e-book Children, Bereavement and Trauma: Nurturing Resilience

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Mr Rogers Talks About Tragic Events : Watch an episode featuring Fred Rogers speaking about how to cope with violence in the world—his advice is still relevant today. The Fred Rogers Company, NEA Today, Responding to Trauma in Your Classroom : Examine the signs and causes of student trauma, and explore strategies for responding to and supporting students who are experiencing trauma. The Atlantic, Helping Kids Recover From Trauma : Discover how resilience can be fostered by supportive factors in schools, and read takeaways from research.

Edutopia, 5 Ways to Help Students in Trauma : Read strategies and tips for creating a calming classroom environment that can help troubled students learn. Edutopia, Helping Students Who Have Experienced Trauma : Explore seven strategies you can use in your classroom to help support and empower students in trauma. Edutopia, How Not to Be a Mountain Troll : Take a look at four strategies that educators can use to build trust with students, especially vulnerable students who may have experienced abuse from adults.

Sesame Street in Communities School-Wide Approaches to Addressing Trauma Trauma-Informed Practices Benefit All Students : Learn how utilizing school-wide trauma-informed practices can benefit the entire school community, including helping all students learn coping skills and self-efficacy. Edutopia, How Schools Are Helping Traumatized Students Learn Again : Discover best practices, strategies, and tips your school can employ to foster safe, calming, and supportive learning spaces. This guide includes a rich collection of additional resources.

This can lead to anxiety-driven protection behaviours, so that the child is unable to manage even low-intensity stress in future situations. In order to escape the pain of negative experiences, it is common for a child to either disassociate and withdraw, or they may display hyperaroused, demanding, and disinhibited behaviours. Both reactions can have very negative psychosocial repercussions, but if the behaviours are repeated frequently then behavioural schemas are forged and embedded in the brain, setting patterns for how stressful situations are managed in the future.

Grief and Loss in Young People: A Neuroscience Perspective (audio version)

This top-down approach assumes the child has effective cognitive ability to address unhelpful thoughts and behaviours. However, children suffering loss and trauma are generally anxious, fearful, and a little confused. And therapy itself can be fearful! The environment of the therapy room is unfamiliar and the therapist unknown, all adding to the fear and anxiety the child is presently experiencing. A positive therapeutic alliance begins with a smile, displaying warmth and showing genuine care that are all part of building a positive rapport with a child.

But what next? Many therapists feel totally out of their depth when counselling children. Fear may result in the child clamming up, or not being able to provide any more than an occasional yes or no, a nod or a grunt. Storytelling and reading to a child are good ways for the therapist to engage with the child, right brain to right brain, and hold their interest. Children enjoy the stories and they can help create a positive therapeutic alliance as a framework of trust is generated.


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Engaging in storytelling together inadvertently fulfils some vital psychological needs , in particular, the need to feel connection with the therapist, so that a child feels safe in sharing their vulnerabilities, and provides opportunities to build strong attachments. An equally important psychological need is providing the child with a sense of control.

This can be achieved during the story when the therapist the reader invites the child to turn the pages, hold the book, point to various features in the pictures, choose to hold a soft toy while listening, or simply to choose the part they would like to read. The story of Benson provides orientation and can help give some insight into the way a child is feeling about their own personal situation of loss.

Deborah Gray on How Grief and Loss Impact Attachment

Experiential evidence has shown that reading Benson the Boxer to a child has been the catalyst for a cathartic experience due to the normalizing of emotions the individual may be feeling. Interestingly, this has also been helpful for adults. The Benson the Boxer story can help calm distress and anxiety surrounding situations of childhood loss. It acknowledges and names the emotions associated with grief and sadness and outlines the neuroscience behind the protection behaviours a child may have adopted.

Engaging a child in a story uses a bottom-up approach, down-regulating the stress response, activating predominantly the right frontal cortex, the primary area affected by the emotional or social pain commonly associated with loss.

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The stories are accompanied by bright, colourful, and engaging illustrations that enhance the activation of positive memories by facilitating new memory networks. Benson the Boxer: A Story of Loss and Life identifies with the loss a child is experiencing, allowing their own personal grief to unfold. Benson the Boxer: A Story of Loss and Life is a beautifully illustrated picture book that tells the story of Benson, a boxer dog, and the loss of his best friend, Lucy Labrador. As a psychoeducational tool, the book is suitable for helping a child or young person through many situations of loss, be that the death of a pet or loved one, an accident that results in a disability, an illness, or maybe a divorce or separation.

Within the framework of the story, the author has addressed how the brain reacts to situations of loss and grief and woven in strategies for moving forward.

Therapists, teachers, and parents will similarly find within the story framework appropriate questions to ask and how to talk to an individual who is grieving the loss of a loved one. Older children begin to relate, not just to death, but to other areas of loss that have affected them and those close to them.

The manual Benson the Boxer Program for Loss and Grief complements the storybook and is designed to provide guidance for clinicians, educators, parents and other caregivers, and to provide insight into the neuroscience surrounding situations of loss, grief and trauma. It is filled with tips and best-practice ideas for any adult who works with children and young people.

The attractive and colourful activities are designed not to be difficult or challenging but to be discussion starters that can be developed. They provide unobtrusive and non-threatening ways of talking through emotions surrounding loss, building right-brain to right-brain connections and opening neural pathways.

This approach is an attempt to normalize what a child is feeling as they sense a partnership with Benson in their shared experience of grief. The activities are varied.

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Resilience in Children: Developmental Perspectives

They are not set to benchmark standards as would be found in a classroom setting. This is purposeful! Creative therapists, educators, and parents can expand on the activities if they wish, or use them as a starting point for further discussion. The worksheets encourage the child to identify, acknowledge, address, and name their feelings of loss.

There are ideas for moving forward from that feeling of being stuck or trapped that is a common experience after a loss. The program guide is not a lengthy manual filled with psychological jargon; rather, it is designed for time-poor practitioners, educators, and parents and offers concise explanations on how to get the most from this resource. Life is fun and exciting for this mischievous, inseparable pair, until one day the unimaginable happens, Lucy is killed in a road accident.

The tragedy leaves Benson feeling alone and miserable. Anxiety, fear, guilt and sadness fill his days and stop him doing things he used to enjoy.