Negative images and occurrences of conflict are all around us in Israel and Palestine. Children learn to fear at a very early age, and it is often a reflection of the fear their older loved ones show, or what they see themselves. Adults here talk freely of the conflict, express their anger and frustration at the situation in front of their children, and in some cases, parents expose young children to the violent images and descriptions of current events on the radio, computer or television. Israeli children – even toddlers – who have lived through wars, know that the sound of a siren indicates that the family must quickly run to a sheltered room. Palestinian children learn to fear soldiers as they see siblings, cousins, parents or other loved ones humiliated, arrested, beaten, or as they smell tear gas seeping through their windows at night.
Overwhelming negative experiences flood a child’s emotions and senses, and their effects on us are evident in the way we function. These experiences often leave children feeling helpless, hopeless, unstable, and they feel that their future is unpredictable; this is referred to as “childhood trauma.” Growing up in a region of ongoing conflict and war, children in Israel and Palestine learn to cope with trauma on a consistent basis, and this often manifests itself in unhealthy ways.
On July 29, Musalaha’s Women’s Department is hosting a one-day conference on “Raising Our Children in Conflict” to address these issues. We have two guest trainers who specialize in dealing with troubled youth, and they will address what trauma looks like in infancy, early childhood, preschool, elementary, middle and high school. They will share how healthy and traumatized children develop during these impressionable periods, providing examples and case studies.
Many times when children experience trauma, they react in a number of ways that specialists can easily identify. Parents and supportive caretakers often struggle to know how to address the behaviors traumatized children exhibit. While these behaviors can emerge after an encounter with a violent situation, they can also occur after a divorce, a move, a loss of a loved one’s health, a change in schools, being bullied, and more. We often see traumatized children acting out and we can assume they are simply trying to frustrate us. Additionally, these children tend to worry about uncertainty and the future. They can also have strong, exaggerated feelings to seemingly mundane situations. In many cases, it is challenging to pinpoint the exact cause of the trauma. Regardless of whether or not we know what brought on these behaviors, we can learn how to address them effectively and empathetically.
This conference will equip participants with a better understanding of what trauma is, what it looks like in the various stages of childhood development, and practical steps of how we can help our children walk through these experiences, recover, and respond in healthy and constructive ways.
Musalaha Publications Department