Check our newsfeed


How to raise happy children – time vs material goods

Comments off 5697 Views0

The issue highlighted in the UNICEF report An Overview of Child Well-being in Rich Countries [ the link to the UNICEF research is contained in this article] is of very real concern and something we in Ireland should listen to and respond to quickly. Ireland is currently 13th on the list in terms of how happy our children are, which is at the halfway mark on the UNICEF table.

Only last week the Irish Examiner carried an article on their front page detailing that research with 300 Irish Parents who work outside of home showed that 60% of parents say they are too tired to read a bedtime story to their children at the end of the day (see my earlier blog on importance of this here )…we may not be as far behind the UK as we’d like to think in terms of how happy our children are!

The reported yesterday that one in three Irish Children are deprived of basic necessities So what constitutes a basic necessity:

  • Three balanced meals each day with fruit / vegetables and meat / fish
  • Enough of the right clothes for different seasons, e.g. a coat to keep warm and dry in winter
  • Separate bed and bedding of their own
  • Their own books for reading for fun
  • Food and drinks for friends when they call over to play
  • Own money for school activities or days out
  • A family holiday once a year (can be in Ireland or abroad)
  • Day out with family at least twice a year (e.g. go to beach, fun fair, leisure centres)
  • Visit to a restaurant for a family meal at least twice a year
  • A bank, post office or Credit Union account to save money
  • Shops close to home (e.g. food shops, clothes shops or chemist)
  • A trip to the library

This list is evidence that when it comes to children’s needs it is your time and not stuff that children need! “Unicef paints a picture of a country [UK] that has got its priorities wrong – trading quality time with our children for “cupboards full of expensive toys that aren’t used”. Children need quality, one to one time with their parents to grow and develop into happy and content adolescents and then adults. As parents we have to learn how to make time for our children!

I deliver a Positive Parenting Training workshop for parents who work outside of home in terms of how to maximise your quality time with your child when you do not have quantity time with them and one of the key messages is that planning is essential…no one is saying that it is easy to balance a career and family at the same time but is something that, as a parent, you must plan around!

In my experience the majority of people want to be good parents but just aren’t sure how to achieve this. In a culture where we study, train and take courses in all aspects of our careers to ensure that we are as skilled as we can be, it is still stigmatised to say that you need a parenting course to help you work this out…this has to change! When parents feel that they are getting it wrong they will often overcompensate with material goods in a “I can’t give you myself so I will give you a new toy/gadget etc instead”. In children’s consultation focus groups children never report that toys or “stuff’ (material goods) make them happy and top of their list is to spend time with their parents.

In Ireland, not unlike the UK, we have had a decade of material wealth and consumerism, which is now abruptly gone! There is an entire generation of children for whom this is a very new concept. The same can be said for many adults too! Parents are under increasing pressure to work all the hours they can to sustain the family finances meaning less and less time to spend with your children as a family, a balance is essential to turn this around so that we do not find ourselves with a generation of depressed and unhappy children.

Planning I’ve blogged on this point before but it is very important and worth a second mention here within this context:

Practical tips for working Parents on how to Make Time Work out a personal schedule and break all the little ‘tasks’ up – it might not feel so overwhelming

  • Plan your week ahead: Tuesday/ Thursday is story night, Friday is make-your-own-desert night, short hike on Sunday afternoon. In this way time won’t fly away with all your good intentions.
  • Plan the week’s menu ahead of time and go for healthy but quick meals during the week days. All this planning might take up one whole evening but the rest of your week will flow pleasantly because of this and hopefully leave you with extra time
  • Chat over bath time and catch up on their day (age depending, of course)
  • Make a point of having dinner or breakfast together and don’t be in a rush. Talk about your day and ask about theirs
  • Take an extra ten minutes to read the bedtime story and kiss them goodnight
  • Use your weekends to make up for lost time. Try to spend time with each child individually, even if it means taking her with you to the shop (give your child a mini-list of items they are responsible for getting or give them the list and they can tick off items as you buy them) or the carwash.
  • Try to balance your weekends with chores and activities you can do with your children.
  • Opt for an outing like a picnic/walk or baking (if raining) rather than a movie. This will create an opportunity for them to talk and you to listen.

