Rena Perlmutter

Parenting in a time of war

Parenting in a Time of War

As parents we act as role models for our children. Some children are born with an innate ability to be more resilient than other children. All children look towards their parents for signals on how to react in any given situation. When a parent hears about the passing away of a distant relative, a child will notice if the parent is sad, will they call the family members etc. These actions are stored in the memory and will be retrieved when they are in a similar situation.

Similarly, children look towards their parents to guide them during stressful situations. One of the most stressful situations is wartime. When a parent becomes hysterical, it will then cause the children to react with fear and hysterics, or they might shut off their emotions in order to disassociate with the trauma. These are not healthy coping mechanisms, which can lead to future mental health problems.

Keeping calm is very important during stressful times. Being calm gives children a sense of security and leadership. Children need to know that they can rely on their parents to keep them safe

Here are a few tips to help your child feel safe. In return it will also make parents feel safe


Validate your child’s feelings. Children are allowed to feel scared ,they need to know that it is ok to feel scared. Once a feeling is named it is easier to let go of it and to move on. When a child does not have the ability to name the emotion or does not feel secure enough to expose his emotions then the emotions stays with them. A child needs to feel that their parents are strong enough to hold their emotions, so they can lean on the parent.

Safety Plan

Everyone should know what is expected of them during a siren. Otherwise there is screaming and panic. If there is a baby or toddler in the home, someone should be assigned the job of taking him to the safe room. Young children need to know that they should walk, not run to the safe room. It might be a good idea to have a few trial runs, so it becomes more natural. If there is space, every child should keep a toy or something that gives them comfort in the room. Calm parents are a calm family.

Go over rules as to what to do if your child is at a friend’s house. They need to be told to go into the safe room with their friends and family and to call when they are allowed to leave. If they are outside, to quickly look for a place to lie down on the street. This prevents being struck by shrapnels. 

Children are Curious

Children of all ages have questions and need answers. When answering a question you need to be honest. Depending on the age of a child will determine how much they need to know, an eight year old does not need to know the same as an eighteen year old.

If a child asks “ Mommy are you scared?” You can answer yes, and then ask the child if you are scared. This can lead into a healthy discussion about their feelings.  Usually a child is asking if his or her feelings are normal. Be honest but there is no need to elaborate.

Be Constructive

Boredom allows our minds to wander and go to very scary places. When we are proactive and feeling good about ourselves then our emotions become regulated. Make a list with your child of the activities that they enjoy doing like coloring, baking etc. Make sure they have access to things that they enjoy doing.

The highest form of self actualization is giving to others. Baking for a neighbor, making cards are ways to give to others and empowering a good feeling in your children.

List the things we can and can not change

Gives everyone a sense of security. I have no control over the sirens, but I can go to a safe room. I can not stop the war but I can send a card or bake cookies for the soldiers. These are some examples of letting go of the things that we can not change that makes one feel vulnerable and replacing it with the things we can do in order to feel in control.

Quality Time

Use this time at home to spend real quality time with your family. Take out games and arts and crafts etc. This will make your home an emotionally safe home.

Limit the amount of Screen Time 

Children do not need to be shown the graphic details that are being shown on the TV. They do not need to know everything. Even adults should limit the amount of time that they spend glued to the news. Friends of mine who started to limit their time looking at the news during war time said they felt calmer, happier and safer. Give your children these feelings.


When there is a routine and clearly defined expectations children and adults feel safer and secure. Sit down and make a daily routine with chores, reading time etc. without it, day becomes night and night becomes day giving a feeling of instability. Routine will also make it easier to go back to the old routine when the war finishes.

Make sure you take care of yourself

Even during times of war parents need to carve out time for themselves in order to recharge their internal batteries. Parents who take care of themselves also can take care of their children. They display more patience, creativity etc

In Conclusion

Parents know their children best . If you feel like your child needs extra help, then reach out to a professional. During times of war children and adults might be extra anxious. They might need some extra reassurance that you love them and are doing everything you can to keep them safe. 

Rena Perlmutter- Parent Coach

I can be contacted at

About the Author
Rena Perlmutter is a mother of 5. Originally from California, she has lived in Beit Shemesh for 25 years. With a Bsc in Education, a Ministry of Education Parenting Coach certification, Rena combines DBT and twelve steps in her practice. Rena specializes in coaching parents of teens who are struggling with mental health issues and substance use disorders.
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