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Building Resilience in Children Affected by HIV/AIDS
Sr Silke-Andrea Mallmann CPS
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Catholic AIDS Action, Namibia
Maskew Miller Longman Forest Drive, Pinelands, Cape Town Associated companies, branches and representatives throughout Africa and the world. © Maskew Miller Longman and Catholic Aids Action, Namibia All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. First edition by Catholic Aids Action Namibia Second edition by Longman Namibia 2003 ISBN 99916 1 274 2 Materials developed by Sr Silke-Andrea Mallmann Edited by Michelle Saffer Cover design and artwork by Karlie Hadingham Typesetting by DTP Impressions Reproduction by Printed by For further information contact: Maskew Miller Longman PO Box 396 Cape Town 8000 SOUTH AFRICA Phone: +27-21-531-7750 Fax: +27-21-532-2302 email: email@example.com Catholic AIDS Action PO Box 11525 Windhoek NAMIBIA Phone: +264-61-27-6350 FaxL +264-61-27-6364 email:firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.caa.org.na
Contents Preface A note from the author Acknowledgements 1. . Resilience in Orphans and Vulnerable Children What makes children vulnerable? How does a child become resilient? What do children need to cope with adversity? External resources fostering resilience Inner resources fostering resilience How to develop resilience in children The importance of the family The importance of school Experiential learning The benefits of experiential learning Children affected by HIV/AIDS The sickness of a parent Caring for a sick parent The economic impact of a sick parent The stigma of HIV/AIDS Dealing with the death of a parent Preparation for the death of a parent Being infected themselves Dealing with HIV and school Telling others about an HIV/AIDS status Losing a parent Different aspects of mourning Factors that affect the mourning process The death of the parent The relationship with the deceased parent The availability of a surviving parent or caregiver The structure of the extended family Rituals surrounding the parent’s death Support from the community Peers and friends The age and developmental stage of the child Preparing children for the death of a parent Normal versus severe reactions What are severe reactions? vii viii ix 1 2 3 3 3 4 5 6 6 7 8 9 9 10 11 11 12 14 15 15 15 17 18 18 18 18 19 19 20 20 21 21 39 39 40 2. 4. 3.
Preventing severe reactions in a child The STOP system for parents Make a memory box Pray with your child and pray for your child The STOP system for caregivers The STOP system for teachers The attitudes of caregivers and teachers 5. Ideas for helping children showing specific reactions Clinging Explaining her behaviour What can you do to help? Sleeping difficulties and nightmares Explaining her behaviour What can you do to help? Nightmares Explaining his behaviour What can you do to help? What else can you do to help? Night terrors Explaining her behaviour What can you do to help at home? What can you do to help at school? Bed-wetting Explaining his behaviour What can you do to help? Intrusive memories (flashbacks) Explaining her behaviour What can you do to help? How to deal with flashbacks or nightmares Aggression Explaining his behaviour What can you do to help? How can you deal with aggressive chldren? Auto-aggression What can you do to help? Hyperactivity Explaining her behaviour What can you do to help at home? What can you do to help at school? Negative magical thinking Explaining his behaviour What can you do to help at home? What can you do to help at school? 40 41 42 43 43 44 46 47 47 48 48 50 50 50 51 51 52 52 53 53 53 53 54 54 55 56 57 57 59 66 66 67 68 71 72 72 72 73 74 76 76 77 78 .
self-confidence and co-operation Games to recognise and understand feelings Games that help to deal with aggression Games that calm children down Games for help-seeking. autonomy and awareness Games to see how feelings appear physically Games to help autobiographical memory Severe problems requiring a specialist How do you know when a reaction is extreme? Complicated grief Severe depression Disturbing intrusive memories Severe and persistent feelings of anxiety Delinquent or anti-social behaviour Physical complaints What can you do to help? Child abuse and neglect What is neglect? What is physical abuse? What is sexual abuse? What is emotional abuse? Is there a type of child who may suffer abuse or neglect? Who abuses children? What can we do to prevent abuse? Talking to children about abuse What to do when you suspect child abuse Important points to remember Child abuse and HIV/AIDS What should I do if a child has been raped? 78 79 79 80 81 82 82 83 84 84 90 96 98 109 114 115 118 123 131 131 131 132 132 132 132 133 133 133 133 135 135 136 137 137 137 138 139 139 140 140 7. Games Games that foster trust Games for group cohesiveness and social skills Games fostering self-esteem.Helplessness Explaining her behaviour What can you do to help? How to help children access their inner resources again Physical complaints and body pains Explaining her behaviour What can you do to help at home? What can you do to help at school? 6. .
8. Children’s rights Background to international children’s rights Types of children’s rights Have these rights been upheld? Obligations of 191 countries What you can do 141 141 142 142 143 144 145 147 Glossary Bibliography .
Caring for our continent’s orphans and vulnerable children takes time. that number is expected to triple. most of them suffer a lot. And yet. we suffer with them. Too often. Study it. lost hope. and ultimately. Above all. And knowledge. the message is that “Love is Not Enough”. physical abuse. our conscience. and recommends it to our fellow Ministries and to all people of goodwill everywhere. Is there any parent left who can say that he or she is not worried about the legacy we are leaving our children? Under these circumstances. May God bless you in your work of caring for others. and a lost future that affects their entire community. And as a nation. the first message we want to give with this manual on psycho-social supports for orphans and vulnerable children is that THESE CHILDREN ARE OUR CHILDREN. who will be our continent’s leaders. Secondly. our future? According to the best data we have. their personal losses result in lost opportunity. had over 82 000 orphans. Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Child Welfare Republic of Namibia vii . Attend a training course offered by Catholic AIDS Action or another organisation which supports the contents of this book. The plight is similar in other African countries. heading towards a life of dislocation and crime? Surely. And they are our collective responsibility. The plight of these children will be the single largest impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on this nation. for example. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Child Welfare in Namibia is proud to be associated with the development of this manual by Catholic AIDS Action. in 2001 Namibia. There is nothing that any of them did to justify their sorrow. the entire country. or rape. Thus. (Ms) Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah Minister.Preface Who can say that he or she hasn’t ever seen children begging along our city streets. and their losses. And effort. this manual is meant to be applied within our own families and in our communities. their hardship. Within a generation. Read it. One thing we know for sure: Orphans and vulnerable children don’t deserve their fate. They belong to all of us. we have all been moved by news reports of children suffering from severe neglect. Refer back to it as often as you can. and the publication of this revised edition in partnership with Maskew Miller Longman. That is what this manual is about.
Our compassion can be expressed not only in care. theories. caregivers and teachers. Children need strong advocates to make their voices heard and to fight for their future. we take them into our homes and we share our lives with them. their strengths and their endurance. As caregivers. A book will never contain all the exercises and ideas that we will need – but it will hopefully encourage us to have the courage and commitment necessary to develop our own creative methods of helping children to cope. June 2002 viii . caregivers and teachers to understand children who are nursing a diseased parent or who have lost a parent. but also in understanding and friendship. their skills. A book cannot answer all our questions. This handbook is aimed at people who live and work with children affected by HIV/AIDS. we are faced with an increasing number of children who have already lost or are going to lose their parents. The impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic challenges us to approach childcare and education differently. We teach them in our classrooms. It is neither a recipe for success nor a book of rules. It offers ideas for discussions that can be held on a one-to-one basis in the child’s home or with a group of children in the classroom. pay attention to their ideas and learn from their coping strategies. Working with children affected by HIV/AIDS requires courage and creativity. we recognise their resources.A note from the author Dear parents. Often we feel unsure about how to help them deal with the loss of a parent. But the children we care for are our future and it is our task to walk beside them into that future. Instead. this handbook consists of a collection of ideas. but we have experienced teachers on our side – the children themselves! Sometimes children know best what they need. our communities and our society often make us feel powerless. we have to work with them. When we listen to them. The dimension of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and its consequences for our children. our families. We can be committed both to the child and to the rights of that child. tasks and exercises that should help us to understand the behaviour and feelings of children affected by HIV/AIDS. Silke-Andrea Mallmann CPS Mariannhill. This handbook is aimed at helping parents. In order to assist them. We may need enormous reserves of commitment and compassion. We can develop a vision of the possibilities that lie beyond the reality that faces us. It provides practical advice for teachers and caregivers on how to support children who have experienced loss and death in order to help them cope.
The person who must get the lion’s share of the credit for this handbook is Sr Silke Mallmann. For that we thank the Secure the Future Foundation. Sport and Culture. the Ford Foundation. Thankfully. ix . we are deeply indebted to Family Health International. the Ministry of Basic Education. Catholic AIDS Action staff received their initial training in psycho-social support for orphans and vulnerable children with the assistance of Family Health International and USAID. Family Health International and CAFO (Church Alliance for Orphans). We are very grateful to the representatives from these organisations who shared their ideas and support. the National OVC (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) Steering Committee. the Legal Assistance Centre. Zimbabwe. NANTU (Namibian National Teachers’ Union).Acknowledgements This handbook. Bristol Myers Squibb and the Catholic Medical Mission Board of the United States. Expressions of interest from other partners and countries led to the development of this revised edition with Maskew Miller Longman as our publishing partners. in cooperation with Philippi Namibia and Masiye Camps (Regional PsychoSocial Institute) in Bulawayo. We offer her our deepest thanks and our admiration. From the moment she contacted Catholic AIDS Action we knew we were on the right track. we needed additional support. the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Child Welfare. While writing this handbook she drew on her experiences working with refugee children and children affected by HIV/AIDS. Among the many organisations that were involved and consulted for the development of the original Namibia edition are: Catholic AIDS Action. Philippi Namibia. We believe that God sent Sr Silke to us. is intended to supplement and reinforce various training programmes on Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Namibia and other African countries. as well as in our provision of direct care to orphans and vulnerable children. But as demand for this handbook increased and the table of contents grew accordingly. Finally. originally developed in Namibia. Initial support for this publication came from a training grant received from NANTU and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation. the Ministry of Health and Social Services. USAID. UNICEF. FHI/USAID continues to assist us in training community leaders and volunteers in psycho-social support. Sr Silke is based at St Mary’s Hospital at Mariannhill in South Africa. and the Namibian government for their ongoing work in Namibia with orphans and vulnerable children. We offer our sincere thanks to our donors.
our guidance counsellors and our inspiration. PhD National Co-ordinator Catholic AIDS Action Windhoek NAMIBIA July 2002 x . we thank the children and their caregivers: they are our teachers. Caroline Thomas. Sports and Culture. Karen Landmann gave us the idea for this handbook when she wrote a chapter on children’s issues for one of our publications called. Lucy Y Steinitz. as did Susanchen Dippenaar. Sr Dr Raphaela Händler. The picture story exercise on page 60 has been developed by Dr Gisela Perren-Klinger. Ezekiel Mafusire and Ms Ncazelo Ncube and colleagues (from Masiye camp in Zimbabwe and the Regional Psycho-Social Institute for Orphans and Vulnerable Children) contributed valuable ideas. and Stefan Germain. the rest of us would have given up long ago. Without her commitment and efficiency.Some other individuals deserve special mention.“Caring for ourselves in order to care for others”. Francis van Rooi. Mary Collins and Evy George of the Ministry of Basic Education. Part of the games have been acquired during various workshops and youth camps and part of the material has originally been produced by the Katholischen Jungschar Oesterreich. suggestions and background material. It is to them that this book is dedicated. Sara Bowsky and Paul Pope (from Family Health International/USAID). as well as for the field-based workshops. based at our national office. We also drew inspiration and support from Kurt Madörin at Terre des Hommes in Tanzania and Liz Towell at SINOSIZO in South Africa. Petronella CoetzeeMasabane of the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) and I reviewed the manuscript prior to its publication. Claudia Tjikuua. The games and methods used in this book have partly been taken from already existing games and adapted for this book. Rose de Buysscher. Finally. has been the administrative coordinator for this project. Marianne Olivier of Philippi Namibia rearranged some of her own training and curriculum-development in order to accommodate us.
1 . semen or vaginal secretions. nurturing environment. Many children have known someone in their family or community who has died of AIDS. This means that. The caregiver may also be a person in the community who protects them and allows them to develop in a safe. physically and intellectually. Children need to know where they belong and they need close adults with whom they can form an attachment. how “grown up” the child is. AIDS is a disease caused by a virus called HIV that is spread by the exchange of body fluids like blood. he or she will develop AIDS sooner or later. Children need a lot of security. Once a person is infected with HIV. These adults may be their parents or a close caregiver. whether the child is able to look after himself or herself or whether the child seems to need looking after. love and emotional support. If one parent is infected with HIV it means that his or her partner will probably also be infected by means of unprotected sexual intercourse. Such indicators differ from one culture or society to another and from one country to another. spiritually. More and more children in Africa are becoming orphans because their parents have died of AIDS. AIDS orphans are often confronted with the disease and death of both parents. This caregiver may be someone in the family or a teacher. Our ideas of childhood are often based on how old the child is. They need guidance as they grow and mature emotionally. unlike orphans who have lost a parent due to an accident or a non-infectious disease like cancer.1 There is more than one definition of a child. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS yet. This then results in both parents getting sick and eventually dying. Children’s needs and interests are different from adults’ needs and interests. Children are not little adults.
even though children all over the world face illness. If children are not able to grow up in a caring environment. Children who are not involved in taking decisions that affect their own lives are vulnerable. Children without a family or a home are vulnerable. Researchers have defined resilience as the human capacity to face. Children lacking education and skills are vulnerable. It is clear that orphaned children are highly at risk of exploitation and increasing impoverishment. families and communities that provide for the well-being and development of children. whereas others are overwhelmed. war. Being exploited. Children living in poverty are vulnerable. they become more vulnerable. are vulnerable. What makes children vulnerable? There are many things that can make children more vulnerable. as HIV/AIDS affects more and more families. A child’s ability to cope seems to have much to do with resilience. Children whose rights are not upheld are vulnerable. children are often found to be either living on their own or looking after younger brothers and sisters and elderly grandparents. Resilient children are generally better able to cope with life’s adversities. Some children are taken in by their extended families but. discriminated against or exposed to violence makes children vulnerable.It is usually parents. overcome and be strengthened by or even transformed by the adversities of life and the ability to bounce back after stressful and potentially traumatising events. Studies have shown that girls in our society tend to be more vulnerable than boys. domestic violence. droughts or floods. 2 . abused. who have no access to schools or adequate medical care. Children who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS are especially vulnerable. Households headed by children have become common in many parts of Africa. However. Children held in detention are vulnerable. poverty. famine. Vulnerable children are those children who are easily hurt or harmed. some children seem to cope quite well. Babies and young children are more vulnerable than older children. Children who are isolated or withdrawn.
How does a child become resilient? As caregivers to orphans and vulnerable children. You can imagine how feelings of grief. Inner resources help a child to understand. such as dealing with the illness and death of their parents. 3 . manage and give meaning to a traumatic event. clothing and medical services. What do children need to cope with adversity? Children cope better when they have three capabilities: the capability to understand an adverse event (for example. and the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS could overwhelm a child. Orphans and vulnerable children need to become resilient in order to overcome the many problems they face. The development of these capabilities is greatly influenced by the child’s external and inner resources. enough food. this is a question that we might ask ourselves. Orphaned children need to have access to external resources to strengthen his or her resilience. and the capability to give deeper meaning to an adverse event. the capability to believe that they can cope with a crisis because they know that they have some control over what happens. loneliness and guilt. the death of a parent). a close relationship with the remaining family members. But inner resources are just as important to the orphaned child. and being responsible for their own lives and the lives of their brothers and sisters. Inner resources refer to the child’s inner strength and ability to deal with a crisis. The development of these three capabilities needs to be encouraged. financial stability. education. shelter. External resources fostering resilience External resources that help build resilience include: a close and secure relationship with a caregiver. and close links to his or her cultural community. Most children will develop all three capabilities before reaching the age of 15.
A sense of belonging Resilient children know where they belong. Resilient children are creative and use their imagination.Inner resources fostering resilience A wide range of emotions A resilient child is usually comfortable with a wide variety of emotions. Resilient children have a strong spiritual or ideological belief system. Resilient children are able to look for and find emotional support from other people. For example. This belief system may include faith in any kind of transcendent being. as well as personal achievements from the past. role models (for example parents and teachers). the school class. as the child’s needs change. Such children are grounded at home. innovation and curiosity Resilient children are curious and eager to learn. Resilient children are able to understand their own emotions and can express them in words or actions. in the community and have a sense of their own culture. As caregivers we can promote the development of inner resources. whether one God. The child has a feeling for the needs of others and is able to help. moments of kindness. the community or the church. Resilient children are self-confident and also confident of the support of peers and caregivers. Resilient children know what is right and what is wrong. a resilient child can say. or may identify with a certain cultural. several Gods or faith in the power of the ancestors. A value and belief system Resilient children have a vision of moral order and a sense of justice. a small group of friends. “I am angry (or sad. or irritated). They sense what is unacceptable behaviour. This support may change from time to time. Resilient children understand how they fit into a family. it may not be provided by the same person over an extended period of time but may change. Some children (particularly older children) will develop some sort of political or cultural ideology. Resilient children draw strength from their inner resources. whether in the present or in the past. They are able to use materials in their environment to ensure their 4 . political or religious leader. This is usually influenced by the child’s upbringing and culture. A resilient child can usually recall positive relationships.” A good autobiographical memory The autobiographical memory is the memory in which we save personal memories about our lives and our life histories. Interest in others A resilient child feels the need to help others. Creativity.
Resilient children are able to imagine a future and this gives them something to live for and a goal to work towards. Spend time with the children. A resilient child will say. religious rituals and festivals. we encourage them to become increasingly responsible for what they do and say. 5 . By answering questions and showing them new and interesting things. listen to them instead of talking about them. By showing children how to express feelings and ideas and how to solve problems and conflicts. think and feel. feelings and behaviour. Resilience prepares children for hardships and suffering that they may face in the future – not only when they are young. Allow the children to make mistakes. and show an interest in them and in what they do. education and welfare services. We also help them to understand other people’s feelings and to respect the needs of others. “I can!”. It is important for children to feel secure at home and to feel that they belong at home. we encourage children to discover their own initiative. Self-confidence Resilient children have a sense of humour and are confident of their own abilities.survival. This includes access to health care. There are various ways in which we can help the children in our care to develop resilience: Provide a safe. but also when they are adults. creativity and interests. cultural rituals. resourcefulness and identity. We all make mistakes.” How to develop resilience in children Resilience should be encouraged and developed in all children. Play is very important for children’s development. Teach the children how to communicate with other people. nurturing environment in which the child’s needs are met. It is important to play with them. We learn by our mistakes! Help children to recognise and understand their mistakes. Teach the children family routines. All children are born with the potential to be resilient. but resilience has to be developed. Involve the children in day-to-day activities as well as family rituals. We need to promote resilience in the children we care for. “I have!”and “I am. Encourage them to correct what they did wrong. just like other skills and capacities. It helps a child if the caregiver provides clear routines for the day and expects the child to stick to the routine. Support them as they deal with negative thoughts.
6 . Most children make their first social contacts and experience unconditional love in the family. They also look at the whole child and focus on cognitive development (that is. Families usually share cultures and religions. Schools do not only teach children about reading. The importance of school After the family. the development of resilience takes place primarily in the classroom and in the community. Healthy family relationships are the best environment for a child to develop resilience. “Do you remember when…?” Families have a similar system of values. In this situation. solidarity and support for one another. It is very important to develop the social and emotional development of students: many children come from single-parent homes. Others see it as a challenge. Research has shown that mature children with good social skills find it easier to learn than children whose social skills and emotional maturity are less developed.Acknowledge the children for what they are. Trust the children. Family members can say to each other. rules and norms. not only for what they do. more and more time is spent at school in the company of friends and teachers. They have shared life experiences. the acquiring of knowledge and skills) while at the same time emphasising the social and emotional development of the child. The importance of the family The family is the first environment in which a child experiences love and affection and makes discoveries. Most families are bound together by trust. For some teachers. this development is threatening. or homes in which there is no parent. Families provide the basic framework for a child’s development and have an enormous impact on a child’s resilience. school is the most important factor in a child’s life. The family provides the child with a sense of belonging and an identity. Families have common roots and ancestors. Elderly relatives or siblings may raise children. writing and arithmetic. As a child grows up. Pray with the children. In homes like these there is often not enough emphasis (if any) on the social and emotional development of the child.
A student-centred approach Experiential learning is based on a student-centred approach. communication and respect for one another. Working individually or in small groups. Student-centred education means that the interests of each child are the main point of focus. they set their own learning pace. The teacher’s job may change so that the teacher is encouraging the child’s resilience and not just to pass the exams. school is an oasis of normality in a harsh world. a home-care volunteer. Each child explores questions that are relevant and meaningful to him or her. A neighbour. For many children. Experiential learning combines intellectual learning (thinking skills). They need a teacher who will help them to set realistic goals. Experiential learning A teaching method that can be used in the classroom (and elsewhere) to teach resilience is the method of experiential learning. emotional learning (feelings) and social learning (learning about relationships). Children are encouraged to find answers to their own questions and problems. It looks at the child’s personality as well as the child’s needs and skills. They need a teacher who will help them to develop self-esteem and self-confidence. a church representative or a member of the extended family may also play a critical role. The teacher’s role changes from being simply an instructor to being an instructor. They need a teacher who will help in times of crisis. They need a lot of instruction. a counsellor. Their discoveries are discussed in groups – this draws group members closer together and promotes trust. an adviser and a first-aid person – all rolled into one. They are encouraged to find different ways to solve problems – this teaches initiative and creativity.Children growing up without parents look for extra things in their teachers. someone who is interested in their lives. 7 . Discovering answers for themselves makes the children feel more competent. Other people in the community can also assist with this process. learning as quickly or as slowly as they wish. but they also need someone they can trust. but one who will also make learning fun.
Experiential learning is a teaching method that encourages resilience because it teaches the students knowledge and skills at the same time. They also discover what interests them. They have the ability to understand. to adjust to change and then to move on. they get to know their strengths and weaknesses. 8 . In the next section we will identify events that are especially stressful to children and discuss how we. as caregivers and teachers. Children can still be very vulnerable to stressful events in their lives. Resilient children are better equipped to bounce back. Being very resilient or having a strong sense of identity does not mean that a child is invulnerable. can support children during these times. They learn to solve problems independently and they realise that they can solve problems on their own. to gain control and to give meaning to the events that take place in their lives.The benefits of experiential learning As children discover that they control their own learning process. but being resilient makes them more able to cope with these events.
It makes the child feel overwhelmed and hopeless. It deals with the negative effect that such experiences may have on a child’s development. One problem leads to another and this creates an enormous burden that is difficult for a child to understand. This chapter deals with the most common experiences that orphans affected by HIV/AIDS face. They worry about having the disease and they worry about what will happen to them and to their families. One of the big decisions to be made is whether or not to tell other people that they have HIV/AIDS. children will be faced with problems long before death occurs. When a parent realises (or thinks) that he or she has HIV/AIDS.Children don’t need to be ill or to have HIV/AIDS themselves to be affected by it. the parent may show less interest in the child. People with HIV/AIDS may undergo dramatic mood swings because they are under a lot of pressure. 9 . Much of this chapter also applies to children who are faced with other severe or life-threatening illnesses in their immediate families. The sickness of a parent In a family affected by HIV/AIDS. It is also very worrying for a child if a member of the family is ill or has HIV/AIDS. The effect of cumulative stressors on an orphan can be devastating if the child can’t access his or her inner resources and doesn’t receive support from the outside. Problems that seem to pile up one on top of another are known as “cumulative stressors”.
or at school as teachers. there is little time left for schoolwork or play. the child will definitely notice that something is different and may react to this with fear and anxiety. life changes for a child that lives with his or her parents. Children of parents infected with HIV/AIDS have reported that they worry about their sick parents. they worry about going to school and they are afraid of finding their parent dead when they come home. It is not surprising that children who are preoccupied with such fears can’t concentrate in the classroom. take care of other children in the family. but younger children may be very upset by the changes in routine. the more aware he or she will be about what lies ahead. These are very realistic fears and they should be taken seriously. Older children understand that these changes are because the parent is sick. As caregivers. nurse the sick parent. The older the child is. Often children are afraid that there will be no one to take care of them. Other family members have to help. start missing school and eventually drop out of school completely. older children help to care for their sick parents and to raise their siblings. children have to prepare food. Besides taking over household chores like fetching water and herding animals. This is very demanding. Boys can be caring and responsible caregivers but studies have shown that girls seem to feel more comfortable with this role. The normal rhythm and structure of family life changes (even for a little while) because the sick parent can’t do the jobs around the house that he or she normally does. Often it is culturally and traditionally more 10 . Older children will have to accept more responsibility. do the washing and. The real pressure begins for a child when he or she realises that the parent is often sick.Although the child may not know what is wrong with the parent or why the parent seems so moody. Children of all ages may begin to feel neglected and angry. Children who already understand the relationship between disease and death might start to worry that the parent may die. Most children are unhappy when one of their parents is ill. With the extra responsibilities. Many children fall behind in their work. When a mother or a father gets sick. we need to discuss these fears either at home as parents. Caring for a sick parent In many families. most importantly. They begin to worry about their own future as well. no matter what is wrong with them.
Many children feel overwhelmed by the huge responsibility. They were expected to work harder than other children in the family. It can be exhausting for a child. Orphans were discriminated against by members of their extended families after the death of their parents. Boys sometimes feel ashamed and become confused about their role and gender identity. Many children suffer from malnutrition. The economic impact of a sick parent When parents become too weak to fulfil their daily tasks. The need to earn money is another major reason for children dropping out of school. Being too sick to work in the fields will reduce the income of a family. Is it surprising that these children have problems concentrating or are “hyperactive” (overactive) in the classroom to prevent themselves from falling asleep? Many children complain about aches and pains that are caused by exhaustion. They were often the last to receive food and/or to have their school fees paid.acceptable for girls to accept this responsibility. Children are hungry at school and they can’t concentrate properly. Losing a job means losing an income as well. Orphans of school-going age and children with infected parents reported that other children teased them and called them names. poor health. Many children turn to prostitution to earn money and child labour is not uncommon. Poor housing. They nurse their parents without having been taught what to do. the family’s income may decrease drastically. This is a crisis – especially in singleincome homes. Sometimes the teasing led to physical bullying. Nursing a bedridden patient is heavy work – even for an adult. In addition to the daily housework. nursing a patient also includes getting up during the night. They weren’t allowed to play with other 11 . They risk being infected themselves because they don’t know what precautions to take when nursing people with HIV/AIDS. The stigma of HIV/AIDS Children are severely affected by the stigma of this disease. Some orphans were isolated from the other family members because it was believed that they were infectious and would transmit HIV/AIDS. lack of access to health services and a lack of education are common in families affected by HIV/AIDS. It is often left to older children to earn money and to provide food. which affects their own health. Some schools won’t accept children who can’t pay the school fees or buy the right uniforms and books. Research in Africa by the British organisation Save the Children showed the seriousness of the effects.