It is always important to focus on solutions and responses to reports like this UNICEF one and only last week I delivered 3 Positive Parenting (with focus on how parents who work outside of home can maximise the quality time with their children when they don’t have quantity time) to staff of some medium and large organisations and the attendance at all trainings was very large with a good gender balance, which the companies who organised were surprised and delighted about. It is important that companies acknowledge the pressures that their staff are under in terms of work/life balance and it is in everyones interest to offer training workshops like this one (we offer many more on a variety of parenting topics) to show their staff that they care and are invested in making it an easier balance to maintain, which in turn will increase morale and decrease absenteeism in companies.

In general, society must move to respond to this issue and work together to ensure we are raising happy children because happy children make a happy society, this effects all of us, whether we have children or not. A government subsidised Parenting Course available to all parents at various stages of their children’s development would go a long way to helping with this and the benefits would be felt throughout society – we have this expertise in Ireland, let’s use it to turn this around and climb into the top 5 of the UNICEF list by the time they repeat this study! While I will always tell parents that they are the experts on their own children I will emphasise that it is also ok to ask for help when you need it!

In addition to individual therapeutic supports, Solamh Clinic offers a variety of Positive Parenting focused trainings including Maternity Leave Support Program; Parent Child Communication; Effective Discipline; Developmental Play to help Children grow and develop; How to Maximise quality time with your child when you don’t have quantity time with them and many more. All trainings can be tailored to suit your organisations needs – call Joanna on 016976568 or email for more information

Kids watching television - mental imprinting

Infants are the new marketing targets for companies

Comments off 1245 Views0

I was in a large ToyStore on Saturday to buy a birthday gift for my 6 year old God-Daughter and was immediately frustrated and then really angry at how many of the “toys” aimed at little girls are image and make-up focused such as make your own lipstick/nail-polish and a variety of others not worth mentioning here…even the dolls were pimped to the maximum!! I eventually settled on a “Paint your own Puppy” set but it got me thinking about how our children are being targeted by Marketing companies from their infancy and so I wonder what can we do about it??

Play is essential to children’s development, it is how they learn about their world, who they are, who others in their world are and from here they learn to develop relationships and attachments. Play is a natural experience for children, it comes naturally to them and free, creative, imaginative play is of paramount importance in children’s development. See my previous blog on the 3 stages of developmental play here

This overtly sexualised and commercialisation of children’s play and toys is actually preventing them from exploring and experimenting with feelings and choices, it is stopping children from actually playing!!

The amount of time children are spending at creative/imaginative play is steadily decreasing and I couldn’t help but observe that even the “creative toys” in this same Toy Store such as Lego were now available in kits that were mostly associated with a brand i.e. Harry Potter/Star Wars/Disney and therefore exposing children to the influence of bigger brands, leading them to brand recognition and limiting the scope for free expression play with the lego. It is impossible to ignore the influence of gender stereotyping in how children toys are marketed…it’s mostly Princess and hair/make-up options for girls while boys toys are action based with the roles on offer being Fire-Fighter; Police Officer; Soldier etc.

A recent study in Adweek Magazine states that “by the age of three, children in the US can recognise 100 different brands” and this is not a phenomenon exclusive to the US by any means. This article goes on to quote a former marketing consultant to Hasbro, Mattel and Nestle who said “babies don’t distinguish between reality and fantasy, so they [companies] think, ‘Let’s get them while they’re susceptible'”. Watch this short but very effective video by Dove around the effect this has on young children’s development This is compounded by the fact that everything is branded now, you are not just buying a book for your child but the branded book is automatically directing you and your child towards the DVD, Computer Game, Playing cards, Pencil case & Lunch box that go with it!

By limiting our children’s access to creative and imaginative play we are undermining their creations and projections, we are restricting how they get to work out the world around them and how they feel in it and also how they learn to problem solve because creative play is essential for children to develop their critical thinking capacity!

