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Hurricanes, Trauma, and Helping Kids

Before writing this post, I checked to see where Irma is now. I heard this is the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic. It will soon be hitting several islands. This while just beginning the rebuilding after Harvey.

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We already have thousands of people traumatized by the loss of their homes, their jobs, and in some cases family members. Not the least of these is children, children ripped from their homes and schools in little boats with strangers. Children waking up to a sea of water where their playground use to be. Hopefully they had time to bring their favorite toy, the one they sleep with. They don’t understand, and they are afraid. They may not show it, but their parents are traumatized too. Children know when their parents are scared.

What can be done?                                                                                                                  
Authorities say it may be months or longer before the families can get back in their homes, so people need emotional help.
I hope there will be counselors, but certainly not enough for everyone who needs it. Parents, you can help.

Take care of your own trauma                                                                                      
This involves finding a place to live and providing as much normalcy as possible.        
Talk about your emotions.                                                                                                                  
Let yourself feel them.                                                                                                              
Recognize the anger.                                                                                                                    
Then release it. (See the previous post on Anger, What Do I Do About It?)                            
If you don’t release it, it will make it harder on you and your family.                                
This is a natural disaster.
Maybe there were some things authorities could have done better, but that is hindsight. It can’t be changed.                                              
Whatever you do, don’t take it out on your children.

How to Help Your Children                                                
First reassure them you love them.                                                                                            
Reassure them they will be taken care of.                                                                                  
Allow them to regress for a time.                                                                                                    
They may need to return to the coping mechanisms they used at a younger age.          
That is normal for a while.                                                                                                            
Try to limit exposure to TV to keep them from being re-traumatized.                                      
If they are old enough to understand, tell them what happened at a level they can grasp.
Allow trauma-related play, but supervise to keep it from getting out of hand.                    
As much as time allows, play with them.                                                                                        
Let them guide the play. If it gets out of hand, you can stop it.

Whether you are a victim or a helper, take care of yourself or you won’t be able to help others. 

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How to Teach Preschoolers to Say “No” to Unsafe Touch

How do we teach preschool children the difference between good touch and unsafe or uncomfortable touch?

Little children trust easily, too easily. They learn to hug their grandparents when they leave and how to shake hands with their parents friends when they meet them. We try to teach children good manners at an early age. It’s part of parenting, but so is teaching them how to protect their bodies against unsafe touch, whether it be from a babysitter, a cousin, or a pedophile who lives down the street.

Teach them about their bodies.  

You can do this in the tub or when they see someone change a baby’s diaper.                        

“Let’s talk about how everyone’s body is different. God made Susan’s body different from your body or David’s body is not like your body. Each person’s body belongs to him or her and each person has the right to protect his or her body from unwanted touch. If you are a Christian,  you can add,  “God made each body a little bit different for a reason.”

This is a good time to teach modesty.

Draw a child in a swimsuit or put one on the child. “Do you see the parts of your body that are covered when you wear a swimsuit? When someone tries to touch you in the area of the swimsuit, they are not giving safe touch. The only time someone should need to touch your body in the area where a swimsuit touches is when a doctor or your parent needs to help you. I think you are old enough to know when someone needs to help you in that way.

Senses are the way we learn about the world around us.

“Do you know what the five senses are?  We call it the five senses that help us know about our world. Can you tell me what they are?”                        

1. Seeing – “Tell me something you like to see with your eyes.” Wait for answer.                  

2. Hearing  – “Tell me something you like to hear with your ears.” Wait for answer.            

3. Smelling – “Tell me something you like to smell with your nose.” Wait for answer.            

4. Tasting – “Tell me something you like to taste with your tongue.” Wait for answer.          

5. Touching – “Tell me something you like to touch with your skin.” Wait for answer.

Discuss as needed.

“I like hugs from people I love. Which sense do I use when I give a hug?  (Touch)                

Do you like hugs? Who do you like to hug?” Wait for answers.                                                  

A hug is a loving touch. A loving touch makes us feel warm and comfortable. Sometimes there are touches that don’t make us feel comfortable. They might make us feel scared or hurt or confused. If someone touches you in a way you don’t like, you can tell them to stop. If they don’t, tell an adult you trust.

