Grief in Children

As per the dictionary definition ‘grief’ is ‘keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.’

In children, grief is a process that happens when one loses something dear to them. It’s helpful for a child to have adequate time to heal from the loss. Grieving can happen in many situations ranging from relocation, divorcing parents, loss of a pet, a close family member or loss of anything dear to them. Children grieve differently in different situations. There is a high possibility that a child’s grief gets overlooked because of the inability of the adult involved to identify and support him/her.

Over time it has also become increasingly clear that children grieve in different ways or express their grief differently to adults. “Kids often grieve in spurts because they can’t seem to tolerate grief for long periods of time,” says Susan Thomas, LCSW-R, FT, Program Director for the Center for H.O.P.E. at Cohen’s Children’s Medical Center of New York.  She explains that, “Kids seem to jump in and out of grief.” This means that they can often distract themselves, but when something happens, all the emotion they’ve been pushing away appears back.

Silence isn’t golden during grief. Children may not verbalize their feelings as they may have felt that sharing their feelings could be hurtful or could bring more sadness. It is also not uncommon for children to experience guilt following loss. Reassurance by a trusted adult and having ongoing conversations may help them deal with the grief.

Some signs of grief and loss in children that may show up after the loss are:

  • Loss of interest in day-to-day activities
  • Fear for personal survival
  • Increase in separation anxiety
  • Impaired ability to make emotional attachments
  • Lack of sleep, loss of appetite, loss of self-esteem
  • Prolonged fear, worries, anxiety
  • Regression in younger children, e.g. wanting to be carried, being clingy, wanted to be fed by an adult, etc.
  • Change in behavior e.g. either being aggressive or passive
  • Withdrawal from friends or family
  • Sharp drop in school performance or school refusal

Psychologists agree that if the grief is not resolved in the early years, it may well last into the adult life. Studies show that emotional distress in adolescent and adulthood including depression, anxiety, alcoholism and suicidal ideations are often linked with bereavement suffered in childhood. If you are witnessing some of the above mentioned symptoms in your child, it’s beneficial to seek out help from a professional.

References :

  1. Helping Children Cope with Separation and Loss by Claudia L. Jewett
  2. https://www.dougy.org/grief-resources/how-to-help-a-grieving-child/

 

Written by

Vinti Mittal
Director SACAC Counselling Pte Ltd
Clinical Member SAC
SAC Registered Counsellor
CMSAC, Reg, CLR, MSc (Counselling), Grad Cert. (Counselling)

 

 

Will I ever trust you again?

“A happy Marriage is the union of two forgivers” – Ruth Bell Graham

Three building blocks are the foundation of good relationships: trust, honesty, and compassion.

It is only when our partner has been unfaithful that we realise how fragile these building blocks can be.

The common belief is that affairs are about sex or intercourse, but with the introduction of the Internet, the definitions of affairs or infidelity become more complex. In fact, affairs are most often about secrecy, sexual attraction and sexual activities that violate the monogamous vows.

The affair might be a terrible crisis but the Chinese symbol of “Crisis” is made up of two words: “Danger” and “Opportunity”. If the couple is committed to dealing constructively with the affair and size on the Opportunity part of the crisis, their relationship will find a deeper meaning and grow stronger.

Few steps in working through the affair and towards recovery are useful to know:

1. The Discovered has to end the affair and cut all ties with the third party.

2. The Discovered needs to be transparent about his/her relationship with the third party by answering the Discoverer’s intense questioning. Defensiveness and shame will hinder the couple’s recovery process. The Discoverer’s intense questioning aims to clarify the reason(s) why the partner had been unfaithful. The Discovered needs to show empathy and compassion towards the Discoverer while answering the questions, however excessive details can be traumatising to the Discoverer. A word of caution to the Discoverer: focusing solely on the third party means failing to look closely at the couple’s own relationship.

Also to help rebuild the trust, the Discovered needs to offer full access to call records and messages on their digital devices.

3. The couple needs to uncover deeper motivations that had led to the path of the affair through insight and honest discussion.

The equation:

Problem + Poor communication + Temptation = Infidelity; highlights the necessity for both partners to learn new communication skills.

Through commitment and intense learning, the crisis of unfaithfulness will offer to both partners the opportunity to create a new durable partnership.

