Children have not walked away unscathed by terror. Whether they themselves, a parent, grandparent or sibling is murdered or injured in an attack – terror overturns the child’s world in an instant.
In one moment, with one act of terror, the people a child naturally turns to for support are also undergoing the deep trauma of terror and do not have the emotional wherewithal to maintain stability for the child.
Even when the child’s family remains intact, often the psychological trauma of the attack cannot be soothed by a family member who must deal with his or her own distress. The children are frequently left with no one to turn to and feel lost in their attempt to make sense of a new and painful reality.
Children who return to the school system after such an ordeal often do not manifest their distress and trauma until long after they are out of the public eye. Frequently their trouble goes unnoticed or is misdiagnosed as a learning disability or other disorder, instead of what it is: excruciatingly painful trauma and an unanswered cry for emotional support.
OneFamily’s Youth Division was created to answer the pressing need for immediate and consistent emotional support for children and teens wounded – physically, psychologically and emotionally by terrorism. It is essential that the child’s well-being and needs are monitored and addressed in order to ensure they receive proper care for their rehabilitation and recovery.
Ongoing activities of the Youth Division include therapeutic camps during the Passover, Hannuka, and summer vacations, weekend retreats, holiday programs, special events, individual counseling, the Big Brother/Sister program, support groups and alternative therapy.
Psychological Care and Continuity
Throughout the year, OneFamily’s nine youth coordinators and 60 volunteer counselors, each responsible for 10-15 children, provide informal support and guidance as well as physical and psychological support to our youngest victims as they deal with the brutal blows of terrorism.
Well-meaning family members, teachers or friends unfamiliar with trauma often respond to the emotional distress by addressing the symptoms instead of addressing the trauma. Children exhibit difficulty sleeping, eating, learning, concentrating and a disinterest in being social, and are easily agitated.
Generally, it is the OneFamily counselors, who are trained by professional therapists, who identify the danger signs and seek appropriate help in meeting the child’s needs.
When the child’s emerging needs reflect developing stress in the family, OneFamily’s case workers assess the needs of the family unit as a whole, providing the family more comprehensive intervention and aid.
Camps and Retreats
The Youth Division’s activities are anchored by OneFamily’s summer and holiday camps; bringing victims aged 8-18 together for four days during the Passover and Chanukah, and seven days during the summer vacation.
A great deal of thought and preparation goes into structuring each of the camps in order to strike the correct balance between three types of activities:
Fun and leisure activities: The aim of these activities is for the children to be happy, to find release and to prepare the groundwork for deeper therapeutic activities. Activities include hikes, jeep tours, amusement parks, swimming, videos, cultural activities and more.
Semi-therapeutic activities and non-verbal therapy workshops: The aim of these activities is to create social and therapeutic depth in indirect ways, in order to deepen relationships, process significant emotional issues sub-consciously, and empower the children to share their internal worlds through experiences. Examples of these activities include ODT activities, cooking, movement workshops, hydrotherapy, drama therapy and touch workshops.
Verbal and frontal therapy activities: These aim to develop direct dialogue on issues of loss and bereavement, memory, longing, pain, memorializing, and difficulties dealing with family and friends as a result of the child’s bereavement or trauma. These activities are led by specialist counselors and therapists who work at each camp.
Big Brother and Sister Program
OneFamily’s Big Brother and Sister Program is one effort within a continuum of care for the most emotionally fragile children in our Youth Division. Those who have lost a parent or older sibling are paired with university-aged students who support and help them address the special difficulties of growing up in their painful circumstances through direct and personal contact.
The Big Brother and Sister Program pairs those children and teens most in need of strong emotional guidance with Big Brothers and Sisters who become just that – caring, mature role models, always at their side, whether in person, by phone or through social networking. Their time together can include fun excursions, help with school work and participation in joint gatherings with similarly bereaved and injured children and their Big Brothers and Sisters.
This contact serves a dual purpose. It transmits the message that someone special cares and is there for them, offering friendship and emotional support. While creating opportunities for the Big Brother or Sister to monitor the child’s recovery and needs, be they material, educational, medical or psychological.
The Big Brothers and Sisters are also present for the child’s birthday, and on the memorial day for the family member whom the child has lost. They are always prepared to offer support and nurturing, whenever and however the children may need them.