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Therapy for Children's Grief
10 CEUs 8 Strategies for Working with Grieving Children

Section 4
Involvement of Children in Change due to Loss

Question 4 | Test | Table of Contents | Grief CEU Courses
Social Worker CEU, Psychologist CE, Counselor CEU, MFT CEU

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On the last track we discussed guilt.  Three concepts regarding guilt are guilt is common, unrealistic guilt, and the understanding responsibility technique.

On this track we will discuss involving children in change resulting from the loss. I will divide involvement with change after loss into the two categories of negative and positive involvement. At the end of this track, I provide several examples of how positive involvement was implemented by parents with grieving children. As you listen to this track, consider ways to implement the information in your practice to help parents positively involve their children in change after loss. 

#1 Negative Involvement
First, let’s discuss negative involvement. Landon, age 12, not only lost a sense of security when his parents divorced, but also resented what he felt to be their insensitivity towards his feelings.  Landon’s mother and father were open and honest about the stresses in their marriage. Landon was aware that his parents were in counseling. 

Therefore, when Landon was told that the marriage was over, he was not surprised.  Instead, Landon’s grief and resentment were connected to his parent’s behavior following the divorce.  As you know, change is inevitable following divorce, but Landon’s parents limited their son’s experiences to negative involvement. Here is what I mean.

Landon stated, "The day after I found out about the divorce, mom went shopping and left me at home. Right after she left, dad showed up with some friends and a big truck. I just stood there, watching him tear the house apart! He took what he wanted and left the rest. Then, just before he left, mom came home and started calling him a bastard! Dad left, and then mom really started going nuts! She went on a cleaning frenzy, muttering under her breath and tearing the house up worse than dad did. The next day dad came back and they started going through photo albums and Christmas stuff, arguing over who got what.  I couldn’t help but wonder if they might just tear me in half!" 

As you probably know, negative involvement in change related to the grief process is not just an issue regarding divorce. A child who loses a sibling or other family member may come home to find that pictures of the deceased have been taken down, the person’s room dismantled or that his or her belongings have been taken out of the house. 

As I stated to Landon’s parents, "Parents and other adults may not intend to inflict additional pain on their children through not involving them in decisions regarding change. However, when preoccupied with personal anger or grief, parents may force children to accept change too quickly. This can lead to the loss of a sense of security for the child and possibly deprive the child of the comfort of a more gradual transition." 

Think of your Landon. Have the parents of your grieving client forced change on the child? How involved was the child in changes that took place after the loss?  If children were uninvolved in decisions regarding change, what is you next step in your next session with that client.

#2 Positive Involvement
Second, let’s discuss positive involvement in grief related change.  Would you agree that whenever possible, children should be asked their opinion as to when and how change occurs?  I often state to the parents of grieving children, "The child should have the opportunity to request that certain things be left in place or that he be allowed to keep certain things which are special to him or her."  In Landon’s case, even a mature and organized separation of possessions would have been more productive than the negative involvement he experienced. 

The following are three examples of positive involvement:  
Example #1 of positive involvement in change. 6 year old Devin requested that he have his grandmother’s cane when his parents asked which of her belongings he would like to have. 

Example #2 of positive involvement in change. The night her brother, Mikey, died, 4 year old Rosalie’s parents carefully brought Mikey’s pet hermit crab into her room because Rosalie was worried about who would care for the hermit crab. Rosalie had stated to her parents that the crab was lonely and that Mikey would have wanted her to look after it.

Example #3 of positive involvement in change. Nolan and Henna’s grandparents died within several weeks of one another. The children’s parents took them to the grandparent’s house so they could walk through the house and select mementos. Photographs were taken of the various rooms, and the children were encouraged to help make lists of things they wanted to be kept safe.

Has the parent of a grieving child you are treating overlooked their child’s needs relating to change because they were too preoccupied with their own grief? Could playing this track during a session be helpful to your grieving parent to involve their child in the change resulting from the loss? 

On this track we have discussed discuss the importance of involving children in change.

- Lawrence, G., Lawrence, K., & Robinson, S. E. (2000). Legal and Ethical Issues Involved When Counseling Minors in Nonschool Settings. Journal of Counseling and Development.

On the next track we will discuss adjusting to a new life.  Three aspects regarding adjusting to a new life are role changes, going back to school, and holidays. 

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Aslan, A., Samenieh, A., Staudigl, T., & Bäuml, K.-H. T. (2010). Memorial consequences of environmental context change in children and adults. Experimental Psychology, 57(6), 455–461. 

Eisma, M. C., Stroebe, M. S., Schut, H. A. W., Stroebe, W., Boelen, P. A., & van den Bout, J. (2013). Avoidance processes mediate the relationship between rumination and symptoms of complicated grief and depression following loss. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 122(4), 961–970.

Geiser, C., Eid, M., Nussbeck, F. W., Courvoisier, D. S., & Cole, D. A. (2010). Analyzing true change in longitudinal multitrait-multimethod studies: Application of a multimethod change model to depression and anxiety in children. Developmental Psychology, 46(1), 29–45.

Stutey, D. M., Helm, H. M., LoSasso, H., & Kreider, H. D. (2016). Play therapy and photo-elicitation: A narrative examination of children’s grief. International Journal of Play Therapy, 25(3), 154–165. 

What are ways to involve children in the change that results from loss? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

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