Dealing with Stress: A Guide for Parents of Students in Israel


How should you deal with stress?  Here is a guide for parents of students  in Israel.

When you read the news and hear about rockets destroying homes in Israel, you are understandably worried about your child in Israel.  SO you call your son or daughter and you ask them how they are… and if people are pulling their kids out of school… and if they are NOT going out… and if they are worried…  THIS IS A MISTAKE.

News Flash: Israel is chock full of people who have lived through many security situations, wars, intifadas etc.  Many of them are in your child’s school and are providing appropriate guidance – calmly and in an organized manner so the students can stay safely in Israel, learn and tour while having a good time even so.  Undoubtedly, security measures have been added to ensure your child’s safety.

Another News Flash:  You are probably not an expert in stress management or security issues.  Maybe some of you are, but most aren’t.

To Call or Not To Call? When you do speak to your child, here are some helpful guidelines for parents who are very worried about their child in Israel:

    1. Don’t project your fears onto your children! Yes, you are understandably nervous, but your child’s gap-year program are on the ground, experienced, and have done this before.  After speaking to numerous students here, I have been happily surprised to hear that the majority of students are coping very well.  Yes, there are some exceptions, and our previous blog discusses symptoms of stress to look out for.

Most students are doing fine, they are following instructions, staying informed, and continue to enjoy their year – albeit with more caution.  But when parents call and continually ask them about their stress, asking if people are leaving Israel, and voicing their concerns over and over – THAT makes them more stressed.

I observed once an incident in a playground in which two toddlers fell and scratched their knees.  One mother remained calm, telling her daughter that she was ok and she should continue playing.  The child continued playing.  The second mother jumped up, said (loudly) “Oh my G-d!  are you ok? Is it bleeding?”, grabbing the child and looking for injuries. Well I watched as this child registered his mother’s panic, realized that he was supposed to be crying, and then (after a brief delay to process her response) proceeded to cry.  A self-fulfilling prophecy: mother expected panic and pain… and got it.   As parents, our reactions very much influence our children’s reactions (even as young adults), so monitor your response and don’t make things worse!

    1. Don’t get obsessed with the news. An article in the Jerusalem post outlines how to keep informed without being overwhelmed by news.  Its alright to keep informed, but checking your smartphone and social media pages every few minutes is not helpful, and in fact can make your emotional reactions worse.  

  Yes, you need to keep informed.  Your son / daughter is definitely keeping informed.  But from minute to minute – you can become overwhelmed with stress and this is unhelpful to you and your kids.

    1. Take care of yourselves and your families, eat, sleep, go out, have fun. A recent article discusses ways to de-stress that can be very useful.
    1. Stop calling your kids all the time – ~once a day should suffice. Remember that only 2 decades ago gap-year students didn’t have cell phones and somehow kept in touch with their families.  You as parents did fine during your own gap-year. Let your kids breathe.  Some parents are calling with every bit of news, every attack.  This isn’t healthy.  Let your son/ daughter have their year without you breathing down their necks.  They know you love them – but let them breathe.
    1. Monitor your child (and yourselves) for signs of overwhelming stress.  Symptoms are listed in our previous blog.  Stress can be handled in many ways, and oftentimes is temporary.  EMA care can evaluate the situation and make appropriate referrals in conjunction with their program.
    1. If you are concerned that your child is not exhibiting safe behaviors, is not listening to security instructions, or is behaving in a self-destructive way – get them help. Some schools have counselors, but not all.  Almost no programs have health care professionals (not medics) on staff.  EMA Care can assist together with the program in evaluating the situation and getting support for your child.  In rare instances, the student does have to return home for his or her own safety.

Dr. Aaron is volunteering to speak about stress management and safety at any yeshiva/seminary/ gap-year program. If you are interested in this seminar for your child's school, contact us through the website so we can make arrangements.  alternatively, contact the school and forward our contact information.

Dr. Eliana M. Aaron is the director of EMA Care.  Dr. Aaron received a Doctor of Nursing Practice from Yale University and has 20 years of experience in nursing, health advocacy, health education and as a nurse educator.

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