It is a sad fact that people still think of “AIDS orphans”differently from children who have been orphaned because their parents died of other diseases or were killed in car accidents. Some children make up stories about their parents and family. Nevertheless. They need committed adults. a parent’s death is always shocking and traumatising for a child and it leaves a child feeling extremely vulnerable. They hear adults talking about death and see them going to funerals. Infected parents felt the same way. Some families keep the HIV-status of a family member secret. Children between the ages of five and eight may not be able to distinguish between their fantasy world and the real world. It is quite normal for children to refer to people or animals dying as they play.children. The secrecy and stigma still attached to HIV/AIDS makes it even more difficult for children to deal with the disease and death of their parents. In households with televisions they probably see death daily on television and they also hear about it on the radio. They said that it was hard to support their children who were being teased when they were being gossiped about as well. religious groups and organisations. Children may start living in this fantasy world in order to cope with what is actually happening at home. Dealing with the death of a parent Most children see dead birds or dead animals at the side of the road. Older children make up stories about their parents because they feel ashamed and because they don’t want to be different from their friends. Some children worry that teachers or other authorities will find out that something is not “normal”at home and they are afraid of having to answer questions. The children themselves cannot change this. 12 . This will eventually erase the stigma that is attached to HIV/AIDS. Forced secrecy can be a great burden on children because they have to control what they say. Many adolescents felt hurt by the gossip and felt that their sense of self-worth was affected. level of understanding and his or her view of the parent. In order to protect the secret. How the death of a parent is understood is strongly influenced by the child’s age. children and adults draw back from their friends and other social contacts. and institutions that are willing to stand up to support these children and fight for their rights. what they do and how they express what they feel. Many children said that they would rather stay at home than go to school. Older children and adolescents said that gossip about people’s HIV/AIDS status by members of the community was common. The children wanted teachers to protect them from the teasing and to respect their privacy.
Children of an orphaned family are often divided between several family members. The caregiver may expect the child to be grateful. it is very important that these reasons be discussed with older children. many children don’t get a chance to mourn the death of their mother or father because they are under so much pressure to organise other things like telling relatives about the death. Confused by these conflicting feelings. 13 . the grief seems to fade away and may even be forgotten until something triggers the memory of their deceased parent again. Because of the social and financial effect of the death of a parent. older children should be asked which relative they would like to stay with. A child may have phases of severe sadness and depression. If children have to be separated for financial or practical reasons. A child may be caught between resenting the substitute caregiver while at the same time being dependent on him or her. During these times the child may become clinging and cry. the deceased parent dies without a will and without making plans for the children. but children grieve differently. We will concentrate on the emotional and psychological impact of death on children and their understanding of death in Chapter 3 of this book. making funeral arrangements and organising transport to bring the corpse home from the hospital. Older children feel vulnerable and resentful when extended family members suddenly take control of their family life and their brothers and sisters without talking to the child who managed the family’s affairs up to the time of the parent’s death. After a while. Ideally.A child who was raised by grandparents may react more calmly to news of the parent’s death than a child who grew up with the parent. Often the family’s last money is used to pay for the costs of the funeral and food for the guests. Adults move through clear stages when dealing with death. The children are thus forced to deal with separation from brothers and sisters as well. In many cases. children sometimes act angrily or aggressively towards the substitute caregiver. Children don’t grieve constantly: instead their grief is periodic and seems to come and go. Family savings are often divided among family members without taking the needs of the children into consideration. while at the same time wanting to be left alone.
It also gives the child and the parent quality time to say all the things that they need to share. this will have been a precious time for the child and this quality time may be the basis for healing after the death of the parent. It helps the child and the parent to accept what is going to happen. it is almost as if they are numb. It sometimes seems that children feel nothing about the death of their parent. The child may be overwhelmed by the sudden loss and may react with shock and confusion. by drawing up a will to provide for their children and by talking to their children about death. hyperactivity or outbursts of anger. Without such preparation. Some children try to avoid dealing with the death of their parents. afraid and sometimes have outbursts of anger. Parents who prepare for their own deaths by arranging with relatives to take care of their children. Looking back one day. the death of a parent can be extremely traumatic for a child. go a long way towards helping their children accept their deaths and preparing for the future of their children. This preparation for the death of a parent strengthens the child’s ability to cope. They have problems concentrating. Other children tell of sudden pictures of the deceased parent flashing through their minds. 14 . They don’t want to think or talk about their parents and prefer to live in their own fantasy world. But this preparation is very important. They feel helpless. The death of the parent will still be traumatic.Preparation for the death of a parent Children who have been prepared for the death of their parent (either by the parent or by other caregivers) generally cope better with the death because they understand what is happening. This makes the grieving process more complicated and may cause severe nightmares. aggression or severe depression. Preparing a child for the death of a parent is very painful for everyone concerned. It will take longer for the child to understand what has happened. but it softens the blow a little.
In order to assist a child without being overprotective. Dealing with HIV and school Infected children may miss a lot of school and will eventually fall behind their classmates. the disease or death of a parent and their own infection. Infected children need special support. Either way. Experiential learning (see the brief description in Chapter 1) or other forms of studentcentred education methods could be used to ensure the integration of chronically ill children while maintaining the standard of education. They want to prevent their children from being teased or shunned by other children but this also prevents the child from receiving the best possible care and support. They should not be discriminated against at school and they should go to school for as long as their health and strength permits. Even though their friends may not know that they have HIV. this is a difficult decision to make.) Children infected with HIV as a result of abuse have to cope with the trauma of the abuse. Children who have been infected via mother-to-child transmission (through birth or breastfeeding) often don’t know that they are infected. diarrhoea and vomiting. Children who are infected with HIV and are suffering from AIDS will start thinking about their own death.Being infected themselves Some children have to deal with another crisis: their own infection with HIV/AIDS. for example TB. shingles and herpes infections. although many of them will not express it verbally. policies and plans should be drawn up so that infected children can fit in at school. longer rest periods and catching up with work that has been missed when they were absent). They may realise that they are sick more often than other children. It takes a lot of courage to tell someone you have HIV because society as a whole has not yet learned how to deal with the 15 . Schools need to provide for their special needs (like medication that needs to be given in class. they may be teased because they get tired quickly. They may suffer from the aches and pains of opportunistic infections. Even when they are at school. they will have less strength and energy than their friends and may not always be able to take part in games and activities. Teaching methods should be adapted to the learner’s needs. oral and genital thrush. Telling others about an HIV/AIDS status Many parents and caregivers decide not to reveal the HIV-status of their children. It is important for the child to keep up with the rest of the class. (Opportunistic infections are diseases you get when you have HIV.
we need to understand how children react in difficult situations. These values have to be taught both at home and at school. The HIV/AIDS pandemic challenges children and adults alike to learn respect and tolerance. We will also consider methods of crisis prevention and crisis intervention techniques that can be used to stabilise a child’s response to the death of a parent.HIV/AIDS pandemic. to get along with one another and to work as a team. It is important for children and adults to learn to respect one another. which does not help children affected by HIV/AIDS either. Some people take a head-in-the-sand attitude and prefer not to know. We will study this in Chapter 3. People need to be friends regardless of whether a person has HIV. In order to develop resilience in children. 16 . a different skin colour or speaks a different language. Working against discrimination needs to become part of school activities.
the child is able to memorise a person or an object even though that person or object is not nearby and cannot be seen or heard. Their reactions are all normal reactions. Please note. At this stage. caregivers and teachers we have to help the child find a response that is best for him or her. In this situation. When a parent dies. As parents. While some reactions are healthy responses that show that the child is adapting. In this chapter we will refer to the emotional impact of the death of a parent because in many families the parent is still the main caregiver. that grandmother. Being able to think about or imagine the person means that the child is able to mourn. We know that adults mourn the death of a loved one but some people who work closely with children believe the mourning process is too complicated for a small child to go through in the same way as an older child or an adult. making the death part of our memories and moving on to a new life. others are less appropriate. the child can recall the image of the deceased person from memory. aunt or any other primary caregiver who basically fulfilled the child’s needs and is close to the child could replace the term parent. All are normal. it is natural for a child to experience feelings of bereavement like sadness. By this stage. “Mourning”involves accepting the death. but generally we say that a child can truly mourn the loss of a loved one by the age of three or four. however. 17 . “Grieving”is the word used to describe the thoughts and feelings that we have when someone has died. In Chapter 4 we will study how children react to the loss of a parent. the child can think about or imagine the person even though they cannot be seen. the young child needs a lot of reassurance and patience. Even a baby will feel the absence of a primary caregiver or the change in faces or routines. coping responses. depression or anger.3 It is important to understand how children view death and how the death of a loved one affects a child in order to help children who have been orphaned.
The child accepts that the person has really died and will never come back. The child has to find a new place for the deceased person in his or her emotional life and in his or her memory.Different aspects of mourning There are different aspects of mourning that a child needs to work though. Dreaming and thinking about the deceased parent or keeping an object that belonged to the parent are important ways of remembering positive things about them and feeling close to them. An unexpected death is even more shocking and is more difficult for the child to accept. The child needs to be able to adapt to these changes and to adjust to an environment in which the deceased parent is missing. 3. 1. the tension may come out later in the form of sickness or behavioural problems. It may be that the child thinks of his mother or father in a certain place (like heaven). 18 . The child feels the pain of loss. speaking to them and protecting them. The death of a parent causes many changes in the child’s world. It is important for the child to work through these difficult emotions – if the child doesn’t feel the emotion. 2. The relationship with the deceased parent The mourning process is definitely influenced by the closeness of the relationship between the child and the parent before the parent’s death. This may take a long time and there will probably be problems along the way. Death due to a terminal illness often allows the parent and the child to spend some quality time together. The death of the parent Death always comes as a shock. The parent can plan for the child’s future by drawing up a will and arranging a substitute caregiver for the child. The child can imagine the parent watching over them. the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS means that a parent’s death due to the disease is often shrouded in secrecy and disapproval. This was discussed in Chapter 2. Unfortunately. Factors that affect the mourning process Various factors influence the child’s mourning process and how the child eventually copes with the death. This is important because it keeps the connection with the deceased person.
Members of a family share the same roots. This person should console and comfort the child as well as give a normal structure to the child’s life after the death of the parent. teachers and spiritual leaders is very important. the same history and generally have similar values and beliefs. severe poverty and an absence of strong values and beliefs can be an additional stressor for the mourning child. This familiarity provides warmth and protection. A family divided by conflict or with problems like alcohol dependency.The death of a parent has more emotional impact on a child when the parent raised the child (and when the child was close to the parent) than when the child was raised mainly by other family members (like the grandmother). domestic violence. If the child is supported by the rhythm of a normal routine. The emotional impact of the death of a grandmother will probably be greater when the grandmother raised the child. 19 . A dysfunctional family structure may thus have a negative effect on the coping process and encourage poorly adapted behaviour. They can support both the child and the mourning parent – this reduces the stress for the child. neighbours. The structure of the extended family A loving extended family that provides security and care can offer an orphaned child a sense of identity and a sense of belonging. as well as later on. The help of other family members. Very often the surviving parent is dealing with his or her own grief. which prevents him or her from providing the support that the children need. It has been found that children with a resilient surviving parent (or a consistent substitute caregiver) cope better and are more resilient after traumatic events than children lacking support. The availability of a surviving parent or caregiver It is important for the child to have either a surviving parent or a substitute caregiver who will remain consistent as the child goes through the mourning process. it is easier for the child to find meaning and to regain control.
in fact the opposite is true. Only if there is a strong sense of community will no one point fingers at or isolate people affected by HIV/AIDS. For this reason. and not to feel excluded from the rest of the family. home-based care groups and religious groups. Each of these groups provides valuable support. democratic leadership is an ideal environment in which to nurture resilience in children affected by HIV/AIDS. control and resilience. 20 . health services. the impact of disasters is shared rather than experienced alone. This applies to the HIV/AIDS pandemic as well. rituals can include an awareness of a future life – both for the deceased and also for those people who mourn. it is important for communities to become actively involved in the care and support of the diseased patient and also in the care and support of the orphans. The mourners understand that they are not alone in their grief. even in a limited way. Rituals acknowledge that something terrible has happened. Support from the community The importance of community support is easy to overlook. it is important for children to take part. Communities play a special role in providing supportive structures like schools. communities like these gather their resources and try to support those who are affected or infected by the disease. Even though some children will not understand everything that happens at a funeral (or another ritual). women’s groups.Rituals surrounding the parent’s death Family beliefs and rituals are very important when a person dies. The family’s religious and traditional belief system provides meaning for the death. Instead. Rituals provide an opportunity to honour and remember the life of the person who has died. The people who attend the ritual comfort the people who are mourning. In many societies. This sense of meaning promotes understanding. Taking part in these rituals has a healing and consoling effect on both children and adults. At the same time. Communities have their own resources and traditional ways of coping with adversity. that someone has died. Although some adults think that they are protecting children from sadness by excluding them (keeping them away) from funerals and other family rituals. A community with a strong sense of unity and sound.
mother and child have an especially strong bond. comfort and identity. they still miss the parent. They understand without having to think. This is called “regression”. Remember that each child will react differently according to his or her personality and access to external support. Toddlers may also seem to forget skills they have learnt and go back to behaving like a younger child.Peers and friends Peers (children of the same age) and friends provide children with vital support in times of grief and mourning. bodily contact. The child’s understanding of death When a parent dies. For this reason they may display changes in sleeping and eating patterns. The mother can understand and anticipate her child’s needs even before the child can speak. Although infants can’t understand what has happened. they miss the parent’s voice and smell and they miss the comfort and security the parent provided. how to interact in social relationships and how to express feelings of comfort and discomfort. gives meaning to death and is able to access inner and external resources while mourning. In addition. This makes death impossible to explain to the child. The developmental stage affects how a child sees death. a sense of security. They miss the way the parent touched them. 21 . food. Toddlers may show signs of irritability or anger. The child learns to communicate with his or her parents. Peers have an intuitive understanding of each other. protection. Children from birth to two years old Infants and toddlers are very dependent on their mothers and fathers for love and affection. children up to the age of two cannot understand what has happened. It is often easier for children to share their grief with peers than with adults. peers often maintain a sense of playfulness and they may help the child temporarily to forget what has happened and help them to rest and relax. Usually. They have no concept of death. They may cry more and be difficult to pacify. we need to understand how the child understands death at that particular stage of development. The age and developmental stage of the child Children understand death differently at different ages and stages of their development. Before deciding how to help a child as he or she mourns.
They may cry. • The substitute caregiver should provide lots of bodily contact. A child who develops a close. What can be done to support an infant or toddler after the death of a parent? • The substitute caregiver should be close and consistent. • The child’s environment should stay the same. but in the same breath he will say that she might come back. They are learning about objects and people but they still can’t understand concepts like life. a child may say that his mother has died. with his or her brothers and sisters.How you can help the child Infants and toddlers need a close and consistent substitute caregiver to take over the care of the child so that the child can deal with the loss of a parent. death or friendship. Children from two to four years of age Children at this stage of development are mainly concerned with themselves and their own needs. Some children experience death as abandonment – they think that the deceased person didn’t want them any more. • The child should not be separated from his or her brothers and sisters. affectionate relationship with the substitute caregiver will cope more easily with the changes in his or her life. It is important that this caregiver should stay the same. At this age. cling to other relatives or refuse to be touched at all. As they are primarily concerned with their own needs the grief response at this developmental stage is usually brief. • The child’s routine should stay the same. but repeats itself frequently. Between periods of grieving the child seems to forget about what happened. The child’s understanding of death Children at this stage of development do not understand that death means that someone is dead forever. The infant or toddler preferably should be kept in the same home environment. Ideally the caregiver should be an adult and not an older sibling who still is a child herself. throw tantrums. Children grieve very intensely at this age. 22 . they understand that the person is no longer there but they think the person will return. The infant or toddler will adapt more quickly when there are no major changes in routine.
The child needs to be talked to in language that he or she can understand. Use the same words each time you explain. The child needs to be comforted and encouraged over and over again and physical reassurance (in the form of hugs and hand-holding) is also important. • Encourage the child to play with other children and to explore his or her own world. What can be done to support a child aged two to four after the death of a parent? • The substitute caregiver should be close and consistent. Eating habits may change. • The child’s routine should stay the same. Repeat things and answer questions. either refusing to go to sleep or waking in the night and being unable to go back to sleep. Some children may start wetting their beds. Listen to what the child says and try to understand what the child is feeling. Ideally the child should stay with his brothers and sisters and other close family members. people should use honest language that the child can understand. • The substitute caregiver should spend time with the child. he or she is very likely to see this as abandonment. Signs of distress and regression are common. Some children display sleeping disorders. • When talking to the child. They sense that their safety and security are threatened and they are frightened by the absence of the parent. Look at pictures of the deceased parent together.Children in this age group are more aware of changes in the way they are cared for. If the child is separated from the remaining family members. showing an interest in the child. 23 . Seeing surviving adults sad and crying may be confusing and upsetting for children of this age because they don’t understand what is happening. a consistent substitute caregiver is very important. How you can help the child Once again. • Pray with the child. • The substitute caregiver should provide lots of affection and bodily contact. • The child’s environment should stay the same. • Share positive memories and stories about the deceased with the child. playing with the child and having fun together. The consistency of daily routine and a familiar environment give the child a feeling of structure and security. • The child should not be separated from his or her brothers and sisters.
ghosts or Father Christmas. shame. showing anger towards the dead person as well as towards the surviving adults. They develop a peer group. with support. They start to see a difference between the things that girls do and the things that boys do. fear and guilt). children learn how to pray. Adults have a very influential role in children’s spiritual development because depending on how God is described to a child by the caregiver. Some children may start to think that they can do magic things or change things that happen in “real” life. The child’s emotional range now includes feelings of guilt. Children believe that they have control over what happens in their lives and it helps them to cope with new fears and worries. Their imaginations develop and they believe in things that older children and adults know are not real. and they understand about belonging to a family and having friends. The child’s understanding of death The concept that death is for ever is still difficult for children during this developmental phase. They gain a sense of autonomy. children are able to work through their grief. The child develops a conscience and the concepts of morals and values become more sophisticated. The resulting changes in family relationships may bewilder a pre-school child. God is very real to children during this phase of development. punishment. Children become very creative and explorative at this age. shows signs of sadness and grief and may cling to substitute caregivers. Being able to speak means that they can talk about their thoughts and feelings.Children from four to seven years old During this phase children start to explore the world outside their immediate environment. 24 . This is sometimes called the phase of magical thinking. They see that family members also have different jobs to do. surname and where they live). A child develops a strong sense of right and wrong during this phase of development. They love rhymes and songs. Some children react aggressively. The fantasy world and the real world are sometimes blurred around the edges and a little confused. sorrow and concern for others. They develop a feeling for who they are (they know their own name. However. Children love being told stories at this age. the child will either get a positive image of God (and develop feelings of trust and confidence in God) or a negative image (and develop feelings of powerlessness. They play games with other children and experience conflict with siblings and friends. With the help of adults. Children this age know whether they are girls or boys. like fairies. An orphaned child longs for the parent.
The child’s idea that his or her own actions affect things taking place in their lives can make them feel responsible for the death of the parent. ancestors or reincarnation according to the family’s culture and religion. Death should be openly discussed and not described with words like. The repetitive questioning about the parent’s death may be because the child is afraid that the substitute caregiver may die too.You may need to reassure the child over and over again. but it is important to answer them as honestly as possible. “she’s resting”or “we’ve lost Mommy”because at this stage of development the child will take you literally. Allowing children to take part in religious and traditional rituals after death (like attending the funeral. it is important for the adult to be sure of what he or she himself believes. Spiritual.In order to come to terms with the concept of death. they may think that their parent fell sick and died because of something that they themselves did. Understanding what has happened increases the child’s ability to cope. “It’s my fault my mother died. “going to be with Jesus”). She told me to stop fighting with my sister. It is crucially important for the caregiver to explain why the parent died in a way that the child can understand. children with a spiritual and cultural belief system are more resilient. Children are also interested in what will happen to the parent after he or she has been buried. That’s when she died.“ This is complicated by the belief that if they are “good”enough. Before explaining to a child where the parent has gone. “Mommy has gone to sleep”will cause the child to expect Mommy to wake up again. for example) helps the child to understand what has happened. religious and cultural beliefs are critically important for the well-being of the child. They will want to know how and why a person died. It is up to the caregiver to strengthen the child’s belief system. “It’s my fault. but I carried on. Children at this age are looking for the “how”and the “why”. each time anxiety or fear is triggered. these fears seem irrational. These may be difficult questions for the surviving parent (or the caregiver). children may ask the same questions many times. then perhaps the deceased parent will return. As explained in Chapter 1. Because they can’t think logically yet. the child starts to understand abstract concepts like moving from one form of existence to another (“becoming an angel”. The child needs to understand that it was not his or 25 . “your mommy has gone to sleep”. I was cross with her and I hoped she would die. It is the caregiver’s task to explain concepts of heaven.”Or. But remember that the child is in a developmental phase during which the imagination is very vivid and reality and fantasy overlap. This will be the cause of some concern. During this phase. They find it easier to give a deeper meaning to the loss. For adults. It is not unusual to hear. Saying. It is important to reassure the child that the substitute caregiver won’t die. They may also show great interest in the process of dying.
Caregivers may notice that the child starts playing sickness and death games with other children. Talking about the parent who died helps to keep the child’s memory alive. How you can help the child In addition to providing a daily routine. start wetting the bed at night or having nightmares and sleeping problems. This is very frightening. to see pictures of the deceased parent. This is often caused by a sense of abandonment and the (realistic) fear that there is no one to look after him or her. This can be very upsetting for the surviving family members who will then scold or punish the children.her actions that made the parent die. This may take a long time to understand because it is not easy for the child to grasp the concept of death and disease. • Offer comfort and encouragement. Provide the child with lots of physical affection. What can be done to support a child aged four to seven after the death of a parent? • The substitute caregiver should be close and consistent. Sometimes children giggle. “Re-enacting”play is a normal and natural process by which the child tries to understand and come to terms with the death and it encourages healing and coping. Children in this age group feel very vulnerable and helpless. and to have some of the belongings of the deceased parent to keep. Try to understand that these reactions are the child’s attempt to distance himself or herself from the pain of loss. But such understanding and meaning are critical for the coping and grieving process. At this developmental stage it becomes very important for the child to understand what has happened. The child may still show signs of regression. This helps children to maintain their sense of identity and their sense of belonging. Other children seem to react less than you would expect but this is a way of protecting themselves from a hurt that is too deep and painful. Children generally like to hear stories about the deceased parent. Some children may imagine death as a person or a ghost. 26 . Help the child to have positive memories of the deceased parent. Some children may refuse to go outside or use a toilet in the dark. The more the child is able to understand and the more the child can maintain “contact”with the deceased parent. They may refuse to sleep alone in a bed or insist that the lights are kept on during the night. joke and show off after the loss of a parent. a close substitute caregiver needs to be patient and sensitive to the child’s needs and to provide brief but honest answers that are at a level the child can understand. the better the child will be able to cope.
Children start attending school during this phase and they are eager to learn. Use honest language that the child can understand. Teachers are very important to children during this phase of their lives. this should continue. Don’t avoid talking about disease and death. Where this includes attending a playgroup or pre-primary school. The teacher may spend more time with a child each day than the parent. • As the caregiver. playing with the child and having fun together. • Explain religious rituals (like the funeral) to the child and encourage the child to take part. Children start to think logically. looking for meaning in the events in their lives but their thought patterns are still very concrete and operational (directed at solving immediate problems). • Share positive memories and stories about the deceased with the child. you should spend time with the child. constructive criticism and praise from their parents and teachers. Explain how people feel when they are sick. • If possible. Look at pictures of the deceased parent together. the child should not be separated from his or her brothers and sisters.• The caregiver should maintain the child’s normal routine. Children from seven to nine years old Children’s cognitive skills – their ability to understand things clearly and conceptually – increase dramatically during this phase of development. encouraging 27 . Explain to the child how disease can affect our bodies. but children who do not manage the new challenges of school start to feel disappointed and inferior. Use the same words each time you explain. The teacher is the one to guide the child through the learning process. A teacher who is supportive. Learning new skills boosts their self-esteem. showing an interest in the child. They need a lot of acknowledgement. visit the grave and have moments of remembrance. If you are a member of the family. Try to keep the child’s environment the same or similar. tell the child stories about things that the deceased parent did when he or she was the child’s own age. Listen to what the child says and try to understand what the child is feeling. Encourage the child to play with other children and to explore his or her environment. • Talk to the child. • Pray with the child.
If it seems that this behaviour is becoming compulsive. the child may either try to suppress all feelings or may go to the opposite extreme and have outbursts of anger or sadness. Some children may still feel responsible for the parent’s death. anger. It is important that the child does not burden 28 . But unlike younger children. the immediate reaction of a child to the death of a parent is similar to the reaction of a child of pre-school age. The child may see an alternative role model in the teacher. School is also where the child learns to socialise with a wider social circle. friendships and group activities are important opportunities for children to learn how to deal with conflict and to contribute as team members. In response to this sense of vulnerability and helplessness. They may talk to the deceased parent or claim to have had mysterious encounters with the parent. Typical grief will include sadness. It should be understood that both responses are attempts by the child to come to terms with what has happened. believing that their bad behaviour or unkind thoughts caused the death or disease. deep emotional pain and longing for their parent. children in this age group are able to understand logical explanations for the death of the parent. The child will see that even adults are distressed by death and the child has a basic understanding that death is beyond our control. it will be necessary to discuss the behaviour with the child. Ask whether the child only wants to help or whether there is another reason for working so hard. Some children may submerge themselves in household activities or in looking after their siblings in order to compensate for guilty feelings. They may develop a fantasy relationship with the deceased parent in an attempt to keep him/her alive.and who responds to the natural curiosity of the child will be able to build a good relationship with the child. Some children may copy adults’ behaviour. This makes the child feel vulnerable. Children in this age group have more specific questions about death and require more detailed information than younger children. even though they can relate to their own grief and to the grief of other family members. Sadness and a sense of powerlessness seem to be the strongest feelings. depression. Some children may nonetheless feel unsure about what behaviour is expected from them. The child’s understanding of death At this stage of development. Break time and after-school activities are as important as classroom activities because social learning is one of the most important developmental tasks for children in this age group. trust the teacher and feel able to confide in the teacher when a problem arises. The child now has the ability to mourn and to recognise mourning in other people. Children are now able to understand the physical separation from the parent who has died. helplessness. Although friends may change more often than in later stages of development.
Some children fear that another close relative or caregiver (or even they themselves) may die too. Children worry about how the parent’s death will affect their own lives. They will worry what will happen to them if they should die. draw pictures of the deceased parent. The sadness alone may be overwhelming. How you can help the child Schoolteachers may notice a change in the child after the death of a parent. The child must be made to understand that disease and death are not in any way related to the child’s behaviour. Children in this age group are fascinated by what happens to the body after death. If the pains don’t subside after a few weeks. This is because children need to fit the deceased parent into a mental and emotional world. They keep the connection with the parent by dreaming about him or her. Sometimes children will start to behave like the deceased parent. even non life-threatening diseases like flu and the common cold may frighten the child. This causes some children to become increasingly concerned about their own health and well-being. become hyperactive and attentionseeking or withdraw completely. Children maintain the connection with the parent by visualising the parent in a certain place (for example in heaven) and by feeling as though the parent is watching and protecting them. Children also want to know where the deceased parent has gone. They need to find ways to relate to the parent after the parent has died. Regularly visiting the grave or holding special memorial services are other ways of maintaining the connection. This seems to be an attempt to keep the parent alive and may reach such extremes that they complain of the same aches and pains as the parent did before his or her death. The child might re-enact scenes of death and dying during play. it is advisable that the child be reassessed by a medical professional and perhaps referred for professional psychological treatment. 29 . The death may affect the child’s general conduct: there may be concentration problems as the child is distracted by the situation at home and the new responsibilities that he or she has to shoulder. They are also anxious about how other people may react when they hear that their parent has died. by keeping an object that belonged to the parent or by speaking to the parent. Since the child has learned that death can be caused by disease. All physical ailments should ideally be medically investigated.himself or herself with feelings of guilt and self-blame. This interest is confused and has a strong element of fear. In some cases no physical reason will be found for the complaints – the aches and pains may then be an expression of mourning resulting from a close identification with the deceased parent.
giving support and explanations when needed. but they also reinforce that there is a future for the person who has died and for those who mourn. It is good to have a supportive adult with the child during the ritual. 30 . Rituals are healing and consoling for children and adults. Teach the child basic life skills. Offer comfort and encouragement. The child knows what is expected at school and this provides security. This structure helps the child to regain control. in this case that someone has died. some rituals may be as upsetting as the death itself. • Encourage the child to be part of a group (for example at religious institutions or community level. Taking part in religious (or traditional) rituals also encourages the grieving and healing process. like a choir or a sports team). This is crucially important. • Make sure that the child goes to school. Providing clear and honest answers helps the child to gain understanding and control. increasing the child’s fear and confusion. If the child is unprepared and does not understand what is happening. Rituals acknowledge that something terrible has happened. Try not to exclude children from rituals. Knowing that there is somewhere where he or she belongs that has nothing to do with the pressure at home gives a child a sense of security. It gives the mourners a sense of comfort and support as they see that they are not alone in their grief. Acknowledge the child’s abilities and skills – boost his or her self-esteem and selfconfidence. writing or even drawing pictures) and to answer questions that the child does not dare to ask at home.School provides an important daily routine and structure in the child’s life. the child needs the stability of a secure place in the peer group. • Provide the child with lots of affection. At a time when there is a crisis at home. but do prepare the child for what he or she is going to see. What can be done to support a child aged seven to nine after the death of a parent? • Explain religious rituals (like the funeral) to the child and encourage the child to take part. Rituals emphasise moving towards the future and so they are crucial in promoting resilience and coping. Excluding the child from the ritual means that you deny the child an opportunity to begin the long walk to hope and healing. at least over parts of his or her life. The teacher needs to help the child to express his or her feelings (through talking. Performing a ritual gives those who mourn a chance to remember the person who has died and to honour him or her. Encourage the child to take part in sport and to play games so as to release tension and feel himself or herself to be part of a group. The responses of the teacher and the school are critical to the child’s well-being.