So let’s take some responsibility for what are children are playing with and at the same time send a message to the marketing companies that our children will not be a part of the increasing commercial culture we all live in! Less of Tattooed Barbie and more Sand, Play-Doh/Clay and finger painting because we know that what our children want and need most of all is time with their parents/carers not stuff! Ref UNICEF report An Overview of Child Well-being in Rich Countries [ the link to the UNICEF research is contained in this article]

Protect Childhood, Protect Children’s Right to Play!

Back to school supplies.

Transition from play to big school – how to support your child

Comments off 2586 Views0

Starting school can be an emotional experience for both children and parents, below are some tips and guidelines as to how you can make this transition smoother for all involved.

It is important to remember that change/transition is a process for any of us, the difference with very young children is that it will be challenging for them to ‘articulate’ this challenge and they will have to show their handling of this process in the way they knows best i.e. behaviourally.

How they will adapt to the change is dependent on their personality, temperament and how they understand what is happening. Common behaviours that are notable but not necessarily a cause for concern in this context might include; clingy, moody, angry, anxious, withdrawn/less sociable behaviours. Parents should expect to see some of this as they start Big School but you should also expect these to disappear again as they adjust, if they linger beyond a few weeks (4-6 weeks or so) then you may need to specifically address the struggle with and for them. Some children regress at times of change to behaviours that they displayed when younger and again this is quite normal while they are adapting to the change and should disappear. During this time offer lots of extra hugs and cuddles and encouragement to help them negotiate through it.

Practically, do what you can to be as available as possible to your child during this transition i.e. -Try to be available to them the first week if you can take it off work so that you are close by if they are really struggling. -Talk about the change in the most appropriate way for your child, for example you can do regular drives past the new school and point it out and name it as “Susie’s (your child’s name) school” so they form an association. -Talk about it at home “We saw Susie’s new school today, there are lots of children and fun toys in Susie’s new school” etc. -Mark the change by buying them a new back-pack, new shoes, uniform or something and name them as “Susie’s school shoes/bag/lunch box/pencil case” and involve your child in this process by designing a Shopping list that they are in charge of and can tick off items as they select them with you, it is very important that they are part of choosing these items. -It can be helpful with some children to make a story board of the new daily routine that you can hang up in their room or in the kitchen, for example, use photos or draw or cut out pictures of 1. Susie in bed 2. Susie waking up 3. Susie in Bathroom brushing teeth or getting dressed 4. Eating breakfast 5. In the car 6. A picture of the school 7. Children sitting together at a table like in school 8. Coming home (a picture of someone collecting Susie. This can help to get your child used to the various steps in the day by visualising what will happen.

And very importantly, parents must stay super positive about school as a great place and that he/she will have lots of fun there so your child can mirror your emotions and behaviours about it.

These guidelines may be of help but of course each child will react to this period of change in their own way. It is very ‘normal’ for a child who has had disruption to their transitions in infancy (children who are adopted, fostered, have spent significant time in hospital, had some kind of trauma in their early life) to experience any aspect of change as particularly challenging and they may need some extra support at this time from their parents and possibly a child psychotherapist. In any case, stay positive but roll with it as it happens!

Some children will run in the door of the school and never look back at you and will embrace this change on their own. Others will cry and cling to their Mums/Dad’s for the first days. If your child is upset, bend down to their eye level and taking their hands in yours acknowledge their feelings “I know that you are feeling scared and you are wondering what it will be like so I can promise you that it will be great when you get inside and meet all the other children and your teacher and I will be thinking about you at home and when I come back to collect you in a while you can tell me all about it!”

This will be the first of many changes in your child’s life and they will need your support through each of them. It is important to consider how this is also a big change for parents who may experience their “baby” starting school as them growing up and beginning to pull away from them. This is a hard time for parents as well, sometimes it’s parents who are crying at the school gate and not the children, so I would also encourage you to make a plan to mind yourself through this change. Make a plan to meet friends after dropping your child off at school that first day and have a nice lunch. Remind yourself that your child starting school is a positive reflection on all you have done to get them to this stage. Try to remain positive for your child because they still very much need you to help them negotiate throughout this period of change, they take their lead from you and will mirror how you feel about it but ensure you have your own support network available to you in these early days.

