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Section 7
Grieving Children (Part 3)

CEU Question 7 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Grief
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On the last track we discussed the second and third of the five challenges of a grieving child.  They were understanding death and mourning death.  We also discussed the Grasping Reality technique and how to play Feelings Football.

On this track we will continue to discuss the five challenges of a grieving child.  The fourth and fifth challenges we will discuss are staying connected and resuming childhood.  We will also introduce the "Tackling Teasing" technique.  As you listen to this track, see if the information can help you or the parents of a grieving child help that child to meet the five challenges.

#1 Staying Connected
In addition to security, understanding death and mourning death, the fourth challenge is staying connected with the person who died.  Do you agree that staying connected can help kids through grief by providing comfort as well as provoking healthy emotional expression? 

You may have heard how the benefits of staying connected have been disputed.  In my experience, the degree to which the grieving child stays connected determines how healthy residual attachment to a deceased loved one is. 

Two Criteria for Determining the Healthiness of Staying Connected
Therese Rando has identified two criteria for determining the healthiness of staying connected. 
-- First,
does the griever believe that the person is dead?
-- Second, is the griever’s behavior supporting him or her in healing and reentering the normal flow and functions of life?  For example, if a child continues to set a place at the dinner table for a father who died six months ago, there may be reason for concern. 

Here is an example of staying connected in a healthy way.  Eddie, age 10, had started building a tree fort with his father, Ben.  Shortly after Ben and Eddie started, Ben died from a heart attack.  On the evening of Ben’s funeral, Eddie’s mother, Mary, found him in the tree fort, crying.  Mary climbed up and they exchanged memories of Ben. 

Mary stated, "Since then he hasn’t spent a lot of time in the fort.  He just goes up there when he starts feeling sad."  To Mary, I stated, "As long as he doesn’t spend more time in the tree fort than doing other things, I think it’s good for him." 

Do you agree that Mary needs to support Eddie’s connection with the tree fort?

#2 Resuming Childhood
In addition to security, understanding death, mourning death, and staying connected the fifth challenge is resuming childhood.  I have found that parents of grieving children sometimes get so involved in their own grief that they lose sight of the fact that kids will be kids and must resume childhood. 

Nancy, an 8 year old grieving child, had remained sullen and quiet for a week after her cousin died.  Nancy’s mother Catherine stated, "After the death, I let Nancy take some time off school.  I felt really depressed all week, and Nancy seemed pretty down also.  My sister invited us out to dinner on Thursday with her husband, John, and their two kids.  John started making silly jokes and funny faces.  Nancy and the other kids started laughing.  They kept laughing for awhile and then I started laughing, too.  It was such a relief to see that Nancy still had some kid left in her." 

I stated to Catherine, "Kids will be kids, even during grief.  Nancy will likely revisit the first four challenges again.  She’ll need reassurance about her security.  She’ll search for an understanding of death and she’ll mourn death.  She’ll also look for ways to stay connected.  But remember that beneath the pain and anguish, Nancy is still just a child.  It is your job to make sure that she can resume childhood."

During a later session, Catherine expressed concern about Nancy’s ability to resume childhood.  Catherine stated, "When Nancy returned to school, some of the other kids teased her.  They said she had to miss school because she was a cry baby.  Of course, that made her cry and now she doesn’t want to go to school at all."

Technique: Tackling Teasing
To help Nancy find strength while being teased, I shared with her and Catherine the "Tackling Teasing" technique. 
1. First, Nancy ignored the teasing.  Once Nancy realized how frustrating it was for the teaser when she didn’t respond, she found it easy to ignore the teasing.
2. Second, Catherine and I practiced potential responses with Nancy.  Three responses Nancy practiced were to:
a. Simply walk away with a disgusted look.
b. Ask the teaser how he or she would feel if someone in his or her family died. And
c. Pretend not to hear and keep asking "What?"
3. In addition to ignoring the teasing and practicing potential responses, the third step in the "Tackling Teasing" technique is to remind the child that friends or adults can help by telling the teaser to stop teasing.
4. Fourth, Catherine and I suggested to Nancy that the teaser’s remarks were not necessarily true.  Catherine stated, "Just because you were called a cry baby does not mean that you are."  Obviously the teaser would also grieve the death of a beloved family member.

Think of your Nancy.  Could she or he be repressing grief due to teasing at school?

On this track we have discussed the final two challenges of a grieving child.  The fourth and fifth challenges we discussed were staying connected and resuming childhood. 

On the next track we will discuss risk factors of complicated mourning.  I will describe six risk factors of complicated mourning.  They are traumatic deaths, the caretaker is not functioning well, the child had a love-hate relationship with the deceased, the child experienced multiple losses, the deceased had an extensive illness, and the child has other mental health issues..

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Grolnick, W. S., Schonfeld, D. J., Schreiber, M., Cohen, J., Cole, V., Jaycox, L., Lochman, J., Pfefferbaum, B., Ruggiero, K., Wells, K., Wong, M., & Zatzick, D. (2018). Improving adjustment and resilience in children following a disaster: Addressing research challenges. American Psychologist, 73(3), 215–229. 

Review of Life & loss: A guide to help grieving children (2000). [Review of the book Life & loss: A guide to help grieving children (2nd ed.), by L. Goldman]. Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention, 21(3), 141. 

Schonfeld, D. J., & Demaria, T. P. (2018). The role of school psychologists in the support of grieving children. School Psychology Quarterly, 33(3), 361–362.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 7
What are the fourth and fifth challenges of a grieving child? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

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