TEL AVIV (Aug. 22)
The Education Ministry has published instructions for teachers to help children cope with the fear of war.
The new coping curriculum will be ready when the fall school term begins on Sept. 2.
“Children hear their parents talking about gas masks and the possibility of war, and it is bound to increase their anxiety,” said Dr. Robert Asch, the ministry’s chief psychologist.
Israel was under threat of gas attack by President Saddam Hussein of Iraq even before he invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, precipitating an international crisis which has not abated.
While Israel has not been directly involved, there is widespread fear that it might be.
Asch believes there is little evidence that children are overly disturbed by the threat of war at present. “But as the situation continues, the anxiety felt by their parents will be passed on to them,” he said.
The education system must be prepared to help them deal with their fears, Asch said.
Teachers have been instructed to provide their pupils with reliable information about what is happening, including simple facts about geography, how far Iraq is from Israel and what countries are involved in the conflict.
Children’s natural anxieties can be eased by providing facts and holding classroom discussions, psychologists say.
According to Asch, young children should be encouraged not only to discuss their fears but to put them on paper in drawings.
“Issues that we avoid talking about are seen by children as ‘bad,’” he said.
“When issues are talked about in a factual and relatively calm manner, the child will understand them in their correct perspective,” he added.
Psychologists point out that anxiety and concern are not necessarily negative feelings, and indeed can be used to expose hidden fears that otherwise would fester and erupt in panic.
Asch pointed out that the education system and Israeli society as a whole has experience dealing with tense situations, including wars, terrorist attacks and multiple-death road accidents.
Education Ministry officials, meanwhile, completed their inspection of school air-raid shelters during the vacation period and found almost all of them to be in good condition.