Tell the stories or read the books and then talk about them with the child. the child generally knows the difference between fantasy and reality. tell the child stories about things that the deceased parent did when he or she was the child’s own age. Abstract concepts like heaven are clear. • Pray with the child and teach the child how to pray. The child’s understanding of death Children at this developmental stage can understand what causes death and they can understand the consequences (results) of death. Children from nine to 12 years old The biggest developmental difference between these children and children in the younger school-going group is that the older children fully understand that death is irreversible (cannot be changed). Teach the child how to keep in contact with the deceased parent by “relocating” the memory of the parent to a “place” where the child can easily bring the parent to mind. • If possible. Talk honestly about how people feel when they die – be honest and use language that the child can understand.• Keep the child’s environment the same or similar. • Death and disease are subjects that should be discussed at school. However. Teachers can use the concepts for creative writing. Children could make a “memory corner” in the classroom. • Try to find stories about death. Listen to the child’s replies. the child should not be separated from his or her brothers and sisters. If you are a member of the family. Don’t avoid talking about disease and death. Use the same words each time. playing with the child and having fun together. Look at pictures of the parent with the child and visit the grave. Encourage the child to play with other children. understanding the finality of death often leaves the child feeling powerless and helpless. showing an interest in the child. • The substitute caregiver should spend time with the child. Although the child may still occasionally use magical thinking (as explained in the section dealing with children aged four to seven). It is important that children are helped to regain control over their lives. Explain to the child how disease can affect our bodies. Explain how people feel when they are sick. • Share happy memories and stories about the deceased parent. 31 . • Talk to the child.
By putting thoughts on paper. It is more helpful for the child to talk about why they behaved in such a way rather than for you to forbid certain behaviour and reactions. Offer alternatives. feeling betrayed by fate. Set rules that allow feelings to surface. Others may look for a reason why the parent died. In the same way that a child in the previous developmental stage tries to regain control over his or her life. try to deny the parent’s death and will simply refuse to accept it. Even when a child has come to terms with the parent’s death. however. rather than on the details of the behaviour. This helps the child to gain control. From time to time there may be outbreaks of distress. these children need religious or cultural rituals to help them cope. Knowing where the body was buried gives them a sense of control. The ritual gives deeper meaning to what has happened and in this way encourages resilience. It is not OK for you to break things in the classroom. as well as visit the grave after the funeral. By now the child can understand the concept of time and can think about the future. anger or regression. feelings of abandonment. Knowing that death is often related to physical pain and that it is also unpredictable causes more anxiety or worry. “It is OK for you to be angry and I understand that. Such children need meaning to be given to the death of their parent.You could say for example. It is important to allow the grief to come and go. loneliness or helplessness). guilt. Externalising the anxiety. fear of mortality may be a realistic worry. It is important that the child be given time to grieve – grieving is a natural process and it should not be rushed or prevented. The caregiver’s role is to support the child during the grieving process and to help him or her to function and grow while they grieve. As a caregiver (or a teacher) it is important to focus on the reason for any changes in behaviour (like increased sadness. it is normal for the child to miss the parent for a long time. but for some children. Some children may. You will need patience and compassion. This may lead to anxiety that shows itself through sleep disturbance. How you can help the child It is very important that children at this developmental phase attend rituals like funerals and prayer services. What could you do instead to let off steam and get rid of your bad feelings without breaking things?” Being nine years old and understanding death means that a child has to face his or her own mortality (the fact that everyone eventually dies) and the mortality of other loved ones. anxiety. fear. poor school performance and disrupted social relationships. the child is able to look at them from a distance 32 . Some children may be able to show these fears by drawing pictures of what scares them most about death and disease. but prevent destructive actions.Children in this age group go through a similar mourning process to the mourning process of an adult. These thoughts may include happy plans. anger. God or their ancestors.
Protecting themselves against HIV/AIDS. Many children in this age group know about condoms because they are constantly exposed to advertisements for condoms. Due to the tremendous spread of the disease. aspects of human rights and human responsibilities. Talking in class about death. faeces and genital excretions. Sharing thoughts in the classroom situation. Sexuality is a topic that should be addressed.– like an observer or a bystander. drawing or writing. play. community members and peers are valuable resources for a child during this time. disease and death should be included in the school curriculum and discussed in the group situation in class. Some children prefer to discuss their feelings with their friends or with an outsider like a teacher or a community volunteer. If they are on paper. Externalising fear (or feelings of anger or sadness) gives the child a chance to look at the fear face-to-face. Sharing thoughts with an outsider. Some people believe that distributing condoms amongst nine to 12-year-old children prevents the transmission of HIV/AIDS in teenagers. the child can also change things or rub out the parts that are too frightening. Children of this age are able to understand that HIV/AIDS is transmitted by the exchange of bodily fluids like blood. Other people argue that this is an invitation to experiment with sexual intercourse. Although some children in this age group may be physically able to experiment with sexual intercourse. But they may find it difficult to discuss the topic with the remaining parent or a substitute caregiver. but addressing sexuality in class should not be limited to the biological or physical aspect of sexual intercourse. For this reason. Even if a child has not lost a relative. Discussions should include feelings. traditional and personal values. Children need to be taught how to care for diseased people without infecting themselves. feelings related to death and ways to cope with death and loss allows children to share their different experiences and learn from each other. but because the fear is now outside the child (on the paper). Many children may have lost relatives to HIV/AIDS. Disease and death are topics that concern most people. Children at this developmental stage need to express their feelings – whether in speech. campaigns that promote distributing condoms to children do not in fact focus on the child’s best interests but instead open the door to child abuse and exploitation. especially through sexual intercourse. Those who don’t want to contribute to the discussion will learn by observing and listening. 33 . the child has control and can confront it without being overwhelmed. Sexuality is more than just a physical act. children must understand how it is transmitted. Teachers. they may know of other people who have died. they are definitely not emotionally ready to have sexual relationships. Although the private conversations between the teacher (or another community member) and child are helpful and important.
Teach the child basic life skills. 34 . Teach the child how to keep in contact with the deceased parent by moving the memory of the parent to a “place” where the child can easily bring the parent to mind. Listen to what the child says and try to understand what the child is feeling. Encourage the child to be part of a group (for example at religious organisations or community level. Discuss HIV/AIDS transmission and prevention. What can be done to support a child aged nine to 12 after the death of a parent? • Encourage the child to take part in religious or cultural rituals. the child should not be separated from his or her brothers and sisters.Discussing HIV/AIDS and sexuality in a superficial way (and giving a step-by-step discussion of what it is rather than what the consequences are) may be more comfortable for the teacher. Have moments of remembrance. Look at pictures of the deceased parent together. • Share positive memories and stories about the deceased with the child. • Spend time with the child. like a choir or a sports team). • Hand over small responsibilities and tasks to the child. tell the child stories about things that the deceased parent did when he or she was the child’s own age. • Offer comfort and encouragement. but it is woefully inadequate and does not cover the topic in a suitable way. • Make sure that the child goes to school. Encourage the child to express his or her feelings and concerns. • Death and disease are subjects that should be discussed at school. • When talking to the child. Encourage the child to spend time with other children. • The substitute caregiver should be close and consistent. showing an interest in the child and having fun together. • If possible. Discuss caring for HIV/AIDS patients. If you are a member of the family. use honest language that the child can understand.
The adolescent’s understanding of death Adolescents recognise death as final and irreversible. Their cognitive (intellectual) understanding of death is that of an adult.Adolescents: children from 13 to 18 years old The developmental task of an adolescent is to establish a concept of self. “It won’t happen to me. many adolescents (partly due to peer pressure) engage in very early sexual relationships. Some adolescents start to experiment with alcohol. adolescents take risks that can be life threatening. with drugs.”is the adolescent’s reaction. A teenager’s struggle from childhood to adulthood can be seen in his or her reaction to death. “I have to leave school “ or. Adolescents have ambivalent attitudes towards their bodies. or sniff glue. Most adolescents know the facts about HIV/AIDS. a gender role and a distinct personality. Still. To imagine that their own life could also end causes confusion and disbelief and so the thought is quickly rejected. Adolescents tend to be very egocentric (focused on themselves and their own problems) and they may pity themselves when a parent dies. They apply the consequences of the parent’s death to their own lives and think. deep fears and insecurities are evoked. Very often they do not protect themselves.Yet when confronted with vulnerability. In their imaginary cocoon of security. “I have to be responsible for my siblings”– this may be threatening to them. pain and death. They know that it leads to a terminal disease. They are fully aware of the consequences of death. Developing an identity involves developing a body image. There are various forms of risk-taking behaviour. Although they are scared that their own bodies may be hurt. They have to work out who they are. what their purpose in life is and where they belong. Adolescents are insecure about themselves. “It’s the first time. They know it is transmitted by unprotected sexual intercourse. Many adolescents tragically believe that it won’t happen to them or that they won’t be infected because.” The transition from childhood to adulthood. 35 . They are preoccupied with changes in their body and afraid that their bodies may be harmed. delayed reactions and the suppression of feelings. They are preparing themselves to get involved in life and the idea of their lives being limited or ended by disease is threatening to their partlydeveloped concepts of self and of life. others may appear undisturbed. It is common for teenagers to react with denial. Another form of risk-taking behaviour is demonstrated by the adolescent’s attitude towards HIV/AIDS. adolescents take risks because they seem to be convinced that they can’t be harmed. extremely angry or totally withdrawn. start to smoke. Disease and death are very threatening to them. But while some adolescents cope on the emotional level by expressing appropriate emotions. talking about death and loss and actively mourning.
Since the peer group provides most of the support during this developmental stage. They fear discrimination. Group acceptance is often achieved through group conformity. are rapidly becoming an invisible group. The reality of the HIV/AIDS pandemic is that many adolescents have to become caregivers at home. Although many teenagers do this with great commitment and compassion. betrayed by relatives (which sometimes includes the deceased parent) and lonely. their future hopes and dreams are often shattered. adolescents are often left out. parenting their younger siblings. It is difficult for many teenagers to find a role in their society. the adolescent also feels alone. behaving the same way and wearing similar clothes. How you can help the adolescent It is evident from public statements and publications that adolescents receive less recognition than younger orphans. the guidance and direction of adults is often rejected.Given their preoccupation with their bodies. especially when they are heads of households or caregivers. Because adolescents strive for independence. Loneliness. It makes them vulnerable to abuse. self-confidence and developing identity. Not fitting into either group can have a great impact on the adolescent’s sense of self-worth. it is not surprising that this struggle often emerges in the form of physical aches and pains. Because many adolescents have to leave school in order to look after their siblings and to earn a living. The influence of a peer group. this means that the adolescent is cut off from his or her support group. Not yet adult men and women. A peer group is essential for an adolescent. For this reason many adolescents feel hopeless and see no opportunities in the future. The loss of a parent due to HIV/AIDS is seen as threatening their conformity and so many teenagers try to keep the cause of death a secret in order to avoid any stigma. An adolescent wants to belong to a group of peers and their acceptance is important. While much has been done for younger children. meaning that teenagers who belong to the same group show that they are part of the group by having the same interests. especially girls. Adolescent orphans. It is important not to differ in any way from the group. they are not part of the school-going teenage group either because of the burden of responsibility that they bear. In addition to accepting enormous responsibility. Loneliness at a time when support is needed weighs heavily on many teenagers. As adults we sometimes assume that younger children need more support and help 36 . it takes a lot of their time and isolates them from their peer group. Adolescents fear isolation from their peer group.
this can be very stressful. Acknowledge that adolescents face a difficult situation. They also need to understand what is expected from them in terms of responsibilities. 37 . while at the same time working through a very difficult developmental stage.than their older brothers and sisters. but let the adolescent be involved in decision-making processes. Thus. community members or community leaders) with whom the adolescent can identify. your community might have home-based carers) to assist the adolescent with family responsibilities and to free the adolescent to continue studying or training. the situation of the adolescent orphan calls for as much attention as the situation of the younger child. Together. Provide substitute caregivers (for example. but in most cases (especially in child-headed households) the adolescent orphan is left with lot of responsibility. be there as a safety net. and to respond by offering emotional understanding and support. • When trying to assist adolescents. Often adolescents will refuse to take advice from parents or caregivers but will look for their own role models. What can be done to support an adolescent after the death of a parent? • Ensure that the adolescent continues to attend school. Don’t impose what you think they need. For example. At the same time. adolescents need to be told clearly what the acceptable limits of behaviour are. as well as with the responsibility of providing for a family. ask them what they think they need in order to cope better. This means that the adolescent orphan has to cope with the loss of a parent. It is important that there should be other positive role models (like teachers. • Adolescents strive for independence. We need to pay attention to the questions. and that there is still hope. Focusing on the needs of the younger child should not prevent us as caregivers from keeping the adolescent in mind as well. but at the same time they need support. comments and behaviour of the adolescent. It is true that adolescents have more life experience and cognitive (thinking) skills than younger children. We think that adolescent orphans will manage to get along on their own. Offer help. having to leave school affects the adolescent’s self-confidence and his or her orientation towards the future. The adolescent needs help to see that things will improve in the long run. that he or she still has a future.
• Adolescents have to understand the concepts of “rights” and “responsibilities”. • When an adolescent engages in risk-taking behaviour. • The transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDS and caring for people with the disease should be discussed in class and in community settings. • Make sure that the adolescent has time to be with his or her peers. If their behaviour becomes selfdestructive. Encourage the adolescent to be part of a peer group (at religious organisation or community level) like a choir or a sports team. 38 . but be clear about the limits. he or she also has more responsibilities. especially when a parent has died and the adolescent has been left in charge of siblings. be clear about what is expected of the adolescent. do not separate siblings. • As a caregiver. • If possible. discuss the consequences of such behaviour. Although an adolescent has more independence and freedom. set clear rules. Set a framework in which the adolescent makes decisions.
grief or anger from a child are normal reactions to an abnormal event. Even strong reactions of sadness or anger (like those described in Chapter 3) are normal as long as they subside after a period of time and don’t lead to changes in overall behaviour. which is often the case. who feel increasingly 39 . When we talk about children’s reactions we need to remember that children generally know how to cope and they are able to adapt to crises and changes in their lives. Children who experience death may continue to grieve and mourn periodically (that is. they are able to cope as long as they can understand what is happening. as caregivers we need to identify when normal reactions turn into severe changes in behaviour that need professional attention. but not all of the time) until they are well into adulthood. The events that lead to a child becoming an orphan are very traumatic. As caregivers we can help a child deal with these normal reactions and feelings.4 The reactions to the loss of a parent described in Chapter 3 are normal reactions and are part of a child’s normal mourning process. Nevertheless. When they receive support from the other parent. who feel helpless and out of control and who can’t give deeper meaning to what is happening. Normal versus severe reactions Many children have lost their parents due to HIV/AIDS. The situation is even more difficult if more than one parent (or other close relative) dies. Remember that even though children may show signs of stress and grief. It is the children who can’t understand what is happening. helplessness. orphaned children cope even better. some of the time. the substitute caregiver and the members of the community. They must also believe that they can manage and they must be able to give deeper meaning to the event. Severe illness and the death of a parent are not normal events in a child’s life. Reactions of distress.
overwhelmed and unable to cope as they as they struggle to survive. inappropriate reactions and emotional suffering? We must break this spiral so that the child’s inner resources and resilience can be given a chance to grow. death. instead of slowly fading away. fear and isolation become stronger. helplessness. it is our job to STOP problems from developing and to help the child to cope. Reactions that profoundly alter the general behaviour of the child. If a child lacks resilience. As caregivers. Being unable to cope with the sickness and death of the parent may lead to severe reactions instead of normal reactions. When it becomes obvious that a child’s reactions are severe. their feelings of stress and grief may become more extreme or “severe”. Reactions that last for a long time. Without help. the child may require more specialised help than ordinary caregivers and teachers can give. Reactions that become self-destructive (causing harm to him or herself) or delinquent (carrying out minor crimes or looking like he or she may do so). What are severe reactions? Very intense reactions. each of us has an important role to play. As caregivers. This will be discussed in more detail in Chapter 6. How can I help the child to deal with problems ? How can I help the child to understand what happened? How can I encourage the child so that he or she feels able to manage? How can I help the child to find a deeper meaning in the event that has taken place? How can I prevent the death of a parent from harming the child’s development? What can I do to break the spiral of disease. stigmatisation. The child’s behaviour may change and his or her reactions to new situations may be inappropriate (the child’s reaction may seem wrong). Preventing severe reactions in a child Ask yourself these questions. their feelings of depression. This is discussed in more detail in Chapter 7 of this book. Inappropriate reactions are a sign that the child is not coping with what has happened and is not adapting to the changes in his or her life. Many severe reactions in children can be prevented if the necessary help and support is given before an upsetting event or if the necessary precautions are taken immediately after the upsetting event has happened. 40 .
They want to protect their children. Children often imagine the worst. Plan things for your child and share them with him or her. Although it may be very painful. but at the same time it makes the death easier to understand when it happens. Teach your child to be independent. This is better than the death coming as a complete shock because the child was not prepared for it. Talking to your child about your disease and your death is very difficult.The STOP system for parents As a parent. Draw up a will. Learning the truth causes terrible pain.You can pray with your child and pray for your child. they worry. Trust your child. Prepare your child. Collect some of your special belongings to be given to your child as a token of remembrance after you have died. Offer your child Opportunities to help you. If children don’t know the truth. Making a memory box is discussed on the next page. Talk to each other. you can STOP and: Share your thoughts and ideas with your child and listen to your child’s ideas. Many parents are afraid of raising this topic. But children watch adults constantly and they notice when something is wrong. thoughts and values. Helping you with small jobs will make your child feel less helpless and enhance the feeling that he or she can cope. your birth certificate and the birth certificates of your children) are kept together in a safe place where they can be found easily. children should be told about the likely death of a parent. Make sure that all your official documents (your ID card. Many parents want to give their children something to keep. Organise arrangements to provide for your child’s financial and emotional stability. 41 . It is easier for a child to adapt to change when the change was expected. Having items that keep the memory of the deceased parent alive is critical. Choose a substitute caregiver for your child.
Important documents or tokens of sentimental value could be kept in it. When parents and children work on memory boxes together. The box can be just a shoe box or a cereal box – what is important is what goes inside it. In this way. Creating a memory box can be an important step for the adult on the way to accepting his or her death. letters or a special passage from a spiritual text. These items may be special messages for each child. recorded tapes with messages. the children write messages to the sick parent and put them into the box for the parent to read later. In some families.Make a memory box The aim of a memory box is for a parent to put together special items to leave behind for the children after his or her death. Memory boxes promote resourcefulness in all children. Making a memory box is a wonderful idea for all parents and children. A memory box (or a memory book. photographs. Helping to put the memory box together strengthens a child’s resilience. if you prefer) helps children come to terms with the loss of a loved one. It shows the children that their parent loved them very much and cared enough to leave something precious and valuable for the child. Creating a memory box is an ideal opportunity to prepare children for the death of a parent. These letters are also kept in the box. They can look at the photographs and think about the message that was left behind. even if no one in the family is sick. a diary. Sometimes the parent will tell stories about the family history to someone so that they can be written down and put in the memory box. They can go back to the box and read a letter over and over again. are kept unopened until after the death. a will and the parent’s ID card). 42 . Knowing about the family history helps a child to identify with his or her roots. A memory box project would be worthwhile integrating into the normal school curriculum. important documents that the children will need (like birth certificates. even if the child is too young to do much more than decorate the box. Sealed envelopes. which contain letters to be read after the parent’s death. but it could be updated with precious items as time goes by. the memory box becomes a precious tool for communication. not just children affected by HIV/AIDS. it creates opportunities to express feelings and to talk about death and dying in a caring environment.
generally cope better with life’s adversities. or what may be appropriate to your beliefs). Prayer time is quality time Praying with your child is a good way to be close to your child. Safety. Teach your child to pray. Prayer time is quality time. Faith in a transcendent being is not difficult for most children until they become adolescents. Tell your child that we can ask for anything in a prayer. We can tell God in prayer about what happened during the day. that every person comes from God and returns to God when they die. knowing that they can depend on God – He will help them to cope. Being able to talk about their feelings makes it easier to come to terms with them. Children who see their parent praying will start to pray. The STOP system for caregivers As a caregiver taking over the responsibility after the death of a parent. Teach your child that God is always with us and that God will always hear a prayer. He is always there and He will always take care of us. have hope. Children who have faith.Pray with your child and pray for your child You may want to pray with your child. both for the diseased parent as well as for the child. We can tell God about things that worry us. Prayer cannot be taught in one lesson Children learn how to pray like they learn how to walk. A feeling of safety and security comes 43 . Children who are able to pray and who have strong religious faith. Teach your child about the divine being (God or Allah. God always listens. Teach your child that God is a loving God. They learn to trust in God in the same way that they learned to trust their parents. Children who have faith feel less lonely after the death of a parent because they talk to their parent in the same way that they can talk to God in prayer. The structure and rhythm of normal day-today life gives a child security. Structure and normality are very important for a child’s well-being after an upsetting event. but faith will make them feel less helpless. you can apply the STOP system as well. We can tell God when we are happy and when we are angry. Structure (a normal day-to-day routine). Security and Solidarity (mutual understanding). Older children may blame God for the death of a parent. In Chapter 7 we will discuss complicated grief – children with religious faith do not suffer the agony of complicated grief as often as children that have no faith.
which coffin to choose. concern and interest as you would show to your own child. Ask them where they would like to live. especially when their lives seem to be falling apart. Structure. it is important that the child still goes to school and is treated the same way as all the other children. Don’t try to hide your own feelings. true and shared in a way that the child is able to understand. the child knows what is expected of him or her and can see that life goes on. Security. Truth. care. Involve the children when you discuss their future. Children need tenderness – care and understanding – but at the same time they need directions. Opportunities for growth and development. Remember that children need information to understand what has happened. Teach. Be open and honest with the child. or how to decorate the graveside). Teach them things that you are interested in yourself. School does not only provide knowledge and education. Involve the children in the preparations for the funeral. The information that you give must be honest. Even if the child can’t afford school fees. Parenting and Participation. Even though something terrible has happened. Talk. School is where children mix with their peers. Openness. Let children (especially the older children) help make decisions that affect their own lives. School is also a place of special belonging – children talk about “my school”. uniforms or books. This may be by talking. Involve older children in the choices you make for the funeral (for example. Tenderness. by drawing pictures or by writing in a diary. make sure the child attends school and teach him or her life-skills at home. things that fascinated you as child and games that you used to play. Seeing adults hiding their feelings worries children even more.when a child knows what tomorrow will bring. Smaller children may feel more comfortable re-enacting what happened in play. Show the same affection. The STOP system for teachers Schooling. Provide opportunities for growth and development. Doing things together will bring you and the child closer together. “my 44 . Treat the child like your own child. Children need to express how they feel.
Talk. When a child is orphaned. Play is an important part of a child’s development. they often have to accept new responsibilities at home and there is little time to play. This is particularly true of child-headed households. children are still children. but it offers a very rewarding challenge. Expressing one’s feelings is the first step to healing. The teacher will need to play an important role in helping the children to cope with life’s challenges – not only teaching information that will help the child to pass exams but also providing emotional support and teaching the child life-skills. Using these games as teaching aids would be a low-key way of encouraging the development of resilience in children. School allows a child to fulfil another role. There are games and activities that specifically encourage children’s inner resources and coping skills. Participation in Peer group activities. When children are orphaned or a parent is sick. Chapter 6 looks at different games that can be played. Children who have lost a parent or have experienced other major life crises need to say how they feel and what they think. the home-world is in crisis and turmoil. Children express their thoughts and feelings through play and personal expression (like art. Going to school after the death of a parent is very important because it gives the child a sense of security. As teachers. Schools need to be sensitive to this and perhaps offer substitute play opportunities. 45 . This is a great responsibility. Peer group support. His or her identity as a son or a daughter is confused because his or her parent has died. At least at school the child knows where he or she belongs and what is expected of him or her. It feels normal and in making the child feel normal.class”and “my teacher”. Teaching and Training. At home the child has the role of a son or a daughter but at school the child is a student. It is also perhaps the only place where the child is allowed to behave like a child. music. Although circumstances may force children to take on adult responsibilities. The role of the teacher will change as the number of children coming from families disrupted by the AIDS pandemic increases. Classroom activities will also change. we will have to be good listeners so that we encourage children to express their feelings. Organised play as an Opportunity for children to express themselves. writing and acting). Together they can share their feelings and discuss life. It emphasises another part of his or her identity. Spending time with peers allows a child to be a child. the child feels in control. This is when the school world becomes a safe haven.
caregivers and teachers. whether in our homes or in our classrooms. we feel pity and compassion and so we distribute goods. Children often feel that they relate better to their peers than they relate to adults. their creativity and their needs. Peer groups provide a sense of belonging and identity. we need to prepare our children so that one day they will reap the harvest of resilience – even if we are not there to share it with them. then we acknowledge their strengths. you label children “victims of war”or a “lost generation of youth”. do their schoolwork and at the same time grow as individuals. If we look at them as survivors. but these children are in fact survivors! Think for a moment about how much they achieve. help and support their families. There is a danger in labelling children affected by HIV/AIDS as “orphans and vulnerable children”because the term “vulnerable”sometimes makes us see them as victims. Then will we be providing the best possible assistance and we will be encouraging them to cope better and to become more resilient. If. their skills and their expertise. The way we look at the children in our care. for example. But if we look at them as survivors who have managed to cope. resilience and ability to cope of children affected by HIV/AIDS. we must ask them what we can do to assist them. Seeing them only as victims suggests that they are dependant. the effort they make and the strength they display. They carry an enormous workload. We often overlook their initiative and creativity. offer support and pat their heads. If we look at them as victims. then that is how you will react to them. It is easy for us to overlook the fact that they are actually coping. They need our support and assistance. The attitudes of caregivers and teachers The attitudes of caregivers and teachers play a role in encouraging normal responses in children. 46 . helpless and unable to survive. and the manner in which we see these children. Peers support each other and help each other to grow. We need to bear this in mind with regard to the situation of orphans and other so-called “vulnerable”(but resilient) children. If they are treated as though they have a psychological disease then they are more likely to need psychological help. Many children prefer to share their problems with a friend rather than with an adult. This is wrong. Our assistance will then build on their coping skills. and not everyone has access to this or can afford it. will affect the way we treat them. As parents.Children of a similar age see life differently from how adults see life. We must never forget the strength.
feelings of helplessness and body pains. intrusive memories (sometimes called “flashbacks”). Each time Nangula is separated from her grandmother she starts to cry and scream. auto-aggression (hurting themselves). When other people come to the house. bed-wetting. night terrors. magic thinking. In this chapter we will use a case study to explain each of these reactions and we will look at ways of dealing with them while at the same time increasing the child’s resilience. You will need to decide which one works best for you and for the child. hyperactivity. Nangula and her siblings are living with their 70-year-old grandmother. Nangula does not play with other children but tries to stay near her grandmother all the time. Nangula is very anxious and she cries easily. sleeping difficulties. Clinging Nangula is four years old.5 There are several specific reactions that caregivers come across when caring for orphaned children. There are several suggestions to deal with the different kinds of reactions. nightmares. Nangula clings to her grandmother. aggression. Her mother died two months ago. very frightened. Nangula has never met her father. These include clinging behaviour. 47 . At night she sleeps in her grandmother’s bed.
