Sunday, February 5, 2012

Different Issues Every Year

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I routinely provide training for schools on kids and mental health for teachers, counselors and parents. Over the past three years I have done trainings on self harm, bullying and suicide. The teachers and counselors tell me they always ask for trainings on the prevailing issues they encounter with their students. This year I have done two parent trainings on grief and loss in kids. Parents there were asking questions related to the death of a family member, deployment, and separation. How do you make it less difficult for a child ? Every child is different, but with most kids just being honest with them and letting them know they are not at fault is key. Kids think everything has to do with them..magical thinking goes a long way. Kids need to be able to talk about the person who is no longer there. Parents need to allow a child to talk about them in a non-judgemental atmosphere. Keeping in mind there are major issues involved with a marriage breakup, this may be difficult, but it is very important the child feel their feelings they have are ok. Parents who encourage their children to talk about things that may be difficult help their child work through to a good outcome. Parents who bash the absent partner do damage to the children who may overhear  their negative tirades. preparing a child for an expected loss is  hard but helps the child make sense out of a confusing event. Allowing a child to have time to say goodbye or to just build more memories with someone who may be terminally ill will help them learn to accept and overcome grief. Also, kids watch how the adults deal with these events. If it is ok for mom or dad to ask for help, then it becomes ok for the child to ask too. Sometimes family therapy can help with particularly difficult times. It all comes down to honest and open communication, non-judgemental safe zones for kids to talk, and above all love and affection that is unconditional. This year, the issues that kids are having a hard time with is loss. It makes me wonder how many kids are struggling, but are just afraid to ask for help.
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