The stress and anxiety caused by years of living under the rocket threat have left their mark on the children of Sderot. A study presented at a conference in Jerusalem Monday revealed that 45% of the town's children under the age of six suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is expressed through developmental regression, sleeping disorders or aggression.
The data, which has been collected since 2003, also indicated that 41% of mothers and 33% of fathers are suffering from PTSD and often experience flashbacks from difficult experiences and avoid places that remind them of rocket attacks.
The parents reported that about 60% of infants refuse to sleep alone. The study also found that children to parents who are suffering from post-trauma were double more likely to suffer themselves.
Traumatized children often return to using a bottle, wetting their bed, and are afraid of bathing or going to sleep by themselves. Post-trauma can also be expressed in increased crying and difficulty falling asleep.
Empowering the parents
"Our message is that parents suffering from trauma should be empowered, and this in turn will help strengthen the children," said the study's author Dr. Ruth Pat-Hornchik of the Center for Treatment of Psychotrauma at the Herzog Hospital in Jerusalem.
"The most effective way to assist children in situations of war and terror is to support the parent. We found that children under the age of six are more affected by their parents' distress than by the objective situation itself.
"The aim of the program we operate in Sderot is to strengthen parenting skills, teach parents who to deal with stressful situations and help them become more attentive to the child's needs."