Let Nangula be clinging for a while. prepare her for this. Allow her to sleep with a favourite toy (or something else that gives her comfort). Is it possible that something or someone else upset or hurt her? Find out when she started to show clinging behaviour – before or after her mother’s death? Is there anyone else with whom Nangula likes to stay? Are there certain people with whom Nangula does not want to stay? If so. although she may cry and scream.Explaining her behaviour Nangula clings to her grandmother because she fears that her grandmother will leave her. “I will be back after you have had your afternoon sleep. right next to her. In the beginning you may let Nangula fall asleep in your bed and then carry her to her own bed. “I will be back after you have eaten your lunch”or. When you get back. Make her bed next to your own bed.”Leave her with someone that she knows and likes (such as an older sister) and explain to Nangula that this person will look after her and care for her while you are gone. and do not leave them alone with Nangula. Nangula does not understand that separation can be temporary (for a short time). 48 . After Nangula gets used to waking up in her own bed. don’t force her to stay with them. Try to find out why Nangula does not want the grandmother (or you) to leave. What can you do to help? 1. praise her for being so strong and brave. Nangula should sleep in her own bed or on her own mattress. her grandmother will never return. Explain to her that she is big enough to sleep in her own bed. like her mother “left”her. Nangula is too young to understand the concept of time. When you have to leave her alone. You could say. Tell her where you are going and when you will be back. so you should link the time with something that she can relate to. you can reassure her and tell her that you are there. 3. Nangula thinks that if she is separated from her grandmother. Tell her that you will always come back. If she wakes up during the night. Praise her for her independence every time she sleeps in her own bed. Try not to be away from her for a long time and keep telling her that you will not leave her for ever. If there is enough space. Make sure you are back when you promised – don’t let her wait for you because this will make her more clinging and afraid. 2. start putting her to sleep in her own bed as well.
When you find her. She has to learn to internalise objects and people so that she will feel secure even when they are not around. Put some objects that Nangula knows (like a spoon. “Look far away. Memory games Which things can you remember? This game teaches Nangula to internalise objects and improves her memory. Ask Nangula to tell you what is hidden under the cloth.) Here are some examples: Hide-and-seek with an object Play hide-and-seek with Nangula. This may involve praying together. a stone. have a ritual (a routine) that is followed every evening. give her a big hug. 4. like fridges and cars. She needs to learn that objects and people can disappear and return again. Ask her to look at all the things and to memorise them. even further. This teaches her that although something can’t be seen. Don’t put her to sleep in the same bed as her brothers. telling her a short story or talking about the best moment of her day. Remove the cloth and look at all the objects again. There are two ways of doing this. If she is afraid of going to sleep in the dark. Ordinary hide-and-seek Teach Nangula how to play ordinary hide-and-seek. very close!”or you let Nangula hide the object and you must look for it. Count how many objects she remembered correctly. using an object. Then swop over: while Nangula closes her eyes you must hide. a piece of wool. 49 . Make Nangula give you directions while you search for the object. Try playing games with Nangula. When putting Nangula to sleep. Tell her to hide while you close your eyes and count to ten.”or “You’re close. Cover the things with a cloth. a paper-clip) in front of her. Then go and look for her. (All of these games are much more fun if brothers and sisters or friends play too. Agree that some places are not good hiding places. Agree on these before you start playing. These games may be of help to her.If there is no space for Nangula to sleep in her own bed. it still exists. 1. Either you can hide the object (like a handkerchief or a spoon) and let Nangula look for it while you help her by saying. leave a light on. but let yourself be found by Nangula! Make sure the area in which you play is safe so that Nangula can’t hurt herself. make sure it’s far away from Nangula’s bed. let her sleep with an older sister. If the source of light is a candle or an open fire.
Place the pictures in front of her. At night. 3. She and her other siblings live together. 50 . she may not want to be separated from close family members. she may be hungry. she may be afraid of having bad dreams. What can you do to help? 1. Ask her to close her eyes. Tell Nangula to open her eyes. Find out the real reason why Rebekkah does not want to go to sleep. Now do the same again. Cover all the pictures with a piece of cloth. Rebekkah refuses to go to bed.2. Remove one picture and hide it behind your back.You could also increase the number of objects you show her. Both her parents have died. When Nangula has played this game a few times it will get boring. or something might have upset her during the night. remove one object and put it behind your back. there may be too much noise in the house. Her eldest sister.You will need to find new objects. Give Nangula old magazines and help her to cut out pictures of different people. Don’t give her cooldrinks or fizzy drinks (like Coke) to drink. but while Nangula’s eyes are closed. remove the cloth and ask Nangula which picture is missing. give her something small to eat or a drink of warm milk or water. Sleeping difficulties and nightmares Rebekkah is five years old. If she is hungry and you have food in the house. who is 17 years old. for example: she may not be tired enough to go to sleep. She makes excuses to stay awake and finally falls asleep anywhere in the house. looks after them all. she may be afraid of the dark. Explaining her behaviour There could be different reasons for Rebekkah refusing to go to bed. Tell Nangula to open her eyes. she may be afraid that her sister (her caregiver) will disappear or die as her parents did. remove the cloth and ask her which object is missing. Ask her to look at all the pictures and memorise them.
Although this may sound mean (and although her crying may upset the other people in the house). comfort her briefly.2. Don’t give in when Rebekkah begs you to let her stay up. She may cry until she falls asleep but don’t let her get up. Try to make her comfortable in her bed and promise her that you will be there when she wakes up. If she is afraid of going to sleep in the dark. A child needs more sleep than an adolescent or an adult and should go to bed at the same time every day. 3. In Manuel’s case. Tell her that her older sisters will soon be coming to bed as well. Often Manuel wakes up in the middle of the night and cries. Don’t shout at Rebekkah or threaten her. This may involve praying together. Wash her with warm water or give her a warm bath before tucking her in. Since his mother died he has been living with the neighbours. Don’t let her watch television before going to bed. Make sure that she has a quiet corner to sleep in. Turn the radio and television down. This routine provides security and comfort to the child. telling her a short story or talking about the best moment of her day. but then leave her alone in her bed. Sometimes the frightening thing in the dream is based on an imagined fear rather than something that has actually happened. stay firm. have a ritual (a routine) that is followed every evening. If the source of light is a candle or an open fire. the nightmares are probably worse because his mother died and he had to move in with the neighbours. He dreams that someone has died. Sometimes the frightening event in a nightmare is symbolic – the frightening event in the dream may take a different form from what happened in real life. Tell her that you will make sure that she is safe while she is asleep. make sure it’s far away from Rebekkah’s bed. Children’s nightmares are usually related to something the child is afraid of or to something frightening that the child has experienced. Sometimes he dreams that the house is on fire. 51 . Nightmares Manuel is 6 years old. But it is important to be patient and calm. leave a light on. When putting Rebekkah to sleep. Having a child in your family that refuses to go to sleep every night can be stressful for the caregiver. but do be firm and insist that she goes to sleep. If she starts crying. Explaining his behaviour Many children have nightmares. She will soon learn to calm down and fall asleep when it is her bedtime.
Tell him that it was only a bad dream. After the death of his mother and losing his own home. This will slowly reduce the frequency of the nightmares and after a while they will stop. Find out what scares him in the dream and ask him what scares him when he is awake. make him look at his bed. Tell him that you are with him and that he is safe. In older children this can be a sign that there is something serious upsetting the child. 2. comfort him and calm him down. 3. What else can you do to help? 1. Talk to him about the things that he finds frightening. Don’t allow Manuel to watch a lot of television – especially at night. 52 . Only then ask him what he dreamt about and let him describe the dream in detail. 2. By talking about them. If he is fully awake. Nightmares that occur after upsetting events in a child’s life normally show that the event doesn’t fit into the child’s understanding of life. he might be trying unconsciously to understand the death of his mother and to work through his own fears. Although much of what he dreamt may be symbolic. dreaming about the house being on fire may actually be symbolic of Manuel’s fear of losing all his belongings. Manuel may have seen a big fire and heard adults talking about the danger of fires burning settlements down. Ask him to draw you pictures about these frightening events. the room and an object that he likes – reassure him that he is at home in his bed. warmth and shelter. During the day. or putting them down on paper during the day. While we sleep. For example. the underlying fear is real. including his security. Take his dream seriously. Some children dream the same nightmare over and over again. our brains work through memories and incorporate them into our understanding of life.What can you do to help? 1. Manuel will be facing the fears. In Manuel’s case. When Manuel wakes up during the night. remind Manuel of the dream and talk to him about it. Watching television increases the likelihood that violent or frightening pictures will be triggered while Manuel is sleeping.
What can you do to help at home? During a night terror. What can you do to help at school? There is not much that a teacher can do to assist sleeping problems in children. When the child does wake up. She does not recognise anybody. The teacher may see that the child falls asleep in class.Night terrors Ndapewa is 5 years old. Ndapewa pushes the grandmother away. The child falls asleep again quickly. has problems concentrating or is hyperactive in order to stay awake. the child doesn’t wake up completely. make her comfortable again and let her fall asleep again immediately. The teacher could ask the child questions about his or her sleeping habits like: Where do you sleep? Do you have a bed of your own? Does someone share your bed? What do you do before you go to sleep? Does someone tuck you in at night? Do you sleep well at night? Why don’t you sleep well? Do you need to get up during the night? Is it noisy where you sleep? Do you have enough blankets? 53 . When the child does wake up. sit next to the child and watch – don’t wake the child up. During the night she wakes up screaming with her body shaking. he or she remembers nothing of the event and is not afraid. is constantly yawning. but the teacher may realise a child is having sleeping problems before the parent or the caregiver does. When a child has a night terror. When her grandmother tries to hold her and comfort her. help her to relax. Explaining her behaviour Night terrors are very common in children.
It is also important for the child to go to sleep at the same time every night. The teacher may need to advise the caregiver (especially if the caregiver is a child as well) about possible ways to deal with the younger child’s sleeping problems. Bed-wetting always shows that a child is under a lot of emotional pressure. Moosa’s mother had to go to work in town and she only comes home to the farm four times a year. Many children who have experienced stressful events start to wet their beds again during the night. the bed-wetting is related to fear.In some households. like the death of a parent. the child should be taken to a clinic to see whether the child has a bladder problem. children do not have a place of their own but sleep in different places every night. If it continues for a few days. a parent moving away from the home. He is embarrassed and he cries. If a teacher realises that a child has a sleeping problem he or she may contact the caregiver and explain how important it is for a child to get enough regular sleep. Moosa has started wetting his bed for the first time since he was two and a half years old. especially those headed by children. At school the children also laugh at him. It causes a lot of additional emotional suffering. a friend being run down by a car or a schoolteacher hitting a child (or Moosa himself). After the death of his father. In each case. He feels insecure. insecurity and helplessness. like a father beating up (or screaming at) the mother. Explaining his behaviour Bed-wetting is a very serious problem for many children. his brothers and sisters have been living with his grandmother and seven other cousins since his father died. He wakes up in the night and finds his bed wet. 54 . It is important for a child to have his or her own place to sleep (even if it is shared with a sibling). Moosa. mostly due to emotional reasons like fear. Bed-wetting Moosa is seven years old. Bed-wetting can also result from changes in the family. the bed-wetting could be a reaction to frightening events that the child has witnessed or experienced. If there is no medical reason. Moosa doesn’t want to go to school anymore. bed-wetting is caused by a medical problem. insecurity and feeling unwanted or abandoned. For some children. His cousins and his brothers laugh at him so he tries to hide the sheets behind the house. He misses his mother and wishes his father would come back. Moosa feels threatened that something has upset his normal family structure. a divorce or the unexpected birth of a baby. The bigger boys call him “baby” and won’t allow him to play with them.
If Moosa decides to tell you about things that scare him. “You are so good at maths/soccer…”. 3. Explain that he is safe and that you will take care of him. Teach him to get up during the night and use the bucket when he feels he needs to go to the toilet. Tell him that you know that he does not wet the bed deliberately. leave a light burning so that he can see. Say things like. If he is afraid to go to the outhouse in the dark. 2. 4. tell him how well he is doing despite his problems. (You might need to cut down the side of a plastic bin bag and place it beneath his sheet to protect the mattress. If possible. blame or punish Moosa. “You are such a big help to me!”or. Encourage him by addressing his strengths and say things like. Don’t let Moosa drink too much in the evening. 6. have extra linen nearby.) If possible. Do not scold. When Moosa wakes up during the night. Before you go to bed yourself. Bedtime routines always help children and adults to relax and prepare for sleep. Don’t let him watch a lot of television. wake Moosa up and send him to the toilet. Make sure that he goes to the toilet before he goes to bed at night. He doesn’t wet his bed on purpose. It would be best for Moosa to sleep in his own bed or on his own mattress so that he doesn’t wet other children. 5. “Yes. 55 . Make sure that he is wide awake. When adults in your home talk about violent events in the community. Talk to Moosa in private. have a bucket nearby for him to use. make sure that you explain the conversation to Moosa later on. I can understand that this is very upsetting/scary/worrying for you…”At the same time. Moosa needs a lot of encouragement and positive assurance to build up his self-image and self-confidence. Has there been a special occasion when he felt very threatened or afraid? Find out how he feels about wetting his bed – does he feel ashamed or inferior (less than) to other children? Tell him there are many children with the same problem and promise to help him to solve the problem. Try to find out what is upsetting him. Give him clean sheets and clean clothes and make sure that he doesn’t smell of urine when he goes to school.What can you do to help? 1. Make sure Moosa isn’t exposed to a lot of upsetting events. Have a quiet time with him before he falls asleep and chat about the good things that happened during the day. Make a point of noticing his skills and give him positive feedback as often as possible. comfort him calmly and change his linen. listen carefully and encourage him.
She seems restless. She finds it difficult to concentrate. Increase the number of nights until Moosa is dry every night. Two months ago her mother suddenly became sick. after an ambulance passed the school building. praise him and acknowledge that his bed is dry. 56 . One day. She was taken to hospital with acute encephalitis and she died three days later. who is looking after them very well.7. but for a few weeks she has been very absent-minded in class. increase the number of nights that he must stay dry during the week in order to get a reward. She told her teacher that she suddenly remembered her mother being taken away to the hospital. Don’t allow the other children to laugh at Moosa. 8. Intrusive memories (flashbacks) Aletta is 8 years old. Aletta still goes to school. In the beginning reward Moosa after he has one dry night in a week. Have Moosa help you to draw up a calendar to monitor the dry and wet nights. She won’t walk past her old house when she walks home from school. Aletta and her two brothers are now living with their aunt. After a night when Moosa did not wet his bed. Example of a bed-wetting chart 9. After he manages one dry night in a week. She is falling behind her classmates. she started crying and shaking.
57 . say. When Aletta is experiencing an acute flashback. They are uncontrollable and they expose us to the stressful event that took place in the past. also known as “flashbacks”. 1. Having a flashback about her mother being taking into hospital left Aletta feeling as helpless. This means that they flood our minds. Hold her firmly by the shoulders. The memory feels so real that it is just like reliving the original event and so a person reacts with the same feelings that he or she felt at the time of the original event. Intrusive memories are like nightmares that happen during the day. upsetting or traumatic event that suddenly pop up in your mind and can’t be controlled. However. objects or even people that they associate with the original event. tremble and get goosebumps.Explaining her behaviour Aletta is suffering from intrusive memories. The intensity of intrusive images varies from very mild to very strong. take the following steps immediately: Go to her. afraid and sad as she felt when it really happened. When Aletta experiences a very strong flashback her teacher may notice changes in her body: Aletta will breathe more quickly than usual. describing the traumatic event may overwhelm Aletta and trigger another flashback. speak her name in a firm voice and tell her that you are going to touch her. Some children try to prevent intrusive memories by refusing to think or talk about the traumatic event that took place. They may also try to avoid situations. her eyes will look blank and glassy. or even a smell that was present at the time of the original event can trigger the intrusive memory. Maintaining eye contact is reassuring for her and helps her to keep control. Intrusive memories are memories of a painful. We need to find a way to help Aletta describe the event without becoming overwhelmed. Telling her story would give her control over her memories and help her to come to terms with her strong feelings. What can you do to help? Aletta needs to express what is worrying her and it would help her to tell her story. Intrusive memories are usually triggered by something that resembles the original event – in Aletta’s case the ambulance. but instead the memories intrude into our brains. a sound. Make eye contact. Flashbacks are overwhelming and may be very frightening. A sight. her face might get flushed or she might start to shiver. “Look at me!”and don’t allow her to lose eye contact with you. Intrusive memories are overwhelming and very vivid. They are not recalled willingly.
they have to arrange the memory pieces in the order that they really happened for the story to make sense. Don’t ask how she feels about the event.Use short sentences when you talk to her.) Good!” Try to develop a steady rhythm in her breathing. unwanted feelings. now breathe out slowly as if you’re blowing through a straw. 58 .”Or. Reassure Aletta that having flashbacks after a very upsetting event is normal. Don’t ask her why she reacted like that. Once integrated.) OK. the traumatic event becomes easier to integrate in the memory and in the life context. Flashbacks consist of fragmented pieces of memory that suddenly come up. When Aletta has calmed down. try to slow her breathing down. but the child may be flooded with painful. We have to be careful not to trigger a new flashback when we ask a child to tell his or her story. the child can give the event meaning and work out how to control it. This structure makes the memory less chaotic and uncontrollable. In this way. “I am with you. By having more control.) Stop. 3. Direct her breathing all the time. Keep eye contact! 2. Nothing is going to happen to you! You are safe!” If Aletta is breathing heavily. but talk to her after school. Hold your breath. Asking Aletta to explore her feelings may trigger another flashback. Let her rejoin the classroom activities. let her have something to drink or send her to wash her face. When someone describes something that happened to them. It is important to find a way for the child to confront the upsetting event in a controlled way. This makes them chaotic and uncontrolled. Ask her what was so scary and upsetting. the child is in charge of the situation and of the memories that surface. gradually slowing down as she breathes out. When a child can look at what is upsetting him or her.You can do this by asking her to hold her breath after breathing in and then breathe out gently as though she was blowing out through a straw or a whistle. Good. telling a story helps to put pieces of memory into a meaningful structure. Don’t ask for too much detail at this stage. (Wait a moment before saying “In” again. saying things like this: “In. It happens because she is trying to come to terms with what happened.You are in the classroom. Say things like. “Everything is OK. The pieces of memory don’t seem to fit together and they don’t fit into the child’s memory. (This is to slow down her breathing. It is important to talk about the upsetting event. (As she breathes in. Repeat your directions.
How to deal with flashbacks or nightmares There are ways to encourage children to look at the content and structure of flashbacks or nightmares. Encourage her self-esteem – praise her for doing so well in such a difficult situation. 6. not just with children whose parents or caregivers have died. Find out how she is doing. Breathing exercises are very helpful when helping children suffering from intrusive images and nightmares. Talk to Aletta again after two or three weeks. 5. 7. Agree that you will ask her to tell you how she is doing from time to time. Look at the picture again and ask Aletta what else the child in the picture could do herself to feel better. Tell Aletta that the activities she has chosen are great. upset or angry? Ask Aletta which of those activities she would like to try herself. “Yes! You should do those things as often as you can!” Encourage activities involving sport and outdoor games. What does the child usually do to make herself feel better when she is sad. Don’t tell Aletta what to do – let her come up with a solution that will suit her own needs. 59 . As Aletta puts the upsetting event on paper she can control what goes into the picture and what is still too painful to show. Thank her for sharing her story with you. Tell her you look forward to hearing how they are helping her. Invite her to come and visit you whenever she has a problem. Drawing pictures is an ideal way of looking objectively at an upsetting event in a controlled way without becoming overwhelmed. Passive activities (activities that do not involve interacting with other people) like watching television or sitting under a tree are less helpful. While you will need to be very sensitive to orphans and vulnerable children in the group. It is important for Aletta to create her own picture story and to talk about her picture when she has finished drawing. talking to someone or playing with a baby cousin. Teach her a breathing exercise. These activities can be used for an entire youth group or the whole class. If she is still suffering from flashbacks you may need to contact her caregiver and ask for Aletta to receive professional help. Say.4. She may suggest playing with friends. Also encourage activities to do with religion or culture. it is best not to single them out because they may experience this as stigmatising.
This exercise could be critical to Aletta and she needs your undivided attention.) It is used to assist a child suffering from flashbacks by focusing on the content of the flashback and giving structure to the memories. 3. Block 1: Ask Aletta to remember the last time that she felt happy and safe before the upsetting event took place. Ask Aletta to draw pictures in blocks two. Guide the story to 60 . Talk about “the girl in the picture”– this allows Aletta to distance herself from her story. she will be able to stay in control. d. Divide a sheet of paper into nine equal squares. Ask Aletta to draw the first good moment she remembers after the upsetting event was over. Stay with Aletta as she draws. when her mother fell sick and had to go to hospital). Drawing a picture prevents her from having another flashback. What was she doing then? When Aletta is able to remember it clearly. 2. This is a critical moment because Aletta will be confronted with painful memories but because she is talking and drawing the event. b. The picture should be as accurate as possible. If she talks. Ask Aletta to draw pictures in blocks six. Ask Aletta if she can draw a picture story or a comic about what happened to her. Set aside some time to work through the following exercise with Aletta after school. Move from picture to picture so that the parts of the story are told in order. ask her to draw a picture of the good moment in block 1. Jump to the opposite corner (block 9). the neighbours coming to visit and going to the funeral). ask Aletta to tell you the story of the people in the pictures. The blocks in the diagram have been numbered to help you – don’t write the block numbers on Aletta’s paper! Ask her to start in block one. (It is easier if the child likes to draw. When she has finished all the pictures. e. Point to block five and ask Aletta to draw the worst part of her story (for example. three and four to show what happened before the worst part (for example. seven and eight to show what the people in the pictures did after the worst part was over (for example. a. 1. c. Have a few coloured pens so that Aletta can choose which colours she wants to use. It will take some time and it is imperative that you are not disturbed. the death of her mother). listen closely to what she says.The picture story exercise This exercise is suitable for children aged seven to ten.
sad or happy feelings in her body. 5. joyful or content. Ask Aletta what she thinks the child in the picture needs to make her feel better. Guided drawing with the whole class This method helps children to take a step back and reflect on things that have happened in their lives. Because it is a group method.end at the point at which the girl in the picture felt safe and calm again. it can be used in the classroom. If Aletta replies. Ask Aletta how the people in the picture felt – especially the girl in the picture. guilty. like looking after her brothers. This prevents the feelings from becoming overwhelming.) Don’t be surprised if Aletta replies that the child needs her mother back. Tell her that you can understand this because every child wants a mother but say that there are some things that are impossible. tell Aletta these feelings are quite normal when something like this has happened. Tell her that it is normal for children to cry and to feel lonely and helpless. Tell her that it is normal for children to feel afraid when their mother is taken to hospital. 4. repeat her story to her. If Aletta says. “bad”. Describing the feelings in her body helps her to look at those feelings in a controlled way. 61 . Discuss how the child in the picture can still have contact with her mother. helping her aunt and attending school.“good”. help her to find a more precise word like happy. help her to find a more precise word like sad. Talk about what people do when they feel angry. by looking at her picture and by praying. sad or disappointed. for example by talking to her. Praise her for this achievement. by having a special memorial place or ritual. (Remember to refer to “the child in the picture”. Point out all the good things that Aletta did during this difficult time. packing the things they needed to take to their new homes. It also helps her to memorise the story in a meaningful form. To show Aletta that you paid attention to her story. When you have finished discussing everyone’s feelings. angry. ashamed or helpless. It is a normal response for younger children. Ask Aletta where she feels angry. Hearing her own story told by someone else also helps Aletta to distance herself from what happened. Tell her that it is normal for children to worry about their parents. satisfied.
Guided drawing can be done as a regular classroom activity in the class – twenty minutes every day or every second day would be time well spent. If not. In a class with several orphans your topics could start like this: Day 1: Draw a picture of yourself doing something that made you feel very happy. Ask if anyone would like to talk about his or her picture.“something that makes you very angry. Don’t force any of the children to discuss their picture. “a day you were terribly scared”or. Draw a picture of yourself after you achieved something that you feel very good about. Take a few minutes after each drawing session to look at all the pictures with the children.) Draw a time when you felt very strong. follow up with a resilience-based or resource-based topic. Draw a picture of a day something good happened. After a few sessions the children may start to volunteer topics – make use of their proposals because they reveal what the children are concerned about. Draw a day when you were very sad.) Draw anything you like.) Be flexible. give a new topic like “a great day at school”or. Draw a picture of yourself doing something that you enjoyed very much.” Day 2: Day 3: Day 4: Day 5: Day 6: Day 7: Day 8: Day 9: Day 10: Day 11: Be creative in the topics you give the class. Draw someone you love very much. Put the chairs in a circle and spread the pictures on the floor in the middle of the circle. Draw a picture of a day something bad happened. It is important not to start immediately with “problem topics”. (Pictures of funerals or death may appear. (Observe what the children draw. Draw anything you like. 62 . (Observe what the children draw.The teacher gives the class a specific topic and asks the children to draw a picture related to this topic. If you observed that death featured prominently in the pictures drawn on days nine and ten. allow the children to draw whatever they like. If your “problem topic” keeps the children busy for a few days. Start off with topics that foster resilience and inner resources in children.