“Who does your body belong to? (the child) Do you have to let anyone touch you if you don’t feel comfortable? (no)

“Are there times when a grown-up might need to touch you so they can help?” (yes)          

“Tell me some of those times.” (skinned knee, something in the eye)

“Are there times when an adult might need to touch your private parts?” (Yes, only when a parent or doctor needs to help you for a good reason.)

“If a person wants to touch your private parts without a good reason, do you have to let them?” (No) You are getting big now and you can think for yourself, can’t you?
If a person wants to touch your private parts or touch you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, what are some things you can do?”

1. Say “No”
2. Run away from them and scream if you need to.
3. Tell someone you trust. If they don’t believe you, tell someone else.
4. Remember, it is not your fault and you didn’t do anything wrong if that happens.

Children need to learn to think for themselves in an unsafe situation. Keep this conversational and let children answer.

“Do you remember yesterday I reminded you that you are getting big enough to think for yourself? I am going to ask you some questions that you will really have to think about.”

“We taught you to obey grown-ups, right?”

“What if your aunt told you to jump into the river, what would you do?”

“What would you do if your teacher told you to dive off the school building?”

“What if you are at the store and the store owner told you to steal a bag of potatoes? What would you do?”

“Most of the time when a grown-up tells you to do something, it is for your own good. But, you have to think. If it doesn’t seem right or makes you feel uncomfortable or scared, you don’t have to do it. It is your own body. If that happens, you go to a person you trust and ask them if you have to do it.

What kind of person might ask you to do something that is not for your own good? (Child describes what he or she thinks.)

Answer:                                                                                                                                                     1. They could look and act nice.
2. The may try to trick you into thinking you can trust them.
3. They may be young or old.
4. They can be someone you know and care about or they could be a stranger, someone you don’t know.
5. They could be someone in your family. It could be anyone. You can’t tell by looking, only by feeling.

“Remember, your body belongs to you and no one has the right to touch it without your permission, unless it is your parent or doctor trying to help you. If someone does, what do you do?” (Say “no” and tell someone.)

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Parenting: Law vs. Grace. Which is Right?

For the most part, our sense of morality comes from our religion, or you could say our belief system. In general, for the western civilization the historical source for morality comes from the law given to Moses by God and the philosophy of grace, which comes from Jesus in the New Testament.

Christianity teaches grace. No other religion does that. Yet, even Christians need to obey the law. So how do you decide when to punish your child and when to allow grace?

Trying to develop a parenting strategy based on those two concepts can lead to confusion. Remember the good law protects us. So teach your children to stay away from fire and not cross the street alone to protect them. If they disobey, make the consequences severe enough to prevent any re-occurrence. Along with consequences give them love and teaching about the dangers of what they did. In those situations, law trumps grace.

On the other hand, children disobey by actions that don’t cause immediate harm, such as back talk, unkindness to a friend, or refusal to clean their rooms. In that kind of situation, don’t miss an occasional opportunity to show grace.

You can say something like this, “You have disobeyed me by your back talk. The way you talked to me showed disrespect. I should punish you, but this time I won’t. I will give you grace. Grace is a gift we don’t deserve. Even though you deserve to be in time out, I will give you love instead. Jesus does that. He took the punishment we deserve and gave us love and forgiveness. Next time it happens, you will go to time out. This time I am helping you understand more about Jesus.”

How to Help Overactive Children in a Classroom

Climbing to Keep from Feeling

Climbing to Keep from Feeling

Parents and teachers of an active or inattentive child wonder if the child has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. There are several reasons a child might exhibit those behaviors, so that diagnosis must be made by a doctor. Changes in the classroom space and routine can help an active or inattentive child. In Growing Seasons divorce recovery and grief recovery groups we have found some ideas that may help you also:

1. Have stretch breaks often and provide opportunities for the children to be active.

2. If the conversation seems too intense, allow the child to leave the group for a few minutes and go to another part of the room.

3. Make the activity more interesting, unusual, and varied.

4. Add visual aids.

5. Place the child close to the facilitator, facing away from other stimuli and separated from the other active children.