School is a huge part of every child’s life and they will grow up and experience many more changes while at school. It is very helpful to have a routine at home around school to help your child regulate themselves not only in the initial period of transition but throughout. Try to keep the morning times as calm as possible by planning ahead i.e. lay the breakfast table the night before and prepare school lunches in advance so that things are less hectic. Make sure that you have time at the end of the day to sit and talk and listen to your child’s experience of their day, family dinner time is very important for everyone to share their highs and lows of the day and to debrief how they are feeling.

We support lots of children who struggle with this period of transition. For more information contact us on 01-6976568 or email see for more information

I love Being Independent. Schoolboy writing on a chalkboard.

Help! My child wants to become more ‘independent’

Comments off 11764 Views0

It’s that conflict between wanting our children to be more independent and being terrified at the first sign of it’s assertion…how to strike a balance between giving our children the opportunity to assert themselves and grow as and into, independent beings while maintaining parental control at the same time!

An essential part of growing up is to test and push parental boundaries and to (gradually) gain more and more independence so that we can become independent and self sufficient adults. This is increasingly becoming an era of parents micro-managing their children’s lives and parents (and children) have now become accustomed to meeting all of their children’s needs for them. This is really about finding a balance between allowing children to do things for themselves and providing the necessary support and guidance to ensure they make good and safe choices.

As your child begins to demand more independence and to pull away from you a little, this is the perfect time to teach them responsibility…independence and responsibility go hand in hand and the more responsible your children can show you they have become the easier it is for you to relax and support their independence. Children begin to demand independence from a very young age, there is no one more willful in this regard than a 2 year old child asserting “I do myself” and this is wonderful, it is your child’s job to pull against you and demand this freedom and your job as a parent to drip feed them the independence in a staged, age and developmentally appropriate way ensuring you are preparing them adequately along the way.

Encouraging your child to do the things they can do for themselves is one step i.e. smaller children need a lot of assistance from adults to reach things and get things for them, so when it is something your child can get for themselves encourage them to do so, be it getting a cup from the counter, the cheese from the fridge or a book from a low shelf. Praise their efforts when they do so. Similarly, it is always advisable to encourage your children to problem solve from a very young age as this facilitates confidence and independent thinking. When your child is struggling with something and asks you to do it or fix it or answer it for them, stop and encourage them to think of a way that they can work this out themselves, depending on age suggest they write a pros & cons list or draw a picture of the choices they have and see which one they think is best for them. Children should be encouraged to make decisions from a young age from which outfit or shoes to wear, to chicken or fish for dinner, to choosing which story book they want before bed.

The balance here is between choices and consequences…anticipate the inevitable “you’re not the boss of me” stand off by preparing your response in a calm manner, you might reply “You are correct, you are the boss of you and you get to choose how you behave but I am the boss of what happens when you choose to behave well or to misbehave. So you can choose what to do and I will choose the consequence”. This is double edged in that you are allowing and encouraging independence while holding the parental boundary that all choices have consequences.

If you can make choices, decision making and a gradual independence a part of your child’s upbringing they will be better prepared to manage and keep themselves safe when they are independent. This is a normal part of your child’s journey to adulthood, children must get to try out new things and take risks…with your guidance and support. You are the expert on your child and nobody knows your child better than you do so trust your instinct and if you believe that your child is ready to walk to the shop or to a friends house on their own then you can allow this, give them a time to be back by or an instruction to call when they have arrived safely to reassure yourself if this helps.

Teenagers and the now named Tweenage group of 11/12 years onwards will push you to give them more and more freedom and again this is normal. If you are not happy to give as much independence as they are seeking try a compromise as opposed to a “no”. If your 12 year old wants to go into the city centre shopping with her friends alone and you don’t believe this is appropriate suggest you drive her and her friends to a shopping centre where they can have an hour to walk around the shops before meeting you at a cafe for lunch. This tells your child that you trust them to shop alone but are holding the boundary on how much time and where this happens. Children must be allowed to make mistakes, it helps them to learn and make more informed decisions as well as continuing to shape the brains development. Trust in the job you have done in raising your children, if you have had clear and consistent family rules at home while your child was growing up they will know what is expected of them and behave accordingly. If they mess up, there should be a consequence and then let it go so that they can do better next time.