Play and re-enactment (suitable for children aged 4 to 10) Children who have experienced traumatic events and major life changes tend to replay these experiences over and over in their heads. Putting thoughts and feelings down on paper promotes creative writing skills and encourages self-control. Give each child an exercise book and a pen that may only be used for the communication book. Once the first child is brave enough to risk it and your response is warm and encouraging. This is normal and part of the healing process. There is only one exception to this rule: if a child feels that he or she wants to share his or her story with you (the teacher). There is probably not much time after school to write in a diary. you will read the story the child has written and you will write a comment in the book. suggest the rule that no one may laugh at a picture or tease another child about what he or she has drawn. Adolescents normally find it difficult to relate to a person who is not one of their peers. other children will usually come forward as well. Tell the child that what you both write is absolutely confidential – promise that you will not tell anybody. Encourage the child to write about events that have taken place in his or her life. The child may decorate the exercise book to make it special.Before the pictures are shown to the class. Writing stories down on paper is another way of structuring memories and feelings. they will probably not need reminding about this. Have a file (or a large envelope) for each child to keep his or her pictures in. Never force a child to let you read his or her thoughts. “Memory” or “communication” books Older children and adolescents may not want to draw. self-knowledge and problem-solving skills. Children are usually hesitant to share their feelings with you as an authority figure in the beginning. The memory book is a tool that is suitable for the classroom situation. It would be helpful to reserve twenty minutes during the school day for children to write in their diaries. but adolescents who head households have little time to socialise with their friends and so this is an opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings. Once the children understand how the circle works. 63 . Most children like to take a few minutes once a day to think about themselves and to write their thoughts down on paper. Tell them that spelling mistakes and bad handwriting don’t matter either! Communication books can be developed into diaries. This book then becomes part of a dialogue. It has been said that play is a means by which children handle and work on experiences and tackle difficult problems. Tell the children that these books are their personal property and that no one may read the book except the children themselves. It is up to the child to decide whether or not to agree to this.
This means that they must have enough time at school and at home for free play. And last but not least. A child that regularly chooses not to play with his peers or siblings should be encouraged to join in. Older children. may be given themes to work with. 1. Ask the children to get into groups and to think up a story that they will present to the class later on. a caregiver. Role-playing promotes creativity. has problems concentrating. “Rachel. a broom or a hat). learn better. team spirit. who was the mother that was crying. Before they start.Through play. is the real Sanette again!”and. talk to the children about what happened in the play. Roleplaying also allows the child to fantasize about miracles and about superhero strength. Take the children out of their roles by saying. Before the plays start. Give them enough time to work on their story. explain to the children that a role is something you play. Let them present their play to you and the rest of the class. Find out why the child is not taking part in the activities. a doctor. Together they role-play the event over and over again. Children may also role-play their intrusive images as they try to understand them and to integrate them into their life concept. Children should be encouraged to play. Role-playing allows the child to take on different roles and to view the upsetting event from various angles. This is known as “repetitive play”. Imagining that he or she can control the event helps the child to cope and to gain control. a netball coach and a Sunday School teacher – she has different roles to fulfil at different times). The child may also involve his or her peers. a woman may be a mother. isn’t the mother anymore – she’s Rachel again!” 2. 64 . imagination. Talk about the kind of roles that people play (for example. has problems falling asleep or demonstrates aggressive behaviour. role-playing is fun! Breathing exercises Breathing exercises are helpful not only when a child has flashbacks but also when a child is very agitated. children express their feelings and work through difficult negative experiences. Role-playing can be encouraged in the classroom. Provide some props that they might need for their story (like an apron. Explain again that each learner in the play was playing a role. This encourages their creative writing. 3.You could ask older children to put their role-plays into writing. Children who play. Often the child repeats a scene over and over again until a solution is reached. problem solving. who was the bad girl. group cohesion and self-confidence as well as verbal fluency in children. agree that no one may be laughed at unless the story is funny. who are used to role-playing. If a story is serious. “Sanette.
Breathing exercises can be done at home or in the classroom. It is worth doing breathing exercises with the whole class on a regular basis – not just with vulnerable children. Breathing exercises help people to calm down and collect themselves. Children who have been trained to breathe calmly and deeply are able to study better. Children and adolescents with “exam fever”learn to control their anxiety through regular, deep breathing. Teach the children the steps to follow. (You might want to change the way you explain things!) Step 1. You say: Sit up straight with both feet touching the ground. Rest your hands on your legs. Your back is straight. Imagine that there is a fine thread tied to the top of your head. There is a little man sitting on the ceiling and he is pulling the thread. Try to sit very straight so that the thread doesn’t snap. (The story of the little man is important because it makes the children straighten their backs so that the head rests on the spine and the shoulders are pulled back.) Step 2. You say: Now when I give you a sign, we will all start to breathe in as if we are sucking air in through a small straw. We are going to let the air flow deep down into our bodies. Imagine the air filling our bodies. Step 3. You say: When the air has filled our bodies, we hold our breaths for a second or two. Then we blow the air out slowly through the straw. When you stop breathing out, pause for a second or two before breathing in again. And repeat. (You need to direct the children like you would conduct a choir, praising and encouraging them from time to time. After breathing in and out a few times, slow down the speed of the breathing as the children breathe out.) Practise this exercise twice daily for about five minutes. This exercise is very helpful when the class is very noisy or when you want the class to concentrate before you introduce a new topic.
More breathing exercises
Exercise 1. Ask the children to stand in a circle and hold hands. Tell them to breathe in slowly through their mouths while everybody raises their hands until they are above their heads. Everyone holds their breath and then slowly lowers their hands while breathing out through the mouth and bending their knees until their hands nearly touch the ground. Pause, and then breathe in again. As everyone breathes out, they can make a sound like “puhhh”so that they can hear the sound of their
breathing. It is a good idea for you to join the circle while the children are doing this breathing exercise because you can direct the speed with which the arms are raised. Gradually slow down the breathing speed. Let the class breathe like this for five minutes. Repeat the exercise twice a day. Exercise 2. Each child will need a heavy book. Ask the children to lie down on blankets or outside on the grass (if it is dry). Ask them to place the books on their stomachs. The children must breathe so deeply that the books move up and down. (The book will only move when the child uses his or her abdominal muscles correctly.) Let them repeat this exercise for five minutes twice a day. This exercise relaxes the children and enhances their breathing skills. Once the children understand how to do the exercise properly, you could give it as homework. It is good for children who find it difficult to fall asleep to do it while they lie in bed at night.
Ebrahim is eight years old. He lives with his grandmother. His mother died two years ago. His father left the family when Ebrahim was three years old. Sometimes Ebrahim’s father sends Ebrahim’s grandmother some money. The grandmother works as a domestic worker. Ebrahim’s aunt and her four children also live with Ebrahim’s grandmother. Ebrahim’s aunt says that he doesn’t obey any rules at home. His teacher reports that he hits smaller children at school. Ebrahim’s grandmother reports that she is too tired to run after him when she comes home in the evening. Sometimes he stays away from his grandmother’s house till late in the evening and he has been seen hanging around with the taxi drivers at the taxi rank. On the rare occasions that Ebrahim is at home, his aunt observed that he and his cousin were playing violent games that included throwing stones at the girls next door and deliberately hurting the cat. Ebrahim doesn’t have real friends at school. Some children still hang around with him, but others are scared of him. Ebrahim gets very lonely.
Explaining his behaviour
Aggression is not an emotion or a feeling, but is actually an expression of feelings like anger, rage, disappointment, fear or sadness. Aggression is a state of increased energy resulting from underlying feelings. For this reason, aggression can be channelled into constructive (positive) behaviour or 66
destructive (negative) behaviour. Destructive behaviour means that the energy is used to harm or hurt someone or something – and often to hurt oneself. When we talk about aggressive behaviour, we normally mean destructive energy. Aggression can have various causes. A child like Ebrahim may act aggressively because he grew up in an aggressive environment. He may have been exposed to aggressive behaviour and so he learnt that aggression is an acceptable way to reach his goals. He may have been exposed to violent attacks and he may have learnt that aggression is the only way to survive. If this is how Ebrahim learnt to be aggressive, we would say that his aggression is the result of his “social learning process” because he learnt by observing people in his environment. These persons become his role models and he imitated their behaviour. If a child sees aggressive behaviour being rewarded, the child learns that aggressive behaviour is acceptable and desirable in order to reach goals. Many children become aggressive when they are not allowed to do what they want or get what they want. This aggression is the result of disappointment and frustration. Other children may react aggressively because they don’t have the necessary social skills to make friends or to gain other children’s respect, for example by sharing, communicating effectively or by having a good sense of humour. Instead, they use aggression to gain respect and status from their peers. Aggression releases tension that has been built up by unwanted feelings. Aggressive behaviour in children often becomes an upward spiral, becoming more intense as it feeds on itself. Aggressive behaviour may be deeply rooted in the child’s insecurity. In Ebrahim’s case, the loss of a parent, the displacement into his grandmother’s home, the change in his environment and having to get used to a new group of family members was very threatening for him. This increased his feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. Ebrahim may feel deeply threatened and inadequate (not good enough). He probably craves acknowledgment and recognition. Hanging around with older boys and men at the taxi rank probably gives Ebrahim a sense of strength and imagined respect.
What can you do to help?
Because aggression often stems from insecurity, frustration and a lack of self-worth, it is important to encourage Ebrahim’s self-confidence. At the same time he needs to learn that aggressive behaviour does not always bring the right results. He needs to learn how to express his feelings in an appropriate way. He needs to learn self-control. Naturally this won’t happen overnight. Dealing with aggressive children can be difficult and it takes a long time for such children to “unlearn” their aggression and replace it with new ways of self-expression. When dealing with aggressive children it is especially 67
We need be self-assured and know that we are in control. As with all children. firm and give clear instructions. Although they may find it difficult to obey the rules. honesty. This is sometimes difficult. Make the child apologise to the person who was hurt so that the old relationship can be re-established. helping at home. but you are punishing him for his wrong behaviour. 68 .important that we do not become aggressive ourselves. Never threaten punishment without fulfilling your threat. do not hit or beat an aggressive child. Sit with the child to draw up the rules. or helping repair the damage caused by the aggression (if material objects were involved). the better the chance that it will lead to a change in the child’s behaviour. The child needs to realise that disobeying the rules will have consequences. Hitting or beating the child sends the message that violence is acceptable. but is a consequence of inadequate behaviour. When dealing with aggressive children it is important to have confidence in our own skills and our ability to deal effectively with such children. How can you deal with aggressive children? Aggressive adults who are role models for children promote aggressive behaviour in those children. The child needs clear guidelines about what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. parents. The child needs to understand that punishment is not an act of revenge on the side of the caregiver. Authority. As a caregiver or a teacher you should clearly distinguish between the behaviour that you disapprove of and the child whom you still love and respect. rules give them the feeling of security and control. caregivers and teachers need to be very clear about what they expect from the child. The aims of punishment Punishing a child should (ideally) lead to a process in which the child reflects (thinks) about what went wrong and comes up with ideas about solving the problems. Aggressive children need rules. It is important for the child to understand that you are not punishing him because you don’t like him or because you are angry with him. It may be appropriate for the child to do something for this person so that they can see that the child is genuinely sorry. make sure the child understands the effect of the aggressive behaviour on the other person. calmness and self-confidence are critical when dealing with aggressive children. Punishments that are more effective than beating a child could include not allowing the child to play with his or her friends for an afternoon or two (not longer). Distinguish between the child and the behaviour The better the punishment is suited to the aggressive deed of the child. If other people were involved. but instead stay calm. Instead of becoming aggressive.
Say. Emotions and feelings need to be discussed in the classroom situation as well in order to support children in their learning process. teachers and caregivers should discuss the aggressive behaviour as well as the underlying feelings with the child. Understanding your own feelings helps you to find suitable behaviour. constructive way. Punishment should happen in private and not in public. frustrated or scared? Try to understand the reason for the behaviour. fear or feeling threatened. It is important for the child to understand why he or she feels angry or frustrated. Ask the child to stop the unwanted behaviour. precise sentences. Be clear and firm about what you want. At this stage of emotional upset it is your responsibility to provide the necessary control. frustration and helplessness because these feelings usually arise at times of crisis or conflict. for example. but firm. but unfortunately the tension expresses itself in a negative. Because he is emotionally tense. In order to promote this learning process. Say. in the context of a family by relating to his or her parents and siblings and by observing the interaction between parents and other children.” It is important for the child to understand that you are in charge and that you are in control. and expressing feelings. Choose the way you speak to an angry child If a child is in a rage use short. Orphaned children need this skill even more because there is often no adult to provide emotional security and protection. Aggressive children have to learn how to show their feelings in a positive.“Stop screaming now.”Keep your voice calm. Identify causes of the aggressive behaviour Aggressive or disruptive behaviour is often a reaction to frustration. Often children find it difficult to identify emotions and they lack words to describe their feelings. Being able to identify feelings is important for all children. We will sort it out. When the child has calmed down you can hand control back to the child. What made him or her angry. You will find some exercises on teaching children to identify emotions and their responses at the end of this section on aggression.“Sit down here. destructive way. Talk to the child about why he or she reacts aggressively. Discuss feelings with the child Aggressive children find it difficult to deal with negative emotions like anger. The tension or emotional excitement produced by these feelings is not necessarily negative in itself. Punishment should not be aimed at degrading the child or increasing his insecurity and frustration. these are easier to understand.Talk to the child about what he did. A child first learns about feelings. 69 . Explain why you are punishing him. Understanding our feelings improves our coping skills.
Ask him what he did and how he felt. What could you do instead of breaking his pencils?”Or. Sometimes a small event might trigger an aggressive response.“Now imagine the same situation again. Often the triggering event is related to another situation that the child was not able to solve adequately and the triggering event serves as an opportunity to relieve tension that has been building up. These ideas may include walking way from the source of the frustration. or doing something that he is good at. Say to Ebrahim. excited or frustrated. getting physical exercise. the death of his mother. Agree with him that the next time he gets angry he will try one of these ideas first. but you still approve of the child as a person. the move to his grandmother’s home and the lack of attention are all causes of tension. neglect and loneliness may be hidden underneath. Identifying the real cause for the aggressive behaviour can be difficult because there may be many. asking someone for help. Discuss the best ideas with Ebrahim. The others are shouting names at you.) Support the child as he or she describes his or her feelings and frustrations. Make it clear to the child that although you understand the child’s anger or frustration and you acknowledge the reason for his feelings. Ask him to choose one or two ideas.“Now think of the next time David takes something away from you without asking. Finding the cause for the aggressive behaviour can only happen if you talk to the child. In addition to feelings like sadness and frustration. Teach positive ways to express emotions 1. 3. Ebrahim’s aggressive acts can thus be attributed to attention-seeking behaviour and to a need for acceptance. In Ebrahim’s case. 2. 70 . attention and acknowledgement. Talk about how other people would see and judge his behaviour. What else could you do instead of throwing stones at them?” Write a list of all the ideas that Ebrahim comes up with. Discuss actions Ebrahim could take when he is very angry. Ebrahim needs to understand that you do not approve of his behaviour. you do not agree with the way the child expressed his feelings. more complicated feelings like betrayal. abandonment.(Remember that it may seem like a trivial thing to you. getting rid of the tension by talking to someone.You feel hurt. Look at the behavioural response Ask Ebrahim to look at his behaviour with you.
It reveals itself in self-destructive behaviour: some children start to bite their fingernails down to the nail bed or pull their own hair out. The picture helps him to memorise the decision he has taken. Ask Ebrahim to come and tell you when he manages to control his anger or frustration. to solve conflict and to identify emotions.4. When the child returns. Small children may bump their heads against walls repeatedly. Severe auto-aggression with self-hurting is a sign that a child has serious problems. no one may make funny remarks or laugh. older children may cut themselves deliberately. 71 . all of which will help with aggressive behaviour. then he or she will return to the house (or the classroom). There are many games and exercises to help children relieve tension and cope with frustration and conflict. netball and hockey) are wonderful ways to relieve tension in children and to boost children’s self-esteem. and when the child has calmed down. to calm children down. Children can learn to identify when they are getting really upset. some children turn the aggressive behaviour against themselves. No one may disturb the child there. to foster selfesteem. to lessen frustration. If auto-aggressive behaviour continues. to foster group co-operation. the child may quietly leave the house (or the classroom) and go and sit at a pre-arranged place until he or she calms down. Praise him for his achievement. Auto-aggression Instead of turning tension into aggressive behaviour directed at other people or objects. Auto-aggression means that the aggressive behaviour is directed against one’s own body. Look at the games in Chapter 6 for some ideas. deep breathing exercises) gives the child a way of preventing aggressive outbursts. You will need to agree with all the children living in the house (or all the learners in the class) that when any child feels that he or she is becoming very upset. There are games to relieve tension. children may hurt themselves deliberately. Ask Ebrahim to draw you a picture of (or write down) what he is going to do the next time he gets angry. Games to help aggressive children Wild games and sports activities (soccer. Teaching the child to move away from the tense situation and do something that calms him or her down (for example. Teach the child to take “time out” Another aspect of learning to control feelings of rage is for the child to realise when he or she needs “time out”. This is a very effective way of allowing the child to take control.
singing or dancing. Sometimes it is full of mistakes and at other times there are incomplete sentences or whole parts missing. Sara does not know her father. Hyperactivity can have different causes. Her aunt realises that Sara is finding it difficult to complete tasks. Minor signs of auto-aggression like nail biting need the attention of the caregiver and the teacher. She is easily frustrated.A child or an adolescent who shows increased signs of auto-aggression urgently needs the attention of a specialist. Sara sees her mother and the baby occasionally over weekends when her aunt has the time to take her to visit. It is often caused by an “Attention Deficit Disorder” (known as ADD for short) that may be the result of a lack of oxygen 72 . Sara still attends the same school. She wanders around restlessly. Explaining her behaviour Sara shows the signs of hyperactive behaviour. Find alternative ways to relieve stress like breathing exercises. both with herself and with her friends. These are signs that the child is tense and under emotional pressure. 2. She seems to be very impatient. What can you do to help? 1. Sara was sent to stay with her aunt who lives about an hour’s walk from home. When her mother fell ill six months ago. The baby has been sickly since birth. She is not capable of sitting quietly with the family or sitting still in class without getting up and walking around. The teacher has noticed that Sara (who always was a good student) is becoming restless and finds it difficult to concentrate in class. Her older sister is 13 years old and her younger brother is one and a half years old. Sara acts without thinking more often than before and in recent months has had some major conflicts with classmates. Find out when the child bites his or her nails (or hurts himself or herself). Sara’s sister is taking care of her mother and the baby. Sara does not know what has made her mother sick. Hyperactivity Sara is nine years old. doing creative writing. She gets easily distracted and seems to have a shorter attention span. Is it when he or she feels uncomfortable? Is it when they are scared or nervous? Is it before exams? Talk to the child about the behaviour and try to find out what is causing it. Her work is becoming increasingly untidy. She is the middle child in the family. playing sport.
4. Sara needs quiet time. She could take little presents or food that she has prepared. she may feel that she has been abandoned. Explain to Sara that she has not been sent away because her mother does not love her. She is probably afraid of what is happening to her mother.during birth. Sara’s hyperactive behaviour is the result of her separation from her mother and her siblings. because she will also be doing something for her mother. Sara may be jealous of her sister and her brother who. unlike her. she needs to be prepared for the likely death of her mother. Her hyperactive behaviour reveals a high level of stress and emotional excitement. 73 . It will also make her feel that she is still involved with her family. the knowledge will give Sara control because she will be able to understand. Then she could come to terms with her new situation and begin to cope. What can you do to help at home? Sara needs a person she can trust and talk to. Her life situation was changed drastically without Sara being involved in the decisions. 3. It would help Sara if she knew why she had been sent away. It may be possible to arrange for someone else in the community to help care for the mother and her three children. She needs time to come to terms with her situation. This will reduce Sara’s feeling of helplessness. Encourage Sara to prepare for the visits. It may be better for Sara to return to her mother. She has not been sent away because she misbehaved. but hyperactive behaviour can also be caused by an extremely shocking event or traumatic living conditions. A radio playing all the time or a television on all the time will increase her hyperactivity. 5. 2. On the other hand she might blame herself for having been sent away. It is important for you. Explain what is wrong with her mother. If this is not possible. Even if finding out is upsetting. Give Sara her own place to sleep and regular bed times. During these visits Sara should spend as much quality time with her mother as possible. the caregiver to: 1. without other adults being present. Sara needs time with her mother. Ensure that Sara is not exposed to too much noise or too many visual images. frequent visiting times should be arranged. Because she was the only child sent away. were allowed to stay at home. and be feeling guilty and inadequate.
As her teacher. If she has not understood. While she is doing her work. Encourage her to practise the breathing exercise at least three times after she gets home from school and once in the morning before she comes to school. give Sara small tasks that do not need a long concentration span. Find a task for her to do. Make sure that Sara has plenty of opportunities to take part in sport or other after-school (or community) activities. 7. Reward Sara’s good behaviour by acknowledging her efforts. Do not allow her to disturb the other children. In the beginning (if time allows) you may need to stay close to Sara. tell her that she will feel strong. 1. Tell her that you believe she can do it again. Encourage her to feel the same again now. 74 . you could introduce a chart on which you mark her good days to encourage her to keep up the effort. This also boosts her self-esteem. Explain the new task to her and ask her to explain to you what she is supposed to do. happy. Explain that you understand this is a very difficult situation for her. Then give her some more work to do. Later on. do not allow Sara to 2. Sit down with her before she starts and ask her to remember a time when she did very well. As far as her schoolwork is concerned. happy or successful again. and if possible. Praise her for trying to work so hard under such difficult circumstances. She may say that she felt strong. What can you do to help at school? Sara will also need a lot of understanding and reassurance in the classroom. like taking a note to the principal’s office. She will realise that it helps her to concentrate. go through the same process again. 3. when she has a whole day of good behaviour. try to make some time for her. 8. How did that make her feel? Let her think about that for a few moments and then ask her to describe her feelings. Encourage Sara to keep a diary in which to record her thoughts and feelings in words or pictures. or successful. Sara is a good example of a child that would benefit from the breathing exercise before she starts to work.6. After she has completed a task successfully. Let her begin. explain it again and make sure she understands. praise her and allow her to take a short break (of three to five minutes) during which she may wander around and “help”you.
75 . Find out which are her favourite activities and talents (like running or singing). This makes it easier for the caregiver and the teacher to deal with the hyperactive child. It will also make it easier for you to keep an eye on her. Make sure she uses up a lot of energy running around in the playground. hyperactive children have a great need for physical activity. Discuss this with Sara so that she doesn’t see it as a punishment. In addition it has been shown that Ritalin can have severe side effects and may have a bad effect on the child’s development. Don’t allow her to disturb the teaching process or the group activities. Praise her when you realise she has managed to control herself. An example of this is Ritalin (methylphenidate). 4. encourage her to join in the games and exercises. Keeping her at the front of the classroom will reduce the distractions for her. The drug suppresses all spontaneous behaviour and makes the child quiet and often a bit drowsy. 5. turn her desk back again so that she is part of the group. In Sara’s case. There is medical treatment available that reduces the activity of hyperactive children. but understands that it is to help her. To make it easier for her to concentrate. the prescription of a stimulant like this would reduce her hyperactive behaviour but it would be an obstacle to the coping process. Encourage her to spend time developing her skills. remove objects that may distract her – you may even consider pushing her desk to face a wall during working time so that other children can’t distract her either. The child finds it even more difficult to integrate the traumatic incidents that they have survived into their life concept. Expect her to turn around and be distracted – even to walk around. After Sara completes her work. Give her an opportunity to demonstrate her skills. 6. Medication. but from an educational point of view these drugs may have a bad effect on the child’s coping capacity. During group activities make frequent eye contact with her. 7. As with aggressive children. and prevent her from distracting the other learners in the class. During the breaks. Boost Sara’s self-esteem and self-confidence.get up. showing her that you know she is there. The medication is a stimulant that is meant to reduce the hyperactivity and impulsiveness in school-age children so as to improve their performance. but insist firmly that she sits down and carries on with her work. Don’t scold her.
It is important for caregivers and teachers to identify how the child gives meaning to an adverse event. which he does neatly and accurately. It is clear that magical thinking can have a positive or a negative impact. he said that if he didn’t rub his mistakes out properly. Magical thinking helps children to gain control and meaning. his mother would die too. In Petrus’s case. He doesn’t like leaving the house to go to school. after intense consultation with an experienced medical practitioner. magical thinking originates from the child’s imagination. Petrus said that his father had died on the day that he got into trouble for not listening at school and he had been told to repeat a whole exercise. Positive magical thinking – even if it is unrealistic – can help a child to survive. He has been withdrawn and quiet since the death of his father. He attended the funeral and he visits the grave occasionally with his mother. They are not generally recommended. When his mother asked him why he had rubbed holes in his books. Petrus did not show signs of excessive grieving at the time. When his mother asked him why he thought that. He was sad and withdrawn. He concentrates on his work. he believes that making a mistake and being scolded in school had a direct impact on his father’s death. When he gets to school he is very shy. Magical thinking (or “omen”) can help a child to cope with adverse events. six-year-old Petrus came home from school to be told by his mother that his father had died suddenly. he started to cry. Negative magical thinking (as in Petrus’s case) can lead to feelings of guilt and failure and have a negative impact on the child’s coping capability. When he makes a mistake he seems frightened. compulsively erasing the mistake so that his exercise books are full of holes. When his teacher confronted him about the holes in his books. Negative magical thinking Three months ago. Explaining his behaviour The example of Petrus is a typical example of a child who engages in magical thinking. As described in Chapter 3. Children Petrus’s age think that their own actions have a direct impact on the events that take place in their lives. 76 . He was sick only for a few days.Stimulants should be given to children as a last resort. he didn’t talk much and he didn’t ask many questions. Without magical thinking this would be impossible.
Read them to Petrus and discuss them with him. Prayer can be like talking to a person. even when he makes mistakes. Reassure Petrus that you also love him very much and that you will always love him. Tell Petrus that you understand that he is still worried about his father’s death. that he was proud of everything Petrus did. Give Petrus an opportunity to ask questions about his father’s death and try to answer them honestly. But emphasise strongly that he had nothing to do with his father’s death. 4. While he is telling you. you can mourn the loss of your partner with Petrus. Tell Petrus that his father loved him very much. 5. Ask Petrus if he wants to draw a picture for his father. Tell him that he will always love Petrus. Tell him that you are very proud that he is doing well in school. Explain that it is normal for a boy to miss his father after he has died. 77 . The same happens when we pray. Ask him why he thinks that he could have caused his father’s death. 3. 7. Tell him that it shows how much he loved his father. Chaotic thoughts structure themselves and we feel calmed and comforted. 1.What can you do to help at home? Let Petrus tell you the whole story in great detail. If you are Petrus’s mother. Tell the story to Petrus and ask him to tell you what is real and what is unreal. He could take it to his father’s grave and together you could make up other rituals that will help him mourn and grieve the loss of his father. ask him to invent a story so that you can take a turn identifying the real and the unreal parts of the story. When we talk to someone. if he wants bodily contact hold him close to you. Play “Real and unreal games“ with Petrus. He needs reassurance and clarity about his father’s death. our thoughts become more structured as we express them. After he has understood the concept of the game. Tell him that he must come and talk to you when something worries him – say that even if he thinks you are busy he should still come and talk to you. Try to find some books about children dealing with death and dying. You can teach Petrus how to pray. Explain to him that it is normal to make mistakes when we learn and that you love him even when he makes mistakes. Tell him that his father died because he was very sick. Invent a story consisting of events that can really happen and events that can only happen in your imagination. 2. 6.