 

Written by

Sanaa Lundgren
MS (Counselling), MS (PolSci)
Collaborative Family Practitioner (SMC)

Why are dyslexia and dyscalculia so different?

Dyslexia is the name for a persisting difficulty in learning to read and write, in spite of adequate instruction. It is widely recognized as a problem for up to 10% of young children starting to learn and for some of them later on in their learning. In Singapore children who have more than usual difficulty learning to read and write get help in their school, or through a wide range of tuition centres or through the Dyslexia Association (DAS), which teaches them in small classes for 2 hours a week. The DAS stands as an example of the kind of community social structure that validates difficulty learning to read and write.

Dyscalculia is the name for a persisting difficulty in learning to use numbers. It is much less widely recognized – some estimates suggest around 6% of students experience it but there are significant variations between countries. Unlike reading and writing, difficulty with numbers tends not to become evident until later, often not till age 9 or 10. There are of course tuition centres in Singapore specializing in helping children with maths difficulties and some schools also provide extra classes and specialist teaching. But there is much less specialist support, and far fewer children are identified as having dyscalculia. There is as yet no national Dyscalculia Association in Singapore.

Literacy is a universal gateway to all other learning; numeracy also leads to other kinds of learning but more narrowly. It is easier to see that learning to read and write is not much to do with intelligence – many children who struggle with reading are evidently bright. Maths seems more closely tied to intelligence – it is the first kind of logical reasoning that most children face; we suspect that if you cannot understand the logic of number relations you must be stupid. But is logical thinking the only criterion of intelligence? The arts generally, language and expressive ability and even some aspects of construction arguably do not require logical deductive reasoning. So you can have difficulty with maths but have many other strong and useful abilities.

Many adults are happy to confess they found maths really difficult at school – but usually they won’t “come out” until they have left school! Isn’t it time we paid more attention to maths learning difficulties for school students? How can we help students who find maths harder than usual without making them feel stupid? Do we need community associations to gather and focus support?

Let us know if you agree this is a problem and what should be done.

 

Written by

Dr Tim Bunn
EdD, MSc, BA (Hons), PGCE
Consultant Educational Psychologist

Raising Emotionally Intelligent Children

All of us struggle with our emotions at times. For children, the intensity or complexity of their emotions can feel overwhelming, and may result in challenging behaviours. Understanding our emotional experiences underlying behaviour is a key aspect of what is known as Emotional Intelligence: the awareness, understanding and ability to express and manage one’s emotions. Research carried out by Gottman and colleagues has found that children with greater emotional intelligence are more able to self soothe, have greater friendship success, better concentration and as adults have greater life satisfaction and intimate relationships.

Parents play an important role in teaching children the skills of emotional intelligence. To assist, Gottman and colleagues have developed a five step framework known as Emotion Coaching.

The 5 steps to Emotion Coaching

  1. Become aware of the child’s emotion
  • Their body language, facial expressions, gestures
  • Look for lower intensity emotions such as disappointment or frustration
  1. Recognise the emotion as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching
  • An opportunity for you to connect with your child and teach them how to self soothe
  1. Listen empathetically and validate the child’s feelings
  • Reflect back to your child what you’re hearing
  • Let them feel the emotion and know that it is okay to feel all emotions
  • E.g. “no wonder you feel sad” “It’s really frustrating when..” “I wish you could stay in the swing all day”
  1. Help the child verbally label emotions
  • Give a word for the emotion so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming
  • E.g. “It sounds like she made you feel angry”
  1. If necessary, when your child is ready, set limits while helping the child problem solve
  • Communicate that all feelings are acceptable, but some behaviours are not
  • Set limits, consequences
  • Discuss alternate ways that they could manage their feelings
  • E.g. “It’s okay to feel angry but it’s not okay to hit your brother”

The skills of emotional intelligence can be carried from toddler and childhood years into adulthood as they navigate life’s challenges. If you are interested in practicing the 5 steps of Emotion Coaching with your child and would like further information, check out the following websites:

https://www.gottman.com/blog/category/emotion-coaching/

http://www.ahaparenting.com/

Written by

Dr Thea Longman
DClinPsych/MSc, BPsych (Hons)
Registered Clinical Psychologist