Israeli play therapy method helps Ukrainian children cope with wartime reality - Maccabee Task Force

Children don’t always know how to articulate their feelings, especially after trauma, but new therapeutic game developed by Israeli experts seeks to provide them with outlet to share and process difficult experiences.

The ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia is taking a heavy toll on many facets of the life of the Ukrainian people, including their children’s psyche as they are torn away from their homes, daily routines, and sometimes even families. These children are compelled to live on the run and look for refuge from the inferno, either with their families or even alone.
Besides immediate effects, such as stress, fear, and depression; children may also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the future.
“In wartime, crisis or disaster, children are going through immense emotional distress as they are cut off from the familiar environment, knocked out of the balance of everyday life, and all while also absorbing pressures from their environment,” said Yael Livneh, an expert on trauma care for children and adolescents and lecturer at Oranim Academic College.
“Children who are at different stages of development cannot process, regulate, or express their feelings. They find it difficult to share complicated events or experiences and therefore may develop a post-traumatic experience,” she explained. “There are moments and events that leave a mark for many years and can change an entire life,” said Dr. Itai Pessach, director of Safra Children Hospital.
“When I traveled to Ukraine to establish the infrastructure of Israel’s field hospital in Ukraine, I met young children who were torn from their lives and all of the sudden became refugees. It was clear to me that the biggest difficulties still lie ahead, as they will need to cope with the crisis and the trauma. After returning to Israel, as the director of a children’s hospital, it was clear as day that we must come up with an original method to help the children and their parents cope with the crisis they were going through.”
To that end, Sheba Medical Center partnered up with Oranim Academic College to develop a therapeutic tool that will help Ukrainian children to deal with the trauma they experience.
The method has already been successfully applied at Israel’s Kochav Meir field hospital in Ukraine and consists of a therapeutic game that allows the patient to process their new reality and restore a sense of normalcy as much as possible with a series of linked guiding instructions.
“Most parents are unaware of the impact they have on their children’s worldview during a crisis,” Dr. Livneh said.
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