She feels that she is neglecting the responsibilities her mother entrusted to her. Her brothers and her sister were always clean and well cared for. In her spare time she worked in the garden to provide food. She managed to generate some income by producing beadwork that her brothers sold on the streets when they walked home from school. Mistakes are nothing to be afraid of – a mistake is nothing more than a challenge to improve and do better. Not many relatives attended the funeral. but she would rather stay with her brothers and her sister. Tutula reports that she is glad her mother told her. Explain to the class that mistakes are part of the learning process. but she did not consult Tutula. Because Tutula is the eldest of four children. Helplessness Tutula is 14 years old. Tutula accompanied her mother to the clinic regularly. She is glad that she can go to school and she is grateful to her uncle. She feels helpless again – just the way she felt at the clinic. but no one listened to her complaints. her mother fell ill and slowly grew worse. She stopped going to school because she couldn’t combine her education with all the work at home but she made sure that the other children attended school regularly. What can you do to help at school? It is more effective to concentrate on children’s strengths and abilities rather than their mistakes. Explain that everyone has to practise before we can do things without making mistakes. They often had to wait for a long time because other patients with adult relatives pushed in front of the queue. Tutula arranged a simple funeral. When Tutula was 13 years old. Tutula felt that she was being treated unfairly. her mother was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. her mother told her about her HIV/AIDS status. The social worker arranged for the children to be sent to different members of the extended family. Tutula took over the responsibility of looking after her mother and her three siblings. Tutula now lives with her uncle who pays for her education. Tutula’s neighbours informed the social worker that Tutula’s mother had died and the social worker came to visit Tutula and her siblings. Tutula feels confused. when she nursed her mother and when she arranged the 78 . When her mother died six months ago.You might decide to visit Petrus’s teacher to explain what has happened and to ask the teacher to acknowledge Petrus’s efforts a little more than usual – to boost Petrus’s selfesteem and make him feel more confident and less guilty. When she was 11 years old.
She maintained control and the helplessness never made her feel inadequate. Tutula may have some concrete suggestions to make. Treat Tutula like an adult. Helplessness makes people feel overwhelmed by what is happening. but Tutula’s involvement in the decision and her consent would have left her feeling less inadequate and guilty. Tutula coped. guilt. She has to be reassured that everything she did to care for her siblings. It makes her angry. Explaining her behaviour The experience of total helplessness is a central experience for people going through trauma and loss. yet at the same time she knows that she should feel grateful because she is getting an education. The separation of the siblings may well have been in the best interests of the family in the long run. Tutula feels desperate and very confused about her situation. The sense of helplessness makes people feel extremely vulnerable. inadequacy and shame. Tutula needs someone to boost her self-esteem and her selfconfidence. Discuss which suggestions may be possible and which are impossible. but remember that because she is not yet an adult she needs more attention and guidance than an adult. yet she somehow managed. This sense of helplessness often makes people lose faith in themselves and makes them distrust their own skills and abilities. Because her contribution to the family was ignored.funeral. Tutula needs a trusting relationship with an adult. based on mutual 2. despite all her efforts to maintain normality. She has a strong bond with her family. Ask Tutula what would help her now. By coping she demonstrated strong organisational skills as well as a warm and nurturing personality. she did well and that she did everything she could. her experiences at the clinic and with the social worker made her feel vulnerable because she was not treated as an adult. Once again adults are taking decisions in her life without consulting her. 79 . and it triggers feelings like rage. Helplessness is closely related to traumatic events – such events make people feel that they have lost control over their lives and that they can’t manage. She has to learn to trust herself again and to trust other people too. What can you do to help? 1. It is likely that she often felt helpless when she had to care for her mother and parent her siblings. Suddenly all responsibility and control was taken away from her and she was left to face the disruption of her family. In contrast.
Hand over some responsible tasks to Tutula that she will be able to manage and control. The following exercise can help children who feel insecure and inadequate to recognise their inner resources again. This will boost her self-esteem. 3. Ask her to look around the scene that she is imagining. She feels self-confident. she is successful and she is managing difficult situations. It can be done on a one-to-one basis. 5. 80 . Like Tutula. or with a group of children together. The questions are to help her get in deeper contact with her feelings. It builds coping skills and selfesteem and is suitable for children aged nine and older. When she has finished. 3. Each child needs wax crayons. In the new relationship. include Tutula in decisions that affect her life. Listen to what she tells you. feet on the ground and eyes closed. Tutula has to recognise her own strength and her ability to cope. Ask Tutula how it feels when she is strong. or colour? Is she indoors or outside? Does she feel warm or cold? Is it light or dark? Who else is there? What is she doing? Can she hear anything? Is the sound loud or soft? Can she feel anything? Can she smell anything? Note: Tutula does not need to answer the questions. In future. they have to rediscover their strengths and abilities. ask what memories she had. When she can really feel that feeling.understanding and acceptance. 4. Start off with an imagination exercise. Ask the child to imagine a situation where she is in charge. Reassure her that they are doing well. Tutula should cover the whole sheet of paper with those colours. 4. successful and in control. Does she see the scene she is imagining in black and white. a piece of paper and a pin (or anything that can be used to scratch with). 1. ask her to open her eyes. Remind her about 2. Ask her to remember times when she felt helpless. Ask Tutula to sit straight. How to help children access their inner resources again Traumatic and upsetting events can overwhelm children so much that they find it difficult to access inner resources and qualities. choose some wax crayons in the colours that symbolise this feeling and start colouring the piece of paper. Encourage her to have frequent contact with her siblings. 5.
She must cover them all up! (Usually the child will use darker colours for the negative feelings. look at her picture together and talk about her hidden qualities and resources. She doesn’t talk much. ask her to choose colours that express her negative feelings. 8. let her describe the way she feels. If she says yes. She is very sensitive and is afraid of leaving the house. Ask Tutula to list the things she is able to do. talk about how she felt while she coloured with the negative colours. After Tutula has finished. “I am…” Ask her to list the external resources that can help her. 9. ask her when she will let them come up again. Once again. Ask her what needs to change to allow her good qualities to come to the surface again. but she likes to watch the other children.) After she has finished. Once again. If she says no. The house is crowded with other cousins who also live with the grandmother. “I can…” Ask Tutula to list the things she likes about herself. Prompt her to say. Ask her if she can remember her strengths and successes that are hidden beneath her negative feelings. Explore what it means to have hidden resources. Help her give names to her feelings.the way she feels at the moment: angry. 7. Sometimes we can’t see them because our problems seem to overshadow (or cover) everything. Ask her if she thinks they will come to the surface again. inadequate or exposed.“I have…” 10. Note: Don’t do an imagination exercise for the negative feelings! 6. Take a sharp object (a pin or a sharp stick) and scratch these positive words onto the surface of her paper so that the positive colours beneath shine through. Often 81 . Ingrid is very quiet and shy. ask her what prevents them from coming up again. Ask her to colour vigorously over the first layer of colours with the colours of her negative feelings. Prompt her to say. Prompt her to say. Since her mother died of TB six months ago she has been living with her grandmother. Physical complaints and body pains Ingrid is 11 years old. Look at her paper together and ask her if this is the way she feels at the moment.
she may find out what is bothering her and this will help her pain to go away. Children often get pains in their stomachs or chests when something is bothering them. don’t dwell on it. But don’t allow Ingrid to stay in this corner constantly – encourage her to join in the games of the other children and give her some jobs to do about the house. This will also reduced the occurrence of the pain.she can’t go to school because of a sharp pain in her chest. It is quite common for children to report the similar complaints to those reported by their sick parent – Ingrid’s mother would have complained about pains in her chest. 5. Find out when the pain is stronger and when it fades away. Explaining her behaviour When a child is sick but the doctor can’t find anything wrong. Once you have thoroughly investigated the cause of the pain and discussed it with her. some children identify with the illness suffered by the deceased parent. 82 2. What can you do to help at home? 1. Tell her that many children get aches and pains when they feel scared. She says that all her bones ache. 3. In order to stay connected to their parents. sad or insecure. This type of sickness is called “psychosomatic”. Her grandmother took her to the doctor. the pain in her chest could be related to her mother’s death. Create a warm and nurturing environment. Ingrid must attend school. send her to school just the same. draws a picture about it or writes it down. it is likely that the child is reacting to stress. but the pain will go away. To be on the safe side it may be a good idea to get a second opinion from another doctor but if the second doctor also finds nothing wrong. it usually suggests that the child’s body is reacting to emotional stress. Suggest that if she talks about it. Make sure that Ingrid participates in physical games or sport. The doctor could find nothing wrong. Try to keep some space in the house just for Ingrid to which she can quietly withdraw when she feels that there is too much noise and activity in the house. Insecurity and anxiety are also often expressed through body pains. They may behave like the deceased parent or they might have similar complaints. Pay more attention to her on the days that she feels well. 4. In Ingrid’s case. . Talk to Ingrid about her pain. Although she may complain about the pain in her chest.
If the doctor diagnoses that the pain is stress-related. Contact the caregiver to make sure that a doctor has examined Ingrid. Ingrid could use the breathing exercise any time that the pain is very strong. reassure Ingrid when she complaints about pain. but don’t give her too much sympathy or attention. When she starts working again. 2. What can you do to help at school? 1. Allow her to take a short break. 7. praise her for handling the pain so well. drink a glass of water and then carry on with her work. Take Ingrid for regular check-ups at the clinic.6. 83 . Teach Ingrid the breathing exercise and encourage her to practise it regularly. just to make sure that you are still dealing with a psychosomatic complaint.
The falling game and even for adults. the group leader gives a signal and the child in the middle lets him or herself fall in any direction. holding their hands in front of them so that the palms of their hands face towards the middle of the circle. The remaining child stands in the middle of the circle and makes him or herself as stiff as a rod. All children except one stand close together in a circle. PLEASE NOTE: The ages indicated below show the minimum ages that activities should be used for. group leaders and home-based carers as they encourage children to explore their worlds while learning skills that foster resilience and help them to deal with other people and the challenges that life brings. These games have been developed to assist teachers. When everyone is ready. Most activities can be used. Games that foster trust The aim of this game is to enhance trust and group cohesiveness and to encourage children to take responsibility for one another. however. Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 7 to 9 Materials required: None Duration: Short 84 . The games are designed to foster social and emotional learning and intelligence in children.6 Games Children learn as they play. The other children in the circle must catch the child and push him or her gently in a different direction so that someone else in the circle catches him or her. for any ages above the minimum age.
Let the game go on for a few minutes and then discuss the questions below with the children. • How did you (the child in the middle) feel when you had to let yourself fall? • How did it feel when someone fell towards you and you caught that person and gently pushed him or her in a new direction? • What must we remember to make the game to work properly? What risks are involved? What would happen if someone in the circle was not paying attention?
Variation The child in the middle closes his or her eyes while falling and being pushed gently to and fro. Ask the child how the experience changes. Does this require more trust? Is this more frightening?
It is important that the children trust one another. While the children in the circle learn to take responsibility for the one in the middle, the child in the middle experiences what it means to be dependent on others but also looked after and protected. The child in the middle experiences how much trust it requires to rely on others. Be prepared – some children might find it difficult to let themselves fall towards the circle.
The human cradle
The aim of this game is to enhance trust and group cohesiveness, and to encourage children to take responsibility for one another. All children except one divide into two groups. Children in each group stand shoulder-toshoulder in two lines, with the two lines facing one another, close enough so that with arms outstretched, they can touch the hands of the children in the opposite group. One child lies on the floor between the two groups. When the group leader gives the signal, the children in the two opposite lines link hands beneath the child lying on the floor. When all the children are ready, one child gives the command to stand up carefully and to raise the child in the middle on their linked hands. Once everyone is standing, the children start to rock the child slowly to and fro. When the exercise is finished, the children supporting the feet and legs of the child being carried slowly lower their arms so that the child can jump off. 85
Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 7 to 11 Materials required: None Duration: Short
Discuss these questions with the children • How did you (the child being lifted) feel when you were lifted off the ground? Were you scared? Anxious? Nervous? Why did you feel like this? • How did it feel to be rocked to and fro? • How did it feel to support someone on your hands? • What must you be aware of for the game to work? What risks are involved? What would happen if someone didn’t pay attention? What would happen if the groups didn’t work together? • Would you be able to lift a child on your own like this? • When is it especially important to work as a group or a team? (As group leader, you want the children to name various things that cannot be done alone but need teamwork to achieve them.)
The ambulance game
The aim of this game is to enhance trust and group cohesiveness, to encourage children to take responsibility for one another. One child pretends to be a sick person who must be taken to hospital urgently. Three or four children form an “ambulance” by kneeling closely together on their knees and hands. Decide in advance where the “hospital” is. First, the ambulance fetches the sick person from his or her house. The sick person lies across the backs of the children (who are on their hands and knees) and holds on. The ambulance starts to move slowly, but the children must make sure that the sick person is neither shaken up too much nor falls off. The game ends when the ambulance reaches the hospital. The more often the game is played, the better the ambulance children learn to co-ordinate their movements, to find a common rhythm and to reach their goal quickly. Children should take turns at being the patient.
Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 5 Materials required: None Duration: Short
Discuss these questions with the children • How did it feel to be a patient? • How did it feel to be part of the ambulance? • What are the difficulties for the patient and for the ambulance? • Why is it important to find a common rhythm?
Variation to the game Once the children have become used to this exercise, it can be played as a competition with more ambulances and patients. The group that reaches the hospital first wins the competition.
The aim of this game is to enhance trust, to encourage children to take responsibility for one another and to activate the senses. The children get into pairs. One child in each pair is blindfolded and his or her partner is the guide. 86
Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: Any equal number of children Materials required: Pieces of cloth to blindfold one child in each pair Duration: Short
Ideally, the blindfolded child places one hand on the shoulder of the child who will lead. Together, they explore the environment by walking in different directions, up and down steps, over gravel, across sand, etc. The guide must make sure that the child who is blindfolded doesn’t trip over things or bump into things. The blindfolded child can explore objects in the environment using senses other than the sense of sight, i.e. by touching, smelling and listening. Bear in mind that it may be frightening for some children to allow themselves to be led around by someone else. After playing the game once, the children should swop roles: the guide wears the blindfold and the other child leads him or her around.
Discuss these questions with the children • How did it feel to be blindfolded and guided by someone else? • What did the blindfolded child hear? And smell? And feel? Does walking around feel different from when you are able to see? Other than not being able to see, what else felt different? • How did the guide feel? What was the most impressive experience for you? • What was the most difficult part of being blindfolded/leading someone around? • What did you not like about the exercise? • Did you prefer being led or being the guide? Why?
The blind dogs
The aim of this game is to enhance trust, to encourage children to take responsibility for one another and to activate the senses. Sometimes we see blind people who have specially trained dogs to help them. In this game, the dogs are blind. The two pairs of children are 10-20 metres apart from each other. In each pair, one child pretends to be the dog and kneels on his or her hands and knees. The dogs are blindfolded. After the group leader gives a signal, the dogs start to run towards each other with the other child running (or walking) alongside. The second child is the guide, and must help his or her dog by tapping on the left or right shoulder (or pulling gently on the left or right ear) to indicate to the dog when he or she needs to move to the left or the right. A gentle tap on the head indicates that the dog must stop. It is important to use nonverbal signs because many younger children are 87 Age group: 4 years and older Number of players: 4, in two pairs Materials required: 2 pieces of cloth for blindfolds Duration: Short
His or her partner calls directions to guide the blindfolded child over or around obstacles so that he or she can reach the finish as quickly as possible. Instead. etc Duration: Short Discuss these questions with the children • How did you feel before you started the exercise? • How did you feel afterwards? • Were your partner’s instructions helpful? When were they the most helpful? • Would you have managed the obstacle course without help? • How did it feel when several children crossed the obstacle course at the same time? Tip: It is easier to start with one child mastering the obstacle course at a time. Age group: 9 years and older Number of players: Any equal number – children work in pairs Materials required: Enough pieces of cloth to blindfold one child in each pair. Discuss these questions with the children • How did it feel to be blindfolded and guided by someone else? • What did the blindfolded child hear? Smell? Feel? Other than not being able to see. Agree on the start and the finish. Allow each child to take a turn at being blindfolded. This makes the game more difficult because each blindfolded child has to focus on the voice of his or her own guide. and some items to build an obstacle course: sticks. to encourage children to take responsibility for one another and to activate the senses. It is also more difficult for the guides because they have to be very observant in order to prevent the blindfolded children from bumping into each other. build an obstacle course with various obstacles. Blindfold one child in each pair. Before starting the game.not yet familiar with the concepts of left and right. the dogs should bark and listen to each other to identify where the sound comes from to find each other. schoolbags. Blind walk with directions The aim of this game is to enhance trust and selfconfidence. The children gather at the start and set off together in pairs. The blindfolded child has to cross the obstacle course from the start to the finish. benches. Once the children have got used to the game. swop over. several children can start at the same time. boxes. Each child should have a turn at playing both dog and guide. stones. what else felt different? • How did it feel to guide someone? What was the most impressive experience for you? Variation for older children The dogs must approach each other without the guide running alongside. chairs. After the dogs have found one another. 88 .
The children stand one behind each other to form a long line (like a snake) and place their hands on the shoulders of the child in front of them. • Was it more difficult crossing an obstacle course that you had not seen? • In real life. The child at the front of the line is the snake’s head and keeps his or her eyes open. Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 5 or more children Materials required: None Duration: Short Discuss these questions with the children • How did it feel to be blindfolded and being guided by someone else? • As a blindfolded child. what did you hear? Smell? Feel? Other than not being able to see. All the other children close their eyes. The snake starts to move forward slowly. children could take turns at being the head of the snake. make sure that the obstacles are manageable for the children. The snake’s head decides where the snake will go and the others must follow without losing contact with the child immediately in front of him or her. You don’t want them getting hurt! Avoid making the children jump: not being able to see has an influence on a person’s balance and jumps that can be performed easily with open eyes are more difficult when wearing a blindfold. The head must set the pace so that everyone feels safe and is able to follow. helpless and frightened – can you name any? • In real life. The head must be responsible for all the other children in the snake and must move carefully. Depending on how much time is available for this game.When setting up the obstacle course. what else felt different? • As the snake’s head. The other children need courage to be led about with their eyes closed and their hands in a fixed position. how did it feel to lead a group? What was the most impressive experience for you? 89 . do you have someone who helps you to overcome obstacles. Variation To make it more difficult. how does it feel when you manage something you thought you would never be able to cope with? • In real life. like a guide? Who? Blind snake The aim of this game is to enhance trust and to encourage children to take responsibility for one another. other kinds of obstacles make a person feel weak. the obstacle course can be set up after the children have been blindfolded so that it isn’t familiar to them when they set off.
The first messenger and first helper messengers drop their arms to their sides again. This child now becomes the main messenger and must lift both arms. The last three children to remain in the circle are the winners. One child is the main messenger. All of the children stand in a circle holding hands. The main messenger now sends a message to another child in the circle by nodding his head towards the other child. team spirit. The children on either side of the main messenger are helper messengers. He or she stretches both arms above the head. The rule is that no one may let go of the other children’s hands. Before the last children hold hands and close the circle. Anyone who raises the wrong arm must leave the circle. The children standing on either side of the next main messenger become helper messengers and must lift the arm closest to the new main messenger. concentration.Games for group cohesiveness and social skills The games in this section are to foster group cohesiveness. Age group: 9 years and older Number of players: 7 or more children Materials required: None Duration: Short Wandering rings The aim of this game is to encourage co-operation. The game becomes more difficult as fewer children remain in the circle. The messenger The aim of this game is to encourage observation. And so the game continues.5 m long and tied in a circle work as well) Duration: Short . flexibility and co-operation. the group leader puts a hula-hoop (or the 90 Age group: 8 years and older Number of players: 5 or more children Materials required: Hulahoops (a length of rope or strips of material approximately 1. All the children stand in a circle. group-cohesion and self-esteem through overcoming obstacles. These children lift the hand that is closest to the main messenger. encourage social learning skills and responsiveness to the needs of others. This is important.
length of rope) over the hands of the last children so that the hula-hoop hangs over their clasped hands. In the beginning this will take some practice. The first child’s neighbour must repeat the process. The trick is to step through the hula-hoop feet-first and then with the help of one’s neighbours. Since all members of the circle are interconnected and everyone is either helping or climbing. survivor skills and problem solving. To make it more interesting. everyone is involved in the activity. jiggle the hula-hoop up until the head can be squeezed through. The hula-hoops will only move around the circle if the children observe and respond to the needs of their neighbours and work together as a team. how did you feel when you got stuck and didn’t know how to get through the hulahoop? • What helped you to get through the hula-hoop? • Can you think of situations in real life in which you have to adjust to other people’s needs so that everyone can reach a goal? • How does it feel when you have to respond to the needs of different people at the same time? • How did you feel when there were three hulahoops to move around the circle? The penguin game The aim of this game is to encourage group co-operation. sharing. The hula-hoop dangles loosely. recognising one another’s needs. Discuss these questions with the children • In the beginning. One child must start by climbing feet-first through the hula-hoop and then squeezing his or her whole body through the ring so that the hula-hoop moves over his or her head and across the other arm. The children must make the hula-hoop move around the circle without the circle ever breaking. The paper is spread on the floor and each penguin stands on his or her sheet of newspaper. Tell the Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 5 or more children Materials required: Sheets of newspaper Duration: Short 91 . In this game. you could add a second hula-hoop at the opposite side of the circle. For really advanced teams you could have three hoops moving around the circle at the same time. Each penguin is given a sheet of newspaper. The children will realise that they must assist one another by allowing their hands to be pulled in various directions as each child wriggles through. one child is the sun and the other children are penguins.
Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 6 or more children. team spirit. Penguins can swim. but they don’t have much endurance. The sun now walks around and starts tearing pieces of newspaper from the ice bricks on which the penguins are standing. picking up the sheet of newspaper that they have just stepped off.) • Can the children think of situations in their lives when there is not enough of something for everybody? What is scarce? (Answers might include food. Eventually penguins will have to stand on one leg or even share ice bricks with neighbours. On your command. divided into groups of three Materials required: None Duration: Varies 92 . decision-making skills and self-esteem.children that the newspaper is the penguin’s ice brick. The second sheets of newspaper are placed in front of each team. space.) How do they overcome these obstacles? What helps them to survive? Who helps them to survive? Newspaper run The aim of this game is to foster group cohesiveness. Discuss these questions with the children • How did it feel when the ice bricks became smaller and smaller? • What did the penguins have to do in order for everyone to survive? (Answers will include share a brick. then bending backwards. bed space. the children may not let go of each other’s hands and they have to collect the remaining piece of paper with their free hands. or attention. Each team receives two big sheets of newspaper. This is a competitive game. Agree on a distance that both groups have to cover. One sheet is placed on the ground and the whole team stands on it. The children work together in teams of three. in a row. money to pay for school. conflict resolution skills. The team to reach the finish first wins the game. the children must cover the distance to the finish line by stepping from one sheet of newspaper to the next. holding hands. To make it more difficult. placing it in front of them and stepping on to it. move closer together and hold tightly to each other. clothing. A penguin must always be in touch with an ice brick or else it falls into the sea.
To keep the stick balanced. one child plays the chick. The chick holds hands with the hen beside her. Place one end of the stick against the tip of the index finger of the first child’s right hand and the other end at the tip of the index finger of the second child’s left hand. The fox now tries to chase the chick. the chick becomes the fox and the fox becomes one of the hens. Both children have to learn to adjust to each other’s movements. both children have to apply a little pressure. The children stand facing each other at about the same distance as the length of the stick. team spirit and self-esteem. This game can get a little wild! One child plays the fox. and the rest of the children are the hens. Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 6 or more children Materials required: None Duration: Varies Keeping balance The aim of this game is to encourage observation. the children must observe closely and react quickly to one another. Sticks should be of similar length. preferably of equal length. Duration: Varies To keep the two sticks balanced. the chick and the hens The aim of this game is to foster group cohesiveness. This is not easy! 93 . The hens try to protect the chick by winding themselves in circles around the chick or forming lines between the fox and the chick so that the fox cannot reach the chick. The hens must keep holding hands. The hen at the end of the line (the one who was next to the chick) becomes the new chick. awareness of and respect for one another and concentration. Each pair needs two straight sticks.The fox. The hens form a line holding hands and the little chick is the last child at the end of the row. If the fox manages to touch the chick. Age group: 8 years and older Number of players: 2 or more children. divided into pairs Materials required: Each child should have a straight stick (a pen with a lid works as well). Now place the second stick between the tips of the index fingers of the remaining hands.
holding on to each other’s shoulders. the other pairs try to catch the ball on their towels. The child at the front of the row is the head of the snake and the last child is the tail. If you have a large group of children. While Age group: 5 years and older Number of players: 6 or more children Materials required: A piece of cloth to be the tail Duration: Varies 94 . Towel catch The aim of this game is to encourage group co-operation and co-ordination. one behind the other. sheets or blankets and have groups of four children. The children holding the towel with the ball try to throw the ball by lowering the towel and then pulling it quickly to make the ball fly into the air. A piece of cloth is stuck into the belt or the trousers of the child at the end of the row. in two lines or in circles.Depending on the number of children. The children stand in a row. Bear in mind that if more children take part it becomes more difficult to catch and toss the ball. Once the children get better at this. you could use bigger towels. working in pairs Materials required: One towel and one ball per pair of children Duration: Varies Chase the tail The aim of this game is to encourage group co-ordination and group cohesiveness. (This may need practice at first. The aim of the game is for the head of the snake to grab the piece of cloth at the end of the tail. Much more co-ordination and communication is needed.) As soon as the ball is in the air. they may start counting how often they can toss the ball without falling on the ground. The game becomes more difficult if more children participate. Age group: 8 years and older Number of players: 4 or more children. children hold opposite ends of a towel. the game can be played with children standing in a triangle. Working in pairs. A ball is placed on one of the towels.
If the head manages to grab the cloth. The group leader asks the two children holding the rope to lift it so that it is approximately hip height. This is quite easy and children usually manage without much difficulty. Now the group must get over (not under) the rope without touching it. the children will let go of one another and they may stumble or fall. Discuss these questions with the children • When you were the tail. 95 Age group: 8 years and older Number of players: 5 or more children Materials required: A piece of rope about 2 m in length and plenty of space Duration: Varies . but they must imagine that the rope has an electric current and no one should touch it. If this game gets too wild. Two children take opposites ends of a rope and pull it taut about 30 cm from the ground.the head of the snake chases the tail. You should interrupt the game – the aim of the game is for the children to stay connected to one another. This game is an ideal way to observe skills and strengths and leads nicely into the games for self-esteem and self-confidence. the head becomes the tail and the next child in the row takes over as the head. all the other children hold on tightly to the child in front of him or her. All other children stand on one side of the rope. to reinforce conflict resolution and decision-making skills. and to encourage self-esteem. The head and the tail must pay attention to the rest of the group while running and chasing each other. The group leader tells the children standing next to the rope that they must climb over the rope as a group. 2nd exercise: Raising the rope Now the exercise becomes more complicated. 1st exercise: The children must get over the rope as a group holding one another’s hands. what things did you have to be aware of? • When you were the head. what things did you have to be aware of? • Which did you find more difficult: being the head or being the tail? Why? Electric rope The aim of this game is to foster group cohesiveness and team spirit. This means that the head can only run as fast as the whole snake allows.
children climb over the rope by lifting each other over it or climbing onto each other’s backs. they may not use chairs to stand on. communicating and decision-making as well? • If you are “strong”. does it mean that you are generally strong or do you have weaker points as well? • If you belonged to the less agile group. older Number of players: 5 or more children Materials required: None Duration: Varies 96 . self-confidence and group co-operation Age group: 4 years and Ball in the circle The aim of this game is to enhance group co-operation and self-esteem. On your command. If some children do not manage at all. The rope should be high enough that the children can just manage without any accidents.Some children will still not find this particularly difficult. do you have other skills and strengths that are valuable? • What are these skills and strengths? Games for fostering self-esteem. But they only win the game if everyone gets over the rope – including the less agile children! Tell the children to develop a strategy to get everyone over the rope. The groups play against each other.) The children will realise that it is only possible to get the whole team over the rope if they discuss the problem and develop a strategy. Each group stands in a circle and the circles must stay the same size. It is crucial to discuss the game with the children after they have finished. Usually. who immediately throws it back to number one in the middle. (Nothing else may be used to help them. For example. all the number ones throw the ball to each child in the group. Discuss these questions with the children • Why did the whole group manage to get over the rope? • What was helpful? • Who took the decisions? • How did the “weaker” children feel? • How did the “stronger” children feel? • Is strength all that is needed to jump over the rope. or does it need other skills like thinking. Child number one in each group stands in the middle of the circle. Each group will need a ball. Divide the class into equal groups of five to eight (or more) children. They will also realise that the stronger children must assist the less agile children. Each child in the circle gets a number (for example. the numbers one to eight if there are eight children in the group). make it a little easier for them by lowering the rope.
