When we think of children many think of babies cooing and smiling, or school-aged children giggling and running.
Many adults think of children in two extremes - either having a tantrum or laughing uncontrollably. However, it is important to realize that many of our youth are also sad. The stress children face for a variety of reasons is very real. Often times adults may forget children pick up on the conversations, statements said in whispers, and they may even understand topics adults may fight about using coded language.
When families undergo changes, children may internalize the stress experienced by everyone in the household. Family is usually the foundation to children's lives, as it is the first system they know and receive love from. However, when there are changes to this foundation, it may cause discord between what they know and what they are experiencing.
Stress experienced by children may be caused by any of the following changes to their family system:
Changes to family financial status
Parents work far away
Parents getting a divorce
Parent dating someone new
Change in family such as step parents/step siblings
Being cared for by someone else other than a parent
Death in the family
Passing of a pet
When these types of changes take place to children’s families, it is important to provide them with the appropriate support - sooner than later. When children experience sadness it may not always look the same as adults experience sadness. When sad, children may withdraw from others, behave inappropriately, or misbehave. This happens because they may not always have or find the words they need to express their feelings. Furthermore, being their brains are not fully formed, while they may have an extensive vocabulary, they may not always be able to retrieve this language and match it to their feelings in an appropriate manner.
A wonderful resource to use with children who may be experiencing changes to their family structure is a new workbook named Coping with Family Changes: Getting Yourself Together When Things Come Apart written by Janet M. Bender. This is an awesome resource for any school counselor, teacher or therapist working with children who may be experiencing sadness due to the changes in their families. It is written in a workbook fashion using a great balance of literature, illustrations, and activities to engage children. It has student reproducibles, guidelines for parents in the midst of separation or divorce, and a list helpful resources and references. The book also comes with links to be able to download some of the reproducibles to use with kids.
Changes to a family structure can be overwhelming, scary and sad. Regardless of age, children may be impacted in many ways. If you work with children on a regular basis, this workbook would be a great resource to add to your library.
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It is always my pleasure to help you learn and grow in hopes of inspiring others. Feel free to contact me should you need additional support on this topic, or any topic focusing on children’s emotional well-being.
Counselor De Jesus
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Vanessa De Jesus Guzman is a former teacher, school counselor and licensed associate counselor serving children and families in the northern New Jersey area.
To learn more visit www.freetobemindful.com.