability to stay calm will be conveyed to the child, showing that the situation is under control, and you help them feel more protected. Parents should demonstrate confidence themselves but also show that they have experienced unpleasant situations in their lives and share how they coped with them. The best way to convince a child of something is, as always, to lead by example!

  3. Simple and Clear Information Explain to the child without critical details what is happening, using simple and soothing words. Avoid technical details or horrifying news that may increase anxiety.

  4. Listen and Validate Feelings Allow the child to express their fears and anxieties. Validate their feelings by saying it’s understandable why they might feel scared and that you will go through this situation together and everything will be fine.

  5. Breathing Exercises and Relaxation Teach the child simple breathing exercises or relaxation techniques to help them calm down. Slow, deep breathing can reduce stress and anxiety. The 4-7-8 rule.

  6. Distraction Engage the child in activities: read a book, play calm games, draw, or do simple crafts. Give them tasks to complete, like drawing a picture or working with Lego. Distraction can help shift focus from anxious thoughts.

  7. Routine Actions If possible, stick to a regular routine, as familiarity can provide a sense of normalcy and stability.

Immediate Calming Tactics

  • Physical Contact: Gentle hugs can create a sense of safety. It is important for the child to feel your physical presence and support.
  • Breathing Exercises: Teach the child the 4-7-8 breathing technique (inhale for a count of four, hold breath for a count of seven, exhale for a count of eight), which helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system and calm down.
  • Calm Dialogue: Speak in a quiet, calm tone, validating the child's feelings and reassuring them of your support.

Strategies for Overcoming Fear

  • Overcoming Fear: Teach children to gradually overcome fears. If a child is afraid of dogs, you can visit a zoo. Fear of thunderstorms can be "treated" by explaining weather phenomena. One of the best therapies is drawing the fear. The fear can be shown as a scary wolf, then cut the drawing, and later glue it back together, giving the wolf other "kind" features. This shows that fear is sometimes caused by things that are only scary at first glance.
  • Feeling of Safety: Start therapy by showing the child that no matter what happens, there are people (relatives, friends) who will always support them. When the child is nervous, remind them that they are safe and give them the opportunity to talk about all their fears. Determine a time and a safe place where the child can speak out.
  • Calming Rituals: Teach the child to cope with fears by developing certain calming rituals together. For example, tell them that when they feel scared, they should start counting to 10, or take three deep breaths. Or hold a pendant in their hand and say, "I am safe" or "This scares me, but I can handle it." Creating rituals and encouraging overcoming fear is an important part of the work that needs to be done together with the child.

Preliminary: Developing a Safety Plan

  • Create a safety plan with the child that includes simple steps they can take during an alert. This will help the child feel more in control of the situation.

Conclusion

During air raids and other critical situations when the city is under attack, it is especially important to show care and attention to the emotional state of children. Using effective calming strategies will help reduce their anxiety and fear, ensuring a sense of safety and control over the situation. It is important to remember that each child's reaction to stressful events is unique, so approaches to calming should be adapted to the individual needs and age characteristics of each child.

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