When number one has thrown the ball to each of the group members, number two runs to the middle of the circle and starts throwing the ball to each group member in turn. The game goes on until each child has had a turn in the middle of the circle. The first group to finish is the winner.
The aim of this game is to enhance group co-operation and self-esteem. Twin soccer is played like normal soccer except the players are tied together in pairs. (The rules can be simplified if the children are young.) Divide the class into two teams. Ask the children to stand in pairs and to tie the left leg of one child to the right leg of his or her classmate. Twin soccer should be played on soft ground because many pairs will take a tumble! Twin soccer is a competitive game with a strong emphasis on teamwork. The pairs really have to work together to be able to run and kick the ball.
Age group: 5 years and older Number of players: an even number – at least 12 Materials required: A ball and a lot of short ropes (cloths will work too) Duration: Varies
Games fostering self-esteem and self-confidence
My five best points
The aim of this game is to enhance self-esteem and self-confidence, to encourage participants to take responsibility for one another, to encourage selfevaluation and public speaking, and to foster tolerance. To start with, discuss the fact that each of us has things we can do well (like running, climbing or reading), good attitudes (like being gentle or honest) and good feelings (like feeling brave, or feeling caring) as well as things that we can’t do as well. For this exercise we are going to focus on our strong points. Each child must think about his or her five best points – what he or she is good at. When each child has identified five strong points, Age group: 10 years and older Number of players: No limit Materials required: Paper and pens/pencils to write with Duration: 30-45 min, depending on how many children participate
each child must think of times when they demonstrated these strong points. The children should write down the five strong points and the times that they demonstrated these strong points. For example: I am brave. I was very brave when I had to take the taxi to town on my own for the first time. I am helpful. I was helpful when I prepared and collected more firewood than we needed. I am good at reading. The group leader wrote this in my school report. When everyone is ready, the group leader asks children to read what they have written. Before they start, agree with the group that no one should talk while a child is reading and we do not make any comments about what each child says about him or herself.
Discuss these questions with the children After everyone has had a turn to present his or her five best points, ask: • How did you feel about the exercise? • Do we need to be shy about our good points?
When the children start to work, move around the group and make sure that all children write down five points. Children with a very low self-esteem may find this difficult.You could help by giving little hints like,“I have seen in class that you seem to be a very good listener. Can you remember a time when you listened very well?”After a while, the children will become less hesitant and will start to enjoy thinking positively about themselves. Boosting self-esteem and showing that there is more to life than school performance is particularly valuable in a school environment where the emphasis may be put on academic achievement only.
Games to recognise and understand feelings
Feelings are important. They are signals that tell us how we feel at any particular moment. For a child to know how he or she is feeling, the child has to be consciously in touch with his or her feelings. Only feelings that are known to us can be consciously experienced and verbally expressed. Children need to know their feelings in order to understand them and to express them. Part of understanding feelings is knowing how to interpret the signals that our bodies give to us. Children who understand their own feelings can understand how other people feel too. Both adults and children often find it difficult to find words to describe their feelings. It is important to be able to describe feelings in order to learn how to deal with them. Children need to learn to understand and express their feelings from when they are very young. 98
“If you’re happy and you know it…”
The aim of this game is to get to know one’s own feelings and to be able to express them. This is a famous song in English and is sung to the tune of “She’ll be coming round the mountain.” You may need to adapt it to the child’s mother tongue. If you are not familiar with it, be courageous enough to invent a tune of your own! Children love the repetition of the song.Young children are eager to learn new tasks and repeating an already-known task boosts their selfesteem and gives them self-confidence. While singing the song, the child learns about different feelings and various ways of expressing feelings. The song consists of four lines that are easy for children to remember. The activities described in the song are performed by all the children (everyone claps, everyone shouts, everyone stamps their feet). If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands (clap, clap), If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands (clap, clap), If you’re happy and you know it, and you really want to show it, If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands (clap, clap). Once the children know the song, you can start to change the words. For example: If you’re excited and you know it, start to jump (everyone jumps) Or: If you’re angry and you know it, stamp your feet (stamp, stamp) Or: If you’re sad and you know it, start to cry (boo hoo) 99
Age group: 4 years and older Number of players: Any number Materials required: None Duration: Short
If children find this difficult you could change the sentence to. Can you remember how it felt? Try to put yourself back into that situation.. 100 Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: Any number Materials required: A ball Duration: Short . It may help to say. the more the children become accustomed to expressing their feelings and giving their feelings names. As the group leader you may notice that the more often you play this game. “Show me what you do when you are. This is a very simple game. because this teaches the children a variety of responses. The child who catches the ball has to act out the feeling with his or her whole body.“The last time I felt jealous was when. but it helps children to learn a variety of names for their feelings as well as ways to express their feelings. It is important to find several activities for the same feeling.” • Some children find it difficult to act out a feeling.”(or happy.. but different people express other feelings differently.“Think about the last time you felt jealous. All the children stand in a circle. angry. With children that have become used to the game.” Older children will soon realise that there are some feelings that people express more or less in the same way. you could introduce a new rule: no feeling may be mentioned more than once. Ask the children what else they do when they feel happy and then sing the song and perform all the behaviours named for demonstrating happiness. The other children will have to explain when they felt sad/happy/jealous. They should say. The aim of this game is to get to know one’s feelings and how feelings can be expressed.. jealous – any kind of feeling). The children could also count how often the ball is passed until none of the children can think of any new feelings. to encourage motor co-ordination. The child passes the ball to another child calling... Show me how you look when you feel..Soon the children will want to add their own verses and activities.“Show me how you look when you feel sad.” • Sometimes children cannot get in touch with their feelings immediately. One child has a ball (or anything you can throw and catch without getting hurt).
The other children in the class must guess what the feeling is.Picture games The aim of these games is to get to know one’s own feelings and to be able to express them. This enhances their self-expression and writing skills. They should make sentences like. a child looking excited on her birthday. (If the child can’t read. excited. you should whisper the name of the feeling to them. for example a soccer player looking happy after scoring a goal. Ask them to describe something that made them angry (or scared. Age group: 4 years and older Number of players: Any number Materials required: Old magazines and newspapers Duration: Varies Variation Find pictures that show people expressing feelings and which show what caused the feeling. Cut out pictures that show people expressing feelings. Show the pictures to the children and ask them what the people in the pictures are feeling. you can take this activity a step further by asking the child to write a short story about the event happening in the picture. a woman looking angry after someone bumped her car. This list may get very long! Display the list in the classroom. satisfied.) Faces and hands The aim of this games is to get to know one’s own feelings and to be able to express them. etc. Hang the faces around the classroom.” With older children (eight years old and older). Let each child choose a card and read the feeling silently to himself or herself. Make a list of the feelings a person can have. Ask the children to describe what they see in each picture. Ask each child to choose one feeling and then to draw a big face showing that feeling.) Each child must demonstrate the feeling to the class using only facial expressions or body language. 101 Age group: 4 years and older Number of players: Any number Materials required: paper or card to be cut into cards Duration: Varies . or a person looking sad saying goodbye to a friend. Cut the word out of the list and stick it onto the face. Write the names of feelings on little cards. Discuss the situations that cause certain feelings in the children. “The soccer player is happy because he scored a goal.
1. jealous or angry? When working with younger children you may have to suggest some feelings! 4. “Imagine that the angry child in the picture is a real child. Now ask the child to imagine that the picture could come alive like a movie or a TV programme. Praise the child for making up such an interesting story. Exercise for children younger than 9 years old Use a speech bubble as shown on this page. What would happen next? Let the child tell the story. Say to the child. Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 4-5 Materials required: Pictures showing people interacting in various situations. Write this on a separate bubble and let the child paste it to the picture. What do you think the child would say now?” Write the child’s comment into the bubble and glue it to the picture. Collect pictures from newspapers or magazines. 7. After the child has finished telling the story. Ask the child what the people in the picture are doing. 3. Ask the child what the figure in the picture is saying. Hand a bubble to the child and ask him or her to place it on one of the figures in the picture. Use bubbles as illustrated below and on the next page. ask the child how he or she thinks this person would respond. 2. If there is another figure in the picture. emphasising the feelings in the story and tell it back to the child. Ask the child to describe what he or she can see in the picture. Is the child in the picture happy. 6. 8. Ask the child how he or she thinks the people in the picture feel. Let the child choose a picture (or show a picture to the child). When working with a group of children.Pictures and bubbles The aim of this game is to get to know one’s feelings and how feelings can be expressed. Duration: Short 102 . summarise it. sad. each of the children chooses a picture. 5.
Picture and bubbles for children 9 years old and older The exercise is similar to the one for younger children. The children should cut out the illustration. Use the rescue star – she could perhaps try to talk to the group leader about her problem. The group leader could discuss teasing in class and establish a class rule. what they are thinking and what they are saying or doing. hate.) Make a copy of the illustration and give one to each child in the class. For example. Feeling dice are made out of cardboard or paper. If a child describes a story that contains negative feelings (or expressions of helplessness. A feeling bubble (how do you think the figures in the pictures are feeling?) could be square. After asking what the children see in the picture. The child could use the rescue star to identify a possible solution to the situation in the picture. but older children are able to differentiate between feelings. Feeling dice To make it more interesting for the children you could make “feeling dice”with them. sadness. Write the comments in the appropriate bubbles and paste them onto the picture. ask them to describe how the people are feeling. the child in the picture could be described as very anxious because she is afraid that other children in school will tease her because she has no shoes. thoughts and deeds and so it is important to give them different shaped bubbles to use. anger. guilt. aggression. betrayal. fold it along the dotted lines and glue it 103 . shame or disgust) you could introduce a new symbol: a “help” bubble or a “rescue” star. a thinking bubble (what do you think the figures in the picture are thinking?) could be cloud-shaped and a speaking/acting bubble (what do you think the people will say/do next?) could be round. revenge. (Of course you could use wooden cubes if they are available.
After the children have finished making their dice ask them to get into small groups or pairs. It may be easier for you as the group leader to prepare written cards containing questions like: • “Where in your body do you feel it when you are very ______?” • “What do you do when you are very ______?” • “What should you not do when you are very _______?” • “How do other people feel when you are very ______?” • “How do you express that you are feeling very _______? How does your face look? How does your body look?” • “How do you know that another person feels very ______?” 104 .“Describe what happened when you were last very ______”. The goal of the game is to answer the questions as honestly as possible.together in the form of a cube. Before gluing the cube together.Younger children may need some help with this. Explain that they are going to play games with their dice. For example. Questions will refer to feelings – what causes feelings and how we express them. Each honest answer will get a point. ask the children to draw a face displaying a different feeling on each panel.
You now have the cardboard figure. Cut along the outline of the figure with a sharp knife without cutting into the figure. 4. With older children who can already reflect more deeply. 5. Lay the two pieces of cardboard on top of each other and with a pencil. Each time a child answers a question honestly. Both dice are thrown and two different faces come up (for example. Answers like “I don’t know. a second child should ask the questions which the first child must answer. This game encourages children to speak about their feelings and the way they express their feelings. koki pens or colouring pencils. scraps of wool. he or she gets a point. a piece of cardboard with a hole in the shape of a figure and another piece of cardboard.“When did you feel angry and excited at the same time?”Let the child describe the situation. scraps of material Duration: Short 3. angry and excited). sellotape. Take the first piece of cardboard (with the hole in it) and the second sheet of cardboard (with the figure pasted to it) and stick them together with sellotape along one side only. Ask the other children if they can think of similar situations. a sharp knife.) If it lands on an angry face. 2. Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 1 and the person who guides the process Materials required: Two thick pieces of card. but many “dice”to play a game. so it flips 105 . it is the next child’s turn. trace the outline of the figure onto the second piece of cardboard.” will not be accepted. Ask the question. When you have finished. On one piece of card draw the outline of a simple figure. Glue the rest of the (headless) figure onto the outline that you traced on the second piece of cardboard. Dressing the doll Teaching a younger child to identify emotions Preparations 1. you could play the game with two dice. Cut the head off your cardboard figure.One child should then throw the die (Note: We use one “die”. After answering the question honestly. Take two thick pieces of card of the same size (approximately 25 cm x 20 cm). the figure should drop out.
Flip the card open. Do the same with the other piece of card. strong sellotape and a mirror (preferably square) Duration: Varies . they will open from the centre like cupboard doors to show the mirror inside. 11. 10. My face in the mirror The aim of this game is to identify feelings and to learn how feelings can be expressed Preparations: how to make a mirror window 1. you could ask the child to dress the figure in the card by flipping it open. The child has the mirror window closed in front of him or her. 106 Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 1 child and the person who guides the process Materials required: Three pieces of strong cardboard (one A4 and two A5). 6. Glue the mirror onto the A4 cardboard. slipping the material inside and flipping it closed again. 9. Ask the child to open the window and describe what he or she sees in the mirror. but stick it along the right-hand side. scissors. 7.open and closed like a book. If the top pieces of card are stuck correctly. for example during his father’s funeral or when her mother died. Take some scraps of material and cut squares approximately 15 cm x 15 cm. When working with younger children. The figure in the card can be changed as often as the child wishes. 3. Choose a head that represents how the child feels and put it in the head hole. Ask the child to choose a face that shows how the child felt at any particular moment. These squares will be the “clothing”. slide one or two pieces of material inside the card and then close it again. The figure should fit into the hole when the two sides are closed. 2. Draw different expressions (or feelings) on each head. The fabric shows through the cut out shape. Use the head to trace some more heads and cut them out. Place the other two pieces of cardboard on top of the mirror so that they cover the whole mirror and stick the left-hand side of the A5 card onto the left hand side of the A4 card. Take the card that you have made and glue some wool around the head-hole to look like hair. 8.
it’s you. ears. angry. Emphasise that it is important to feel the feelings in our bodies and that our bodies give us signs about how we feel. discuss it with the child. Have a close look and describe what you see. Then ask him or her to make a sad (happy/angry/jealous) face. Older children may describe what happens to their faces when their emotions change. hair. ask the child to open the mirror and check for him/herself. eyebrows. After the description. 107 .” Try to get the child to give you as detailed a description as possible. For a mirror book you will need two pieces of cardboard of the same size and two mirrors of the same size.The conversation may go like this: “It’s me!” “Yes. ask the child whether the reflection in the mirror looks happy. Say that this is easier to do if he or she thinks of a sad (happy/angry/jealous) situation. nose. sad.. One way of drawing attention to where a child feels different feelings in his or her body is by giving the child a copy of the illustration over the page. Ask the child to close the window. mouth. teeth. the child will see him/herself from different angles. The mirror book The mirror book is a development of the mirror window. Glue the mirrors onto the cardboard and using sellotape. Then ask the child to change the picture – let the child experiment with making funny faces. After completing the exercise. Discuss these questions with the children Feeling chart Feelings are not only experienced in our minds but manifest themselves in the whole body.. join them to one another with the join in the middle like a book. If the child puts his or her nose close to the mirrors and moves the two mirrors towards his or her face. content. etc. As soon as the child’s face changes.Yes. the collar of your shirt.
Ask the child to complete the sentences below. I can do _______ (activities) to make me feel better. It is also a way to assist a child in finding adequate and helpful ways to deal with negative feelings. have one group of children demonstrate the game to the rest of the class. 3. Let the children work together in groups of three to five. Ask the group to build a three-storey house by leaning the cards towards each other and building 6 Age group: 8 years and older Number of players: Groups of three to five Materials required: Decks of playing cards Duration:Varies J 2 9 2 3 8 5 108 3 7 J 9 4 6 . If you only have one pack of playing cards. I _______ (activity the child did) to make me feel better when I felt _______ (feeling). Games to deal with aggression and frustration House of cards This games examines how children deal with frustration.Ask the child to colour in (or draw a circle around) the part of the body in which he or she feels anger. The last time my body gave me a sign that I was very upset. Say. I_______ (activity the child did) to make me feel better. 1. It helped me a lot/helped me a bit/didn’t help me at all.“Where in your body do you feel it when you are sad?” Developing the point further You may want to follow up with the following exercise.“Where in your body do you feel it when you are really angry?”Or. When my body gives me signs that I am very angry (impatient/jealous/etc) and I can feel it in _______ (part of the body).You may want to make notes about how the children react. which makes us think about the way we deal with our feelings. 2.
Each team immediately tosses the balls that land on their side of the field back to the other side. Depending on the age of the children. • Ask the class for ideas about what they can do when they get frustrated. The aim is for both teams to have as few balls as possible on their side of the field at the end of the game. Get rid of it! This game is good for letting off steam. Watch the children for signs of frustration. Each player is given one sheet of newspaper. all children throw their paper balls into the opposite half of the field. Divide the children into two teams and allocate each team to one half of a field with a line down the middle. Give the children ten minutes to try. How do the children express frustration? Do conflicts arise among group members? Are all the children in the group involved? If the children get very frustrated. On your command. Discuss these questions with the children in the group • How did they feel when they were given the task? How did they feel when they first started building the house? How did they feel when they realised they wouldn’t be able to finish it? • Ask them what other situations make them feel frustrated. The winning team – when time’s up – is the team with the fewest balls on their side of the field. which must be squashed into a paper ball. set the alarm clock for four to eight minutes. alarm clock or cellphone (mobile phone) with an alarm Duration: Until everyone is exhausted! 109 . wristwatch. end the exercise and discuss it with the class. Age group: 4 years and older Number of players: 4 or more children Materials required: Old newspaper. Don’t forget to ask the children to collect the paper balls and throw them away after you have finished playing.one layer on top of another as illustrated in the diagram.
but the ball leaves the field more often and he or she has to fetch it. The lion must try to get the piece of cloth. All the children sit in a circle. Hit me if you can This game is a good ice-breaker when children are getting to know one another. The lion has the advantage that the cloth stays where it falls. depending on the side that has the most impala. then the side with the most impala already caught is the winning team. Each impala that is hit either by the ball or by the cloth leaves the field and sits on the lion’s side or the hunter’s side. • The rest of the children are the impala. The hunter has the advantage of the ball being faster. the child holding the newspaper tries to hit the knees of the child whose name was called out. Either the lion’s team or the hunter’s team will win. it encourages concentration and quick reactions. To start the game. but the lion has to get closer to the impala to catch them. the game ends if the hunter hits the lion or the lion hits the hunter. Make sure that the ground is soft and that there are no obstacles to trip over or sharp stones to hurt the children. • Who is going to be the hunter. The hunter and the lion both chase the impala. depending on who caught him or her. The impala try to hide in the field. the better Materials required: One rolled-up newspaper – see “Observations” below Duration: Short 110 . the group leader calls out the name of one of the children sitting in the circle. First mark the boundaries of a field within which the players must stay. The children choose: Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 7 or more children Materials required: A ball and a piece of cloth Duration: Until everyone has been caught • Who is going to be the lion. either trying to hit them with the piece of cloth (the lion) or “shoot”them with the ball (the hunter). One child stands in the middle of the circle holding a rolled-up newspaper. The game ends when all the impala have been caught. Immediately. The child whose name was called out Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 7 or more children – the more. The hunter must try to get the ball. Alternatively.Lion and hunter This game is good for letting off steam.
If there has been a fight in the classroom or during break. This child then stands in the circle with the newspaper and the other child joins the children in the circle.may only “rescue”him or herself by quickly calling out the name of another child in the circle. The game continues until one child doesn’t react quickly enough and is hit on the knees. Don’t take sides. The atmosphere could be very unpleasant and it would be useless trying to teach. It may be valuable to use this game as a starting game for a group discussion about aggression.) What could we do instead of beating or hitting? • Why do adults hit children? You think it’s OK for adults to beat children? What legal rights do children have? Mock fighting with remote control This is a useful exercise to deal with conflict in a classroom. etc. The faster the children react. Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: The whole class Materials required: None Duration: Varies 111 . anger. Observations Because children may hit very hard with the newspaper. rage. Discuss these questions with the children • How do you feel when someone hits you? • Do you think it’s right to hit someone or to be hit by someone? • Why do some children hit others? What feelings make them hit a person? (Helplessness. The child holding the newspaper immediately tries to hit the second child on the knees. The rest of the class may also be upset and may have taken sides. anger and how to express negative emotions. Ask each of the “opponents” to describe briefly what happened. the children who were fighting will be very tense. It helps aggressive children deal with their aggressive behaviour. In an environment where hitting or beating children is common (although not allowed) it may be necessary to discuss the game with the children. explaining that their game is the only time that they may hit one another. Make sure that neither child is interrupted by anybody. the faster and more fun the game becomes. it is important that only a newspaper is used and not a stick.
Tell them that you will have to rewind the scene (like you rewind a tape). Ask if they can think of another way to solve their conflict and avoid a fight. very slowly). Everything has to be said by gestures and actions. press your imaginary button and call. slow them down with your remote control the movements can be extremely slow.Tell them to come to the front and play the fight in the classroom. Press your imaginary button and call. but allow the scene to unfold at normal speed. Establish some rules first. Ask the class for ideas (keep the players frozen). When you press the rewind button they will have to walk backwards and do all the movements backwards.) This imagined control allows you to control what is happening. The whole scene will first be played in slow motion (like an action replay on television.“Slow!”Everyone should slow down. Each movement has to stop a few centimetres short of the other child. Press your imaginary button and call.You can even stop the scene. Ask the players if they would like to try another scene in which they try out other ways to solve the conflict. No one may disobey the rules.“freeze”them and ask them how they feel in that situation. When they are back in their starting position. • Tell the children that you are in charge of an imaginary remote control. (Make sure that the children understand what a remote control is.“Stop!”Everyone should freeze. Test it on the whole class: ask them to move their arms around. 112 . When the two opponents reach the end of the scene.“Start. leaving the two opponents standing there “frozen”. • There is no talking. press “play”and start the two players off again.”Stay in total control of the scene. • No one is allowed to touch the other person. This will have to happen very quickly because tapes rewind very quickly! This usually looks very funny and makes everyone laugh. When you see the players speeding up. It might still be full of anger and rage. Start them in slow motion. moving very. Press your imaginary button and call. Arrange the starting scene with the two opponents. Don’t allow any real fighting to start.“Fast!” Everyone should speed up.
When they reach the end of the scene. let the ex-opponents sit down. both groups start shouting their sentence from the child from their group who is standing behind the opposite group. so it will be difficult for the children behind the lines to understand their sentences. After you have finished. Ask the class what happened. right in the middle. Each group creates a five-word sentence (younger children need only think of one word). Discuss the non-violent problem-solving. Take your class far away from the school buildings as possible so that you don’t disturb the other classes! Divide the class into two groups. As soon as one of the two children thinks they have understood the sentence. talk about what can be done to solve the problem. What should happen in the scene to make these feelings disappear? You may need to rewind the scene and play it all over again until everyone is happy. 113 Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: The whole class Materials required: None Duration: Varies . the child must run to the teacher to report the sentence. If the child misunderstood the sentence. The two listeners join their groups again and two other children are chosen to stand behind the lines and listen. The teacher stands between the two lines. Both groups are shouting at the same time. the other group gets a point. his or her group gets a point. One person from each group tells the teacher the sentence that the group has chosen. This technique is time-consuming and you will probably not have time to return to your lesson plan. When you give a sign. ask them how they feel. The screaming game This is a game that helps to relieve tension. Don’t see this as wasted time – as a homework exercise you could ask each child to write down as many solutions to solving this problem as they can think of. If the child understood the sentence correctly. If there are still negative feelings. One child from each group stands behind the opposite group. Each group stands in a line. about 15 metres apart.
All the other children move around and when they bump into each other they say. let the whole class take time out. OK. Then tell the children to open their eyes and sit up. Just rest your head on your hands.“Sara. If necessary. Tell them that you do not expect them to do anything but to keep very quiet. Ask the children to clear their desks and make sure that each child has enough space for himself or herself. Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: The whole class Materials required: None Duration: Varies Some children will find this difficult and will keep fidgeting. It helps children to relax. well done. The game ends when every child is silent. The child who bumped into the fish must keep quiet too. “Fish!”until they meet a child who keeps quiet.You may instead want to blindfold the children. I want you to be very quiet now. Try to keep your feet still. This means that this child must stay silent. 114 . (It is easier to use a school hall or a fenced playground where there is no furniture in the way. All the children close their eyes and move around the room. Tell the children to sit down.) Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: The whole class Materials required: None Duration: Varies The teacher whispers. you do not wish to see anybody move.You may want to add a breathing exercise at this stage. Ask them to cross their arms on their desks and put their heads on their arms. this would be even better. Time out If the whole class is restless. saying. address them by name. Quietly but firmly.“You’re the fish!”into the ear of one of the children. Ask them to close their eyes and just lie silently until you tell them to sit up.Games that calm children down The fish game This is a good game to calm a class down and obtain silence after an upsetting event or an exciting break. tell them that you want them to lie quite still.” If you can play some quiet music.
autonomy and awareness Children have to learn how to function in groups. a short piece of rope or some material. put on a pair of socks – the possibilities are endless! Try to adapt the difficulty of the tasks to fit the age of the children. They need to learn to respect other people’s thoughts and feelings. they must complete various tasks: carry a bucket. shoes with shoelaces – materials vary according to the tasks you set Duration: Short Discuss these questions with the children • How did it feel to be so closely connected to another person? Is it more difficult to do things? • What do you have to take into consideration in order to accomplish a task? • How did you feel when you accomplished a task even though the other person seemed to be making it more difficult? 115 . crayons. to work with other people and to co-operate in a group while retaining their unique individuality. Age group: 5 years and older Number of players: 2 or more children Materials required: Paper.Games for help-seeking. they need to learn to be assertive enough to express their own feelings. Siamese twins The children work in pairs. The following exercises help children to respect other people. tie a shoelace. Add interest by having the children hold one another’s ears or feet instead of holding hands. or place an arm around the waist or shoulder of their partners so that they each have one free hand to use. They hold one hand. Together. Small children will probably find it impossible to tie a shoelace. On the other hand. sellotape. open a bottle. wishes and thoughts.
Now ask them to use the joined hands to draw a picture of something. Both children should hold the same pen. Encourage them to discuss the questions below.Siamese twins for older children Use the sellotape to stick the paper to the wall or the floor. Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 2 or more children. 116 . The children should hold their other hands behind their backs. Observe what happens. like a mirror image. Suggest something straightforward to start with. at a distance of approximately 10 cm. • How does it feel when someone else influences what you plan to do? • Were you able to discuss what you planned to do? • Who took the lead and who followed? Why did someone take the lead? Did you change roles? • Can you think of a situation in real life where you have to discuss and plan what to do with another person? • Is it ever possible for a person to do just what he or she feels like? • What does one have to consider when working as part of a team? Mirror game The aim of this game is to encourage both leading and following in play Step 1 This game should be played in silence. Make sure that both children express their opinions. working in pairs Materials required: None Duration: Varies The children stand facing each other. like a house or a car. One child starts to move his or her hands and the other should try to copy the movements. Their hands should not touch. let them report back on how they felt. Who takes the initiative? Who chooses the colours? Is one child more assertive than the other or do the roles change? Do they communicate with each other? Age group: 8 years and older Number of players: 2 or more children Materials required: As above Duration: Short Discuss these questions with the children After the children have finished drawing. The children will need to concentrate and anticipate what their partner is going to do next. They hold their hands in front of them. Have two children stand beside one another and then tie their adjacent hands together. palms facing each other.