6. Be more enthusiastic.

7. Give clear, concise directions using firm, polite voice. Get the children’s attention. Say what you want done, when, and how.

8. Give one direction at a time.

9. Be sure your expectations are appropriate for the child.

Please comment and let us know ideas that have helped a child you know. We would love to hear from parents and teachers, as well.

List taken from Growing Seasons: Helping Children Heal from Divorce and Other Losses.
http://store.livingfree.org/Growing-Seasons-Coordinators-Guide_p_162.html

Picture from Dreamtimefree_200973

How to Recognize Depression in Children

Children and teens can become depressed. Divorce, learning problems, family stress, and physical or sexual abuse, and other issues, can cause depression in youth. Clinical depression differs from the third stage of grief as put forth by Elisabeth Kubler Ross in her book On Death and Dying. A depressed person of any age needs professional help. Ignoring depression can be deadly. Is that clear? Deadly.

Depression Is  Like Watching the World Go By without You

Depression Is Like Watching the World Go By without You

If you have or know of a child or teen who is experiencing a number of the symptoms listed below, contact a doctor or counselor or both.

1. Sadness that lasts for several weeks.

2. Complaints of physical illness or aches and pains that seems to have no physical causes.

3. Decreased interest in previously enjoyed activities.

4. Unable to sleep or sleeping all the time.

5. Decreased activity level or increased activity level, seemingly to avoid thinking.

6. Change in eating patterns leading to weight loss or gain.

7. Boredom, listlessness, or sudden onset of poor concentration.

8. Drop in grades or increase in school absences.

9. Wide mood swings.

10. Low self-esteem.

11. Frequent discussions of suicide.

12. Use of alcohol or drugs.

13. Aggression, temper tantrums, or anti-social behavior.

14. Excessive crying.

15. Withdrawal.

16. Strong feelings of guilt.

Childhood and teen depression is a serious problem. Please help others by sharing any experiences you have had with depression, whether your own or that of someone you know. Please don’t break any confidentiality with someone you know.

List taken from Growing Seasons: Helping Children Heal from Divorce and Other Losses, published by Living Free Ministries. http://store.livingfree.org/Growing-Seasons-Coordinators-Guide_p_162.html

Teaching Children about God

What spiritual messages do you want your child to hear?

Infants                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              You need to answer that question almost as soon as the precious bundle of joy comes into the world. Why? Consider this. From birth to age two children learn more about the world than at any other age. They learn whether the world is safe or scary and hurtful. Right after birth they may think, What is that bright light and why am I hanging upside down?  They need tender touch and soft words to feel secure. Infants who don’t feel loved will have a difficult time learning to trust.

Age Two                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Around the age of two their world view takes a quantum leap. They seem to change overnight. They may think, My mommy will give me an apple when I ask for one. Two-year-old children believe everything they hear and see. They have no way to know if the messages they receive are true.  They begin to understand they have choices. The word “No” sometimes gets them in trouble and sometimes helps them feel as if they have some power. They think concretely, so be sure you explain spiritual words, such as God and heaven. My two and a half-year-old son came into the room one Sunday morning as I was getting his sister ready for church. He said, “That man on TV said God is a Holy Ghost. God isn’t a ghost, is He?”

Preschool                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        As children approach the preschool years, they think for themselves more and more. They open their hearts to new ideas about spiritual issues as their spongy minds seek to understand the world they live in. They learn from many sources: their families, their friends, their teachers, and even television. Truth and lies vie for their attention. They still think concretely, yet they start to learn and love the traditions of the religion practiced by their parents. Preschoolers may not remember exact things that happened to them, but parents can help till the fallow ground of their spiritual beliefs, thoughts, and emotions. At age four, my son said, “I am going to dig a big hole and push the devil into it.”

Elementary Children                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Children as young as six can make religious decisions that will impact their entire lives, including where they will spend eternity. Spiritual beliefs and decisions made in the early elementary years tend to stand firm. Josh McDowell said on Point of View radio, “If you don’t reach a child for Jesus before the age of twelve, you have only a four percent chance of reaching him (her.)” My children both accepted Jesus as their Savior at age six.

What spiritual messages do you want your child to hear? What are you doing to make sure your children are hearing the truth?