This guest post was written exclusively for Pack for Israel by Yonatan Sinclair, a therapist and co-founder of Keshev, a center that offers offer therapy and guidance for all gap year students.

Just to come up with the title for this short article made me feel anxious. These days when people ask – how are you? The answer is not as simple as it was before October 7th whether you live in Israel or abroad.

We as a people are dealing on an individual level with stress, anxiety, feelings of being overwhelmed and fear. And in the midst of all this you, as parents are showing the resilience to use your “flexible selves”, adjust to the unknown and send, or allow, your child to come to Israel for the year.

Nothing is more important than your child’s wellbeing. So what are some things that are crucial in offering support to your child during their year in Israel, especially in these times of unrest and unknown.

1. Medical history

If your child has any medical history of mental health, even if it was a few years ago – share it with the program. The staff are the ones who are taking care of your child, they care and want to do their best, but they cannot help, if they don’t know. Make sure you give them the best tools to support your child – and that includes knowing about their medical history – so that they can ensure a safe emotional space for your child.

A gap year program, contains many triggers – the constant socializing, the intensity the extreme physical changes – so that a lot of things that happen on the program can become triggers. Even if your child has not had to deal with mental health issues in the last few years, there is a high chance that something during their year will be triggering – help them by letting the staff know.

2. They need to feel at home with you, and sometimes just vent

When your child is small and they come home from school, they might throw their bag on the floor collapse on the couch and break down. They held it together so well during the school day, and now they just want to come home and be their most terrible version of themselves without being judged, we all need that space. During a gap year, it is very hard to find that space, since they are constantly surrounded by people and usually over programmed, so when they speak to you that is when they are breaking down – it doesn’t mean that the reality is horrible, it just means that they need a place to vent – listen.

3. Listening carefully

When something happens in Israel, and your child is there it can be very frightening, you as a parent might get stressed, your heart starts to race, you breath is shallow and quick and you start to sweat, until you hear your child is ok, you cannot concentrate. That is all very valid, but make sure to deal with what is going on for you, before you speak to your child, their job is not to calm you down, it should be the opposite, so before you speak to them, once you know they are safe, take a few minutes to calm down, and then ask them – how are they doing? What do they need from you? How best can you support them even though you are so far?

4. Collaborating with the staff on the ground

Whatever your child is going through, the staff of the program are the ones who are there with him, have the best idea of what is going on with them and can offer them the most efficient support. Make sure that when discussing your child, what is going on and how best to deal with any mental health issue that might come up, make sure you are working together with the staff and not against them.

5. Presence, Humanity, Validation

It is not easy to send your child in times of so much unease and unknown in the world. But hold on to the fact that no matter how you feel, when your child speaks to you can give them these three things:

  • Presence – just to be present and to listen to them, to allow them to connect to you cause you are there – present for them.
  • Humanity – whatever they feel is a human feeling – you have it to, and you can connect to it as well.
  • Validation – allowing your child to feel that whatever they are feeling is valid is a huge gift you can give to your child – and the best support you can offer them when you are so far away.

Learn more

These are very challenging times to be sending your children away, but these are also historical times, and it means so much to be here during these times. Wishing you a year of health and safety.

If you want to hear more about practical tools for managing your child’s mental health during their gap year join us for a free webinar run by Keshev on the 26th May, sign up here to get more details. You can also look us up on our website: where we offer therapy and guidance for all gap year students.

About the Author

Yonatan Sinclair is the co-founder of Keshev, he is a Family couples and sex therapist in a private clinic, he heads the project of resilience in factories in “Otef Azza” for Kav Lanoar, and works as a therapist for “Metiv”, the Israeli center for Psychotrauma. He lives with his wife and 4 kids in Efrat, Gush Etzion.