Standing one behind the other. but one child remains alone. before taking a rest to discuss the questions below. Discuss these questions with the children • How was working in threes different from working in pairs? • If it was more difficult.Let the children try this for some time. an uneven number Materials required: None Duration: Short Discuss these questions with the children • How did you feel when someone chose you? • How did you feel when you were held back? • How did you feel when your partner ran away from you? • How did you feel when you managed to get a new partner? . both facing the middle of the circle. The child without a partner also stands in the circle and tries to “steal”a partner by winking at any child standing in the inner circle. The winking is done as secretly as possible. Observe what changes when both hands are moved. On your signal. each one holding his or her hands out towards the other children in the group. since the partners standing in the outer circle must try to keep the partner standing in front. once again approximately 10 cm apart. 117 Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 9 or more children. what made it so difficult? How could you solve this problem? • Is it possible to anticipate what your partners are going to do? How do you do this? What signs do you recognise? • How did you communicate with your partners without using words? Winking The aim of this game is to encourage group cohesion and a sense of attachment vs distance Children get into pairs. What happens when both children start to take the lead? What happens if no one takes the initiative? Take a break and discuss these points with the children. Once again. the children start to move their hands. Children should stand in a triangle. The partner at the back throws his or her arms around the partner in front to prevent the child from getting away. the pairs form a circle. he or she must try to run to the person who winked. Let the children try this exercise for a while. As soon as a child has been winked at. The children standing at the back hold their hands behind their backs. their hands may not touch. Step 2 Form groups of three. They must discover how best to follow in different directions and to accommodate their partners.
it is then the turn of the partner left behind to wink in order to steal another child. When the flea hunter catches a flea or touches a flea by accident. the flea catcher has to identify the flea by gently touching his or her face. If the flea catcher correctly identifies the flea. Games to see how feelings appear physically Catching fleas One child plays the flea catcher and all the others are fleas. 1 observer Materials required: A cloth to use as a blindfold. they swop roles and the flea becomes the flea catcher. The observer must make sure that the blindfolded flea catcher doesn’t hurt him or herself or leave the premises. The fleas are allowed to jump away. Each child must be very attentive and maintain eye contact with the child who has no partner. The fleas squat on the ground and make chirping sounds. Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 2 or more children.The children at the back may not follow if their partner runs to the winker. The camera closes his or her eyes and the photographer leads the “blind”camera around until he or she finds an interesting subject. The flea catcher is blindfolded and tries to catch the fleas. accurate perception and visual focusing. Each flea may jump ten times. The children agree who will be the camera and who will be the photographer. plenty of space with no rocks or trees to walk into Duration: Varies The human camera The aim of this game is to foster trust and to encourage observation skills. the flea may not jump any more. Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 5 or more children. working in pairs Materials required: None Duration: Short 118 . If a partner has been stolen away. but if a flea uses up all of its ten jumps. The new flea has ten jumps to use and the game begins again.
This version can only be played with children who are fluent readers. trying to observe as much as possible. The second child has to feel what the first child has written.The photographer adjusts the camera and. with the help of the inner pictures. In the beginning you may want to allow both children to keep their eyes open and watch what is happening. opens its eyes. Then the two children swop roles and the game is repeated. After the children get used to the game ask the child who is receiving the message to close his or her eyes and to feel the writing. The same process is repeated. awareness of bodily feelings. The child pretending to be the camera must try to produce inner pictures of what he or she sees. the shutter closes (the camera’s eyes close) and the camera is led to a new subject. After taking pictures of three to five subjects. the camera and the photographer sit down and the child who played the camera describes. the camera looks closely at the subject. one letter after another.) • How did you feel when you recalled your “inner pictures” or watched your “inner movies”? • How close was the image you described to reality? How much did you see? How much could you remember? Give me your hand and I’ll give you a message The aim of this game is to encourage concentration. One child uses an index finger or a twig to gently “write”a letter on the palm of the other child’s hand. After a few moments. The receiving child must concentrate and combine the letters in his or her head to form a word. the child who is writing may decide to write a whole word. Age group: Children who can read Number of players: 2 Materials required: None Duration: Short 119 . what he or she saw. Without moving his or her head. by pulling on the ear of the camera. Discuss these questions with the children • What was the most difficult part of this exercise? Was it more difficult to be the photographer or the camera? • What did you experience when you tried to memorise/create an inner picture of what you observed? (Be aware that some children will find it more difficult than others to create inner pictures. To make it more difficult.
) Each child places his or her hands on the shoulders of the child in front of him or her. awareness of bodily feelings. It helps the children to follow this game if you participate as group leader. so that each child faces the back of the child in front of him or her. a circle or a triangle with smaller children. Age group: 5 years and older – but this game doesn’t work with adolescents! Number of players: 6 or more children Materials required: None Duration: Short 120 . As group leader. The group leader starts the game by saying.”while gently massaging the shoulders of the child in front of him or her. so that everybody is gently massaging the child in front of him or her while having his or her own shoulders massaged as well. The children line up and form a circle.Secret messages The aim of this game is to encourage concentration. No one may talk. The children stand in a long line. The children should concentrate on their bodies. How much information was lost along the way? Age group: 5 years and older Number of players: 4 or more children Materials required: None Duration: Short Weather report The aim of this game is to encourage concentration. The shape could be a square. (The group leader is part of the circle as well. The other children follow suit. This helps to prevent the secret message from being revealed before reaching its goal. letters or numbers with bigger children. awareness of bodily feelings and relaxation.“And now we all feel the sun rising and shining gently on our backs. The game goes on until it reaches the front of the line. try to memorise what he or she felt and then draw the same form on the back of the child standing in front of him. you draw a shape with your index finger on the back of the last child in the line. The child must concentrate.
) “And softer.”(Tapping firmly with all fingers.) Group leader: “And the rain grew harder and harder. Other children will love the game since it allows them to relax and be active and focused at the same time.) “And suddenly the rain grows softer.) All children follow suit.”(Making whooshing sounds and stroking firmly left to right. the sun comes out. 121 .) “And more and more.) “And still harder!”(Tapping hard and fast.) Comments When playing this game.” (Massage the child’s back gently.”(Pause.) “And more thunder!”(Another clap.“Suddenly big clouds appear in the sky.” (Tapping harder and faster. touch should be restricted to the shoulders and the upper part of the back.) “And slowly. and back again.) “And then a strong wind blows. Group leader: “And suddenly it starts to rain very gently.) “Then suddenly there is a huge flash of lightning!”(Draw a line on the child’s back with your finger. It blows the clouds away. Children who don’t want to participate should not be forced to do so.) “And rain!”(Tap.”(tap with fingertips only).” (Tapping gently on the shoulders of the child in front of you.”(Tap more gently. quietly.Then the group leader continues.) “And more lightning!”(Draw another line.) “And a loud roar of thunder!”(Gently clap with both hands on the child’s back.“and suddenly it stops. Some children may feel uncomfortable since the game requires a lot of bodily contact.”(Stroke the shoulders of the child in front of you very strongly.
The aim of this game is to encourage bodily sensation, concentration and perception. This game needs some preparation, but once you have prepared all the materials, they can be used over and over again. 1. Divide one piece of cardboard into 16 equal squares. 2. Draw a different shape on each square (small circle, big circle, small triangle, big triangle, small square, big square, small rectangle, big rectangle, etc). 3. Give each shape a different texture. Distribute glue carefully onto the interior of the shape and then glue the various materials (like sand, lentils, or a piece of cloth) onto the shape. Use only one material for each shape. Let the glue dry completely. 4. Now take a second piece of cardboard and follow the same procedure to make it identical to the first one. Allow the glue to dry completely. 5. Once you are sure that the two sheets of cardboard are identical, cut along the lines of the second sheet of cardboard so that you have sixteen small cards, each containing a different shape. Now the game can begin. Ask the child to close his or her eyes (or use a blindfold). Put the first sheet of cardboard in front of the child and then place one of the smaller cards into the child’s hands. Without looking, the child must feel the shape and texture on the small card with his or her fingertips. The child then uses his or her fingertips to find the matching shape on the big sheet of cardboard. If correct, the child gets one point and may either 122
Age group: 5 years and older Number of players: 1 child and the person who guides the process Materials required: Scissors, glue, ruler, pen, 6 pieces of cardboard measuring approximately 20 cm x 20 cm, sand, soil, small stones, lentils, maize or rice, cotton wool, wool, different types of material, sandpaper (if available) Duration: Short
keep the small card or it is returned to the bottom of the pack to be used again later on. Comment For younger children, ten shapes to choose from will be sufficient. Older children (children older than 6) are usually interested in more challenging puzzles.
Variation To make the game more interesting, you could make extra small cards with shapes that are not on the big card.
Make sure that the shapes and textures are not repeated. For example, do not have two small circles with the same texture – this causes confusion.
Games to help autobiographical memory
The “Remember!” game
The aim of this game is to share common memories, to remember “special” moments, to enhance the autobiographic memory, and to encourage observation skills and verbal expression. This is an easy game that helps children to remember and to express their thoughts. It can be played when a parent has died, but playing it before the parent dies increases the autobiographical memory of the child. As the parent or caregiver, think of something that you and the child experienced together. With younger children, choose an event that happened no more than a week ago. You start. Say something like,“Remember when your aunt came to visit us on Tuesday. She came into the house... What happened next?” The child should now try to complete the sentence and describe what happened while you listen. The child will indicate when he or she needs more prompting.You continue by saying something like, “After we had a cup of tea, what happened then?” In this way, the narration of the story changes until it is completed. When you (the parent or caregiver) feel that major parts of the story are missing, you could interrupt Age group: 5 years and older Number of players: 1 or more children, with the parent/caregiver Materials required: None Duration: Short
and say,“You forgot something important!”If the narrator remembers what was left out, he or she may continue with the story. If not, the roles swop again and you continue with the story while the child listens. There will be days when the child prefers to be the narrator. At other times, the child will prefer to listen. This may depend on the content of the story but may also be affected by the mood of the child. The “What happened next?” and the “You forgot something!” interventions allow the child to control whether he or she wants to talk or to listen.
Variation After the conclusion of the story you could add a second component: the “How did you feel?” question.
Choose one element of the story and ask the child how he or she felt at that moment. For example,“How did you feel when Auntie said you should go and play outside?”or, “How did you feel when I spilt the sugar?”Allow the child to put questions to you as well. Comment There are many important events in the life of a child, but some are special – either because they have good associations or because they are associated with negative feelings. It is good to talk about these experiences. This game – if practised with unimportant matters – may help children to talk about more upsetting and stressful situations. To help your child become more resilient it is especially important to talk about special occasions you have together (“Do you remember when we went to town together by taxi? Do you remember when we attended the big function at the community hall? Do you remember when I took you to school on your first day?”) It is important to play this game when you and your child can have some undisturbed, quality time together. It gains extra value when you share really good or really bad memories. This game can even be played while you are busy with daily chores that don’t take too much concentration and attention. The “Remember!” game with lies This is a special version of the Remember! game. Children love to make up stories – it’s one way of testing their awareness of reality versus fantasy. Each one of you is allowed to add one lie to the story! The narrator tries to hide his lie somewhere in the story and the listener must listen very carefully to detect it. The listener can call out,“Got you! You are lying! It happened like this!”and then tells the story the way it really happened.
they should invent a story about a child facing a situation that relates to the headline. Ask them to compare their story with the original article. In order to make it more interesting for the reader. To make them reflect on their situation and express themselves. Ask the adolescents to imagine that they are newspaper reporters and that they have to compile a report on one of the headlines. Often they are reluctant to talk about their own feelings and try to keep emotionally distressing memories at a distance. What are the differences between the two stories? Is one more personal? Less realistic? Fewer characters involved? Age group: adolescents Number of players: manageable group Materials required: newspaper articles Duration: Varies Discuss these questions with the children • How do you think the newspapers should report on children affected by HIV/AIDS? • What are the important points that have to be made public? • Which would be the best way to accurately represent children in the article? • Why is it important for all articles on HIV/AIDS related issues to be published? 125 . The stories can be shared later on with the whole group and can be used as a basis for a group discussion. it helps find ways to engage in the topic without the discussion becoming too personal. Collect headlines from newspapers referring to difficult situations. One method worth trying is the journalist’s report. The next step is to distribute the original article that was attached to the headline. like “School fees for AIDS Orphans”.Journalist’s report Older children may resent focusing on conflict situations that have to do with their own lives. Invite the adolescents to choose one of the headlines that interests them most and ask them to compile the story. Have several headlines prepared and spread them out so that everyone can see them.
Each of one of us is special. my sister Maggie and my brothers Benjamin and Harry.Exercises that help to build self-confidence and self-esteem and thus foster resilience Worksheet 1 The aim of this game is to encourage self-confidence and self-esteem. Some children have short hair. That’s for you to paste or draw a picture of yourself. Some children are tall. There are 35 children in my class. Next to my picture you’ll find an empty box. others have long hair. but we are all different. After drawing your picture. some children are light in complexion. I live in Katutura in Windhoek with my granny. I’m wearing my favourite shirt. how about writing a short story about yourself? Don’t forget to say what’s special about you. We all look different. 126 . This is what I look like. Some children are big and others are small. I go to school in Katutura. Some children have dark skin. I am in Grade 3. Hi! I am Nangula! I am 8 years old. others are short. We are all in one class. Here you see a picture of me.
Here you can write what you are good at: I can do some things better than Freddy. Rebecca can do some things better than either of us. And I am good at playing soccer. I even can invent dances on my own. But some things Rebecca is best at. Freddy can do some things better than I can. I am good at reading! And I can ride a bicycle. Some things I can do better than Freddy. Sometimes it’s good to know you’re not the best. Rebecca and Freddy can help me and I can help Freddy and Rebecca. I can count and subtract. I am good at dancing. I am proud of the things I can do! I am good at Maths. I am also good at making up stories. I am good at climbing trees. 127 . I’m the fastest runner in my school. People like to listen to my stories! I am a good runner. we are a great team! Do you also have other people on your team too? Write down their names and write down what they are good at. I can draw well. Not only do we look different. but we each have different strengths and skills. I am proud to be a member of the school soccer team! I know how to knit.Worksheet 2 The aim of this game is to build self-esteem by acknowledging skills and capabilities (“I can…”) Here you see me with some of my friends. Together.
sensitive. respectful. musical. a good friend. helpful. fun. But you can also add others we haven’t thought of before. This makes us special. She is very thoughtful. strong. a good listener. clever.Worksheet 3 Even if we are a team and we are good at different things. He is full of ideas. For example: I am a very creative person. curious. She is fun to be with. My friend Freddy is a very energetic person. Each one of us thinks. we are still different from one another. I am a ______________ person. I love to invent things. loving. Not only on the outside but also inside. quiet. feels and acts differently. responsible. knowledgeable. brave. gentle. I am very friendly. My friend Rebecca is a gentle and quiet person. honest. kind. creative. He is a good friend and a very helpful person. And I try to be very honest. hardworking. but also very curious and inventive. intelligent. We call this “personality”. full of ideas. friendly. thoughtful. faithful. energetic. sporty 128 . active. humorous. Each one of us has a different personality. understanding. I am also a_____________person. What kind of person are you? Which things would you use to describe yourself? You can pick them from the list below.
I have my good friend Rebecca. Nangula loves her schoolbooks because she loves to read and write. 129 . Nangula has Rebecca – she tells Rebecca all her secrets. I have a bed to sleep in. for example. Nangula’s granny. and who help us. I have a house to live in. The photograph of her mother is very important to Nangula. Other people have things that are very important to them and that they need to survive. But the best thing in my life is my granny! People have things that make them happy and that help them to enjoy their lives. but more importantly. but it is more important to have people whom we love and trust. I have a sister and two brothers. Nangula has a list of people she likes and a list of people who help her. Nangula looks at the picture. Some people have things they are proud of. Each time she misses her mum. has a puppy. The sewing machine is important because Granny uses it to make clothes that she sells at the market to earn money. has a sewing machine. Do you have special things that are important to you? It is important to have special things in our lives. Nangula doesn’t like the puppy.You won’t guess what it is! It is a photograph of her mother. like a certificate showing how well they did at school. so that nothing can happen to it. but the puppy is very important to Harry. She knows that they are expensive. Nangula keeps this photograph hidden beneath her mattress. She has Maggie – Maggie shares her clothes with Nangula. And she has Freddy – he protects her and helps her with her homework. Nangula’s brother. This makes her feel better. Nangula has her schoolbooks. Harry can’t think of a better friend than his puppy. Nangula has something else that is very important to her.Worksheet 4 “I have…” I have many things to be happy about. Harry.
And Nangula has Ms Shikongo who is the social worker. Rebecca’s mum always sees when Nangula is sad. And Nangula has Granny. She is Rebecca’s mum. Mrs Smith asks Nangula why she looks so sad. She likes Nangula very much. Ms Shikongo comes to visit the family and helps Granny to collect her pension money. Granny is just the best! Do you have someone you like very much? Someone you can trust? Someone you can go to when you are sad or hurt? Why don’t you make a list of the special people in your life? 130 . she can go and visit Rebecca’s mum. Sometimes when Nangula misses her own mum. Nangula has Mrs Kakona – she is her teacher and she helps Nangula when she has problems at school. There is the nurse at the clinic who helps Nangula when she has to collect Granny’s medicine. She listens to her.She has her brother Harry – he likes to hug her. She tells Nangula stories about her own mum. even though she is Rebecca’s mum. Mrs Smith is a very good friend. And there is Mrs Smith. And there is Mr Blom who owns the bookshop and allows Nangula to look at the books in his shop.
The reaction is very intense. This is known as “prolonged emotional numbing” because the whole grieving process freezes and the child is unable to experience feelings. he or she may not be able to experience the pain and the emotional response to the death – almost as if his or her feelings have been frozen. the child will probably need more specialised help than caregivers and teachers can offer. It may become chronic (extremely severe) and lead to behaviour changes. The reaction lasts for a long time and does not change in its intensity. delinquent or antisocial behaviour and physical sickness. Pay particular attention to the following extreme reactions: complicated grief. severe depression.7 Some children may experience extreme reactions to grief. Although the child may accept that the parent has died. The child’s behaviour changes dramatically. The child does not seem to have inner resources or protective mechanisms. rather than subsiding (slowly going away). In other children. These are signs that the child needs specialised help. the normal stress and grief reactions described in Chapters 4 and 5 may become more intense and prolonged as time passes. 131 . If you think that the child’s reaction is severe. Complicated grief Complicated grief refers to grief and mourning reactions that can’t be expressed. How do you know when a reaction is extreme? These are the characteristics of severe or extreme reactions.
the fear becomes so irrational (lacking in reason) and so great that it leads to irrational anxiety and recurring panic attacks. deliberately causing hurt to his or her own body. Behaving sexually promiscuously (“sleeping around”) or engaging in prostitution (having sex for money). The child may refuse to eat and lose a lot of weight. The child seems to withdraw from all activities. Engaging in risk-taking behaviour and impulsive behaviour (refer to Chapter 4). The intrusive images affect the child’s life so severely that the child can’t do the things he or she usually does and can’t fulfil normal tasks. or staying away from home for several days in a row. Breaking into houses and stealing. Remember that for some children this is the only way that they can earn some money. Severe and persistent feelings of anxiety A child may feel fear and anxiety all the time so that he or she can’t carry on with a normal life. Missing a lot of school. Children affected by this withdraw from others and become isolated. Delinquent or anti-social behaviour Delinquent or anti-social behaviour varies from child to child. it would be wise to seek specialised help. 132 . Staying out all night. the child can’t cope with the memories. The child feels tired all day long.Severe depression A child suffering from severe depression feels sad all the time and cries a lot. destroying objects that were formerly precious to him or her. can’t concentrate and can’t relax. wants to stay in bed all day but finds it difficult to sleep at night. With some children. may talk a lot about wanting to die and has suicidal thoughts (thinks about killing himself or herself). pulling out his or her own hair. Disturbing intrusive memories When unhappy memories crash into a child’s mind too often. The child says over and over again that he or she wants to be where the deceased parent is. If you see a child in your care doing one or more of the following things. The child may show self-destructive and auto-aggressive behaviour like cutting himself or herself.
shelter or medical care. drugs. 133 . Sometimes the child will not tell you that he or she is being abused or neglected. If the child feels that you are being critical. A child who is neglected in this way does not go to school or is not taught the basics of reading and writing. Neglect can be educational. Child abuse and neglect Sometimes children. but boys may also be abused or neglected. The resulting lack of education makes it more difficult for them to improve their situation in life. gluesniffing or smoking. This is more likely in situations in which a child’s caregiver is overwhelmed and the child’s needs do not receive enough attention. It is important for you to make the child realise that you are not criticising his or her behaviour. even within the limits of what the household can afford. become subject to abuse or neglect. If psychosomatic illnesses carry on for a long time. Physical complaints As explained earlier in this book. Neglect can be physical. psychosomatic aches and pains are physical complaints for which a doctor can find no medical reason. your help may be refused. you need to take the child to a childcare specialist (psychologist) so that the child can get professional help.Showing signs of substance abuse – this could be alcohol. being unable to sleep and slurred speech. What can you do to help? If you know of a child who is experiencing these severe problems. Girls are especially at risk. Mention to the child that you want to help him or her by talking to their caregiver and suggesting that the child be referred to a specially trained counsellor or a social worker. What is neglect? Neglect means that the child’s basic needs are not properly cared for. but you may notice some of the signs or symptoms that have been described in this chapter. you need to speak to the child and explain that you have noticed he or she is going through a difficult time. Signs of substance abuse include restlessness. Many neglected and abandoned children end up as “street children”. fighting for survival with little chance of going to school. A child is physically neglected when he or she is not properly looked after: the child doesn’t receive food. especially those who are vulnerable.
Children affected by HIV and AIDS often have to take on responsibilities that would normally be shouldered by their older brothers and sisters. Circumstances sometimes make it difficult for children to attend school – they may live far away from the nearest school. or their parents. the child cries easily Signs of poor hygiene: Skin problems Filthy hair Ingrown nails Strong body odour Signs of poor health: Coughing and/or very rapid breathing Sores and itchy patches on the body Sores around the eyes. Signs of children in need of care Signs of malnutrition Reddish-looking. mouth or on the legs Swollen belly Diarrhoea Vomiting Pus in the child’s ears Runny nose Sore. It is often clear that parents do not intentionally neglect their children. nurturing home environment or may be exposed to violence at home. dry hair Loss of hair Dark patches on the skin A child who seems small for his or her age A swollen or very thin body Peeling skin Little energy. Neglect is a difficult form of abuse to recognise. Being exposed to violence also hurts a child’s normal emotional development. but the children are neglected as a result of the situation at home.Neglect can also be emotional. irritated-looking eyes Behavioural signs: Withdrawal Sadness Crying Increased anxiety Aggressive or delinquent behaviour 134 . A child who is emotionally neglected does not enjoy a caring. or they may have to help at home because a parent is too sick to look after the family.
The child’s body may be hurt by punching. This ranges from small bruises to broken bones or even death. Such injuries are considered abuse. shaking. choking or stabbing.“I didn’t mean to hurt him (or her). penetration (inserting the penis into the child’s mouth. beating. What physical signs may idicate sexual abuse? Bruises (especially in the genital areas and on the thighs. throwing. vocabulary that is not appropriate for the child’s age What is physical abuse? Physical abuse is when the child’s body is hurt. hitting. burning. using a child to earn money through sex and producing pornographic (“dirty”) pictures or videos of children. anus or vagina). indecent exposure (another person revealing his or her sexual body parts to a child). but also anywhere on the body) 135 . even if the person who hurt the child tells you. anus or vagina as well as inserting objects into the child’s mouth.” Signs of physical abuse Children may show the following marks: Bruises Burns (cigarette burns) Patches of hair missing Cuts Fractures Pinch marks Bite marks Old scars (not fresh ones) Behaviour that an abused child may demonstrate Role-playing scenes in which children are beaten frequently or pushed around Increased aggressive behaviour Running away Withdrawal Concentration difficulties Sleeping problems What is sexual abuse? Sexual abuse includes fondling the child’s genitals.Clinging Trying to please everyone Using abusive language and swear words. Whether the person meant to hurt the child is not important. biting.
Abused children learn that sexual behaviour is a good way to get attention and rewards. If a “caregiver” always refuses to be loving and affectionate. but we can say that any repeated behaviour that harms a child’s emotional development. or refuses to support or guide the child. you could say that the child is emotionally abused. repeatedly threatened or pushed away.Redness of genitals Pain while urinating Itchiness of genitals Genital infections Genital discharge What behaviour may indicate sexual abuse? Withdrawal Loss of interest Clinging to one person. is abusive. As abused children move towards young adulthood. 136 . These rewards may include money. What is emotional abuse? Emotional abuse covers many different behaviours. usually with other children (usually with younger children) A sudden increase in gifts or money Absenteeism from school Decreased school performance Secretive behaviour Sexually abused children may act or speak in a way that shows that they have sexual knowledge that is unusual for children of their age. needing to wash him or herself over and over Attention-seeking behaviour Frequent drawing or acting-out of sexual scenes Playing sexual games (fondling). If a child is criticised all the time. unwillingness to be left alone with a person Increased anxiety Mood swings Concentration difficulties Sleeping problems Nightmares Using words with sexual connotations that are not age-appropriate Increased knowledge of sexual terms and acts Aggression Auto-aggression (self-mutilation like cutting and burning) Feeling dirty. food or clothing. or the child’s sense of selfworth (the child’s feeling that he or she is a valuable person who deserves to be loved and to be happy). some of them become promiscuous (have sexual intercourse with many people) because they believe that their bodies are for others to use.
Such people are commonly known as “sugar daddies”. Children who are orphaned often lack the means to support themselves and their families. Children are at higher risk of abuse and neglect if their caregivers: abuse alcohol or drugs are isolated from their families or communities find it difficult to control their anger or their stress don’t seem to take any interest in caring for their children seem to have serious financial or personal problems. do not force him or her to do so. Usually the abuser is known to the child and very often comes from the same family as the child or is a person in authority. like a teacher or a priest. If a child refuses to stay alone with a certain person. After being abused. Being a victim of child abuse has severe long-term consequences and can still have an impact on the person as an adult.you could say that the child is emotionally abused. Children affected by HIV and AIDS are even more vulnerable. They are vulnerable to adults who promise to help them but who request sexual acts in exchange for the help. What can we do to prevent abuse? Make sure that each child has his or her own place to sleep. Children are safest from abuse and neglect if they are raised in environments that value and support children. children usually need the help of a specialist in order to cope with their thoughts and reactions to the abuse. Signs of possible emotional abuse A decrease in self-esteem and self-respect Feelings of inadequacy Poor school performance Aggression Is there a type of child who may suffer abuse or neglect? No. Child abuse is a very serious offence and perpetrators need to be reported and dealt with appropriately. 137 . Who abuses children? There is no “typical”child abuser. It is critically important that child abuse cases are reported. Children have the right to be valued and supported. Remember that children often know the people that abuse them.
Talk about safe places where children can find help and support from people who will not hurt them. say to the child. Good secrets are OK to keep. are comfortable with. Gifts and support may be very tempting for a child. We should talk about this. Try to avoid making judgmental comments or 138 . Teach your child about feelings: which feelings are OK and which feelings are not OK. but you need to talk about the emotional and physical consequences for the child and the reason why men like these offer their help. Show an interest in what your child is doing. Children must be made to understand that men like this want to harm the child. the listener. Take time to listen. Talking to children about abuse In this chapter we have looked at very basic definitions of child abuse and neglect. not help him or her. It is important for children to learn the difference between good secrets and bad secrets. Can we talk about it in half an hour (choose a time that suits you both). Children need to understand that rights are things that they are allowed to do and no one may stop them from doing them. It is an important time for children to learn to be confident and assertive. If you are busy doing something that cannot wait. Ask the child