Archives

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.

https://jeanbrunson.wordpress.com/wp-admin/admin-ajax.php?action=imgedit-preview&_ajax_nonce=841bb00489&postid=24832&rand=69272

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. 

Advertisements

Divorce or Death: How To Help Grieving Children

Taken from Growing Seasons: How to Help Children Heal from Divorce and Other Losses, a small group curriculum  by Jean Brunson. 

Published by Living Free Ministries. http://store.livingfree.org/Small-Group-Curriculums_c_51.html

Ages and Stages

Infants: Babies believe a person or thing only exists when it is in their field of vision. Grief for an infant is caused by breaking the bond. If bonding is broken in the first two years of life, babies need to quickly bond with someone else. This is essential if they are to establish trust in their world. Infants and toddlers also respond to the emotions of those around them.

Preschoolers: Little children still do not fully understand object permanence. They think death is reversible, like it is on cartoons. This is an age of much magical thinking. They may believe they did something to cause the the loss.

2 Kids Walking on Red Tulip Garden Under Blu Sky

Ages Six to Ten: Early elementary age children are still concrete in their thinking, so it is important not to use euphemisms in explaining death. They understand that death is final but may think of it as a ghost they can outsmart.  After a death or divorce, they feel much sadness but they think they can control it. They need to be encouraged to express it. Boys tend to be more prone to expressing their emotions of anger and acting out while girls seem to show more sorrow.

carefree, child, enjoyment

Eleven to Teenage: Preteens tend to act angry because it seems more acceptable than sadness. They may long to retreat into childhood and look for meaning in the the loss. Any adolescent rebellion that occurred before the loss can cause feelings of guilt. Children this age may have difficulty concentrating in school.

adult, beautiful, blur

Grief from a loss of any kind does impact children. I hope this blog will help some readers who are dealing with a grieving child. Please feel free to ask questions or make comments. I am here to help. However, each situation and each child is different, so any suggestions I might make are only suggestions. They are not to be considered as counseling. Please help me start the conversation.

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.)

Continue reading

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?