Thursday, June 13, 2013

Resiliency in children after a death

The death of a parent or sibling creates a period of stress and sadness for surviving children.  Research suggests that bereaved children are a vulnerable population, at increased risk for social impairments and other emotional problems.  Unfortunately grieving children have often lost (to death or the parent's own grief) the reliable presence of a positive, caring, and protective parent/caregiver. The resiliency research provides evidence that identifiable protective factors are involved in safeguarding those at risk while promoting successful development.  Protective factors can be individual based like a resilient temperament or a positive social orientation but they can also be broader.  A close bond to family, school, or community built on opportunities, skills, and recognition help children cope. Children must be provided with opportunities to contribute to their community, family, peers, and school.When studied grieving children expressed sadness, anger, and fear, and there was a theme of happiness. In talking to my students who are grieving I always take time to dwell on their happy stories.  The children get joy from sharing happy memories of the loved one who has died. As school counselors I think we must incorporate a strength-based approach into our interventions.  The children realize that other children are reluctant to discuss the person who died with them so it is vital the counselor listens and focuses on how strong and normal the grieving child is without discounting the range of emotions.  Remember to promote hope!

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