Sometimes it’s best to be honest with your child “I know you think I’m overprotective and mean for not allowing you to do this but it is my job to keep you safe and I take this very seriously because I love you. I want to compromise with you so instead of you going to the cinema alone why don’t you invite your friends over here for DVD’s and take-out on Friday night”…and perhaps if appropriate “We/I will be out for an hour so you will have some time for yourselves before we get back”. This is all about striking a balance and reassuring your child that you do trust and love them, in fact this is why it is difficult for you to let go! This is a learning curve for both you and your child, it is trial and error so expect some teething problems and mistakes…learn from them and move on, don’t hang onto the mistakes your child makes and keep waving them at them in the future, “remember you did this three months ago well that’s why you can’t go now!” is not helpful and will limit your child’s development.

Essentially, independence is a process that starts in young childhood and continues into young adulthood and beyond. Create as many safe and controlled opportunities for your child to develop their sense of independence as you can from a young age and gradually increase these as they get older and more responsible. It can be hard as a parent to accept that your child is growing up and pulling away from you, reflect on how much of your reluctance to give more independence is down to your child and how much is down to your own anxiety.

Remember your child should want to be independent, you should find this a challenge at times, you should both be open to taking (controlled) risks at this time…it may be a cause for concern if your child refuses to separate or become independent from you.

Family hands on team

Children must FEEL they are loved

Comments off 9413 Views0

St John Bosco once said “It’s not enough to love the children, it is necessary that they are aware that they are loved” I recently re-read this quote and it got me thinking about how we show and experience the love of others. Babies are born with an intense need to develop a strong passion and love towards their mothers but how they experience the love of their mothers will set in motion a pattern of life-long behaviour around relationships. It is too simplistic to say that we marry our mothers however we will seek to repeat how we experienced this initial love relationship in all future relationships…for better or worse!

To return to St John Bosco’s words, how can we ensure that our children know that they are loved? We are a society of increasingly time poor parents who, according to the 2011 UNICEF report of child happiness, persistently give our children material “stuff” when what they want more than anything else, according to the same report, is more time with us.

Our first bond as babies is with our Mothers primarily, then our fathers and the rest of our family (siblings and other close family members) and it is during this co-dependent stage of development 0-8 months that we develop our sense of self, learn how to trust, experience how we can expect the world around us to receive us but we do not have the cognition to internalise any of this verbally, we learn it in a physical way through skin to skin touch, rocking, eye contact, tone of voice…this is how we first become aware of being loved, material goods are not a feature!

Given we are under immense time pressures and increasing demands, how can we ensure that our children remain aware of our love for them. There are some practical tools and techniques you can simply employ at home that will ensure you have maximum quality time with your children even when you do not have quantity time with them, small changes that make big differences. You can;

  • Plan your week ahead: Tuesday/ Thursday is story night; Friday is makeyour- own-desert night, football or outdoor play on Sunday afternoon. In this way time won’t fly away with all your good intentions.
  • Plan the week’s menu ahead of time and go for healthy but quick meals during the week days. All this planning might take up one whole evening but the rest of your week will flow pleasantly because of this and hopefully leave you with extra time
  • Make a point of having dinner or breakfast together and don’t be in a rush. Talk about your day and ask about theirs, what is everyone’s best bit of the day and the day they wish they could do differently
  • Take an extra ten minutes to read the bedtime story and kiss them goodnight – recent Irish research shows that 60% of Irish parents say they are too tired to read a bedtime story at the end of the day, the bedtime story is an essential part of child well-being and happiness, carefully chosen (non-commercialised) books can also allow you to get your own agenda across such as stories specifically dealing with nightmares; anxiety; toilet training; anger; bereavement; separation etc and also allows for some valuable eye to eye, calm, quality time at the end of the day.

Coping with bereavement

Comments off 3389 Views0

The death of someone special is never easy to deal with. Child Psychologist, Joanna Fortune, explains once you understand how children make sense of death and experience grief, you can help them to cope with their feelings

To understand how children cope with grief we must look first to how they understand and learn about grief. We know that as adults, we implicitly understand that death is universal, an inevitable ending of physical life. But children’s understanding develops more gradually and their understanding is dependent upon their age and development. While babies and young toddlers may not cognitively understand death or what it is, they will be attuned to the emotional responses of their carers. A grieving mother, mourning the loss of her parent may be crying and feeling very sad while caring for her baby; the baby will pick up on this and respond to them. Your baby or young toddler may regress and begin to cry without cause and/or withdraw from you. They are extremely attuned to the feelings of the adults around them and they take their lead from their carers – and grief is no different.

How children understand the idea of death
Children aged five years or younger have not yet developed a cognitive understanding or abstract notions like time, so concepts like ‘final’ and ‘forever’ do not hold great meaning for them. At this stage, dead simply means less alive and is likened to a long sleep or a long trip. They may ask you every now and then where the dead person has gone to, or ask why they don’t see them anymore – you will have to repeat many times that this person is no longer alive and won’t be coming back to help them understand. Between the ages of five and eight years, children do understand death as a final event and may even interpret death as a very scary person who comes to take someone away. Death is a frightening concept at this stage and is associated with violence and aggression. Children at this stage of development will often display an intense level of interest in the funeral rituals surrounding death and ask exploratory questions about heaven or the afterlife such as, “What happens to us when we die?”, “Where do we go?”. From the age of nine years and older children have developed a more adult-like awareness and insight into what death is and they understand it is final and means the end of physical life. From the age of nine years onwards, most children have what is essentially an adult understanding of death, though this is dependent on their developmental stage – if your ten year-old child is developmentally functioning at the level of a seven year-old then they will have a seven year-old understanding of death and you must approach how you tell them about the death and support them to grieve and understand what has happened at the appropriate level. A child’s past experience of death is also a factor in terms of their understanding, for example a younger child who has already experienced death and loss in the family may have a more mature insight into what it is and what it means. Essentially, the best way to gauge your child’s understanding is to listen carefully to the questions they ask and the way they talk about it and be guided by them

How do children experience grief?
In terms of how children experience grief it will not be so different from how adults experience it with feelings like shock, confusion, anger, sadness and guilt. The difference is that children may not be able to express these feelings in the ways that adults can and so it often appears to parents that they aren’t really that aware of or affected by the death.

What to look for
It is very important that you observe your child for any sudden changes in behavior or the display of new behaviours; this may include regression to earlier developmental behaviours such as; becoming withdrawn, bed-wetting, lack of concentration, sudden clingy-ness, uncharacteristic bullying, telling lies and/or making up fantastical fabrications, self-depreciating words or actions where they begin to describe themselves as ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ or ‘stupid’ or ‘not a good person’ and being aggressive towards themselves or others – all of which point to their upset state of mind and their own suffering.

How can I help?
It is important that you acknowledge this suffering and grieving when you observe these behaviours and say something like, “I know that you are feeling sad/angry/ confused about [whomever’s] death and I am glad that you found a way to show me how you are feeling through your behaviour. I’d like to talk to you about this so that I can understand your feelings and help you with them now.” Depending on age/development you might sit and draw a picture of how they are feeling now and another picture of their happiest memory with the person while you speak about the memory. You might also design a family memory board together using a board, some thumb-tacks and a selection of photos, letters (to spell out feeling words) and magazine pictures and have it hung in a visible space in your home. As I’ve mentioned already children will experience stages and feelings of grief very similar to those adults do, the distinct difference being that due to their more limited life experience their ability to understand and express their feelings of grief and loss are restricted and this is where they require support and help. Depending on their stage of development some they may still be in a magical thinking stage whereby they believe they could have caused the death by having ‘wished’ it to happen, ie between siblings if the surviving child had ever ‘wished’ the other dead “I hate you and I wish you were dead” in temper, they may now believe the death to be their fault and will require reassurance about this.

The stages of grief
The main stages of grief are denial (shock, numbness, “no, I don’t believe you”) followed by more acute grief (sadness, crying, withdrawal, anger, guilt, anxiety, fear, regression, emotional and physical distress – tummy aches/headaches associated with feelings) and leading onto a period of adjustment (though painful there is a gradual acceptance of this new reality and a reestablishment of life and a moving on) It is to be expected that your grieving child will act out and may display disruptive and challenging behaviours both at home and at school. Children need a lot of patience, reassuring and love at this time and yet the normality of everyday boundaries is equally important to assure them that their life is otherwise unchanged. I would advise a very gentle approach to discipline (not to be confused with no discipline at all) at this time combined with lots of reassurance and naming of how they are feeling, with kisses and cuddles and time together with you. Whether it is death of a family member or friend, a sibling or the terminal illness of someone close, it is imperative that we keep children as informed as is possible. We may think that we are protecting them by not telling them what has happened and not including them in the process but we are just kidding ourselves because they know something is wrong. It is not easy to manage your children’s grief when you are experiencing your own, so remember to draw on the support of family and friends and, if needed, the support and intervention of a professional. Death is not an easy subject to think or talk about but it is an inevitability in each of our lives at some stage

How to break the news of a death
It is important to think about the language you use when you have to tell your child that someone special to them has died. To explain, below is a little case study I’d like to share with you (names and details have been changed): Natalie was referred to me aged six years old when, six months after his death, she could not accept that her beloved grandfather was truly gone and persistently asked when he would return. Her parents worried she was not dealing with his death and it was starting to show in her behaviour, both at home and in school. This once happy and bubbly little girl had grown withdrawn, quiet and had become prone to sudden, unprovoked temper tantrums where she would kick and scream at her parents, “I hate you, you don’t love me, you don’t love granddad anymore, I wish I was with granddad instead of you.” This last part worried them, as they feared she was expressing a wish to die herself. I met with Natalie alone and told her that her mum and dad had talked to me about her granddad and that they were worried about how she might be feeling about everything that had happened, I wondered if she’d like to talk to me about it. The problem was quickly and immediately clear when Natalie turned to me with her hand on her hip and yelled, “They told me that we had lost granddad and I just can’t understand why nobody is looking for him, he must be so scared on his own and wondering why we aren’t trying to find him and bring him home again.” Natalie had no idea that her granddad was actually dead. Her parents had talked to her about having lost granddad, “We’re sad to tell you that we have lost granddad and he is not with us anymore”. This is too abstract for children who still have a very literal understanding of language and concepts. My work with this family quickly changed to facilitate a conversation between Natalie and her parents whereby they told her, in clear and unambiguous language, that granddad was in fact dead and not lost as she had feared. The surprising thing for her parents was the absolute relief in Natalie’s face and previously tense body and she exhaled and said, “Oh no, that’s so sad, why didn’t you tell me, I thought he was missing.” From here, Natalie could begin to negotiate her own stages of grief and start to move on. So you can see the importance of using very clear and unambiguous language when telling children that someone has died, we tend to use more abstract and softer language thinking it is easier for them, but actually it is easier for us due to our own feelings of shock and numbness and our anxiety at saying aloud that someone we love is dead.

Angry mother scolding a disobedient child


Comments off 2947 Views0

It can often seem that no matter your efforts to teach your children good manners and behavior, the inevitable bad behavior meltdowns occur. It is natural for children to misbehave and challenge authority, at all ages and stages of development. However, what is most important when these meltdowns occur, is your own reaction to the event. Scolding and punishing a child by telling them exactly what they did wrong won’t correct the bold behavior. Rather, disciplining children in such a way will actually make them more likely to continue the undesirable behaviors. When disciplining your child, it is important to keep in mind their age and developmental capability for understanding what was wrong with such behavior. The key to effective discipline is to teach the child which behaviors are desirable and should be encouraged. Parents must present to the child how valuable good behaviors are, rather than spending time focusing on the negative ones. When the good behavior occurs, make sure to emphasise how happy it makes you to see them acting this way. Rewarding the good activities is important as well. If your child usually has a meltdown when asked to put away her toys, but puts them away without complaint one night, mention how happy it makes you when she puts them away. You can offer to do a puzzle or read a story with her before bedtime as a reward. For fun activity sheets rewarding good behavior, see the Printables section of my blog.

  • Page 3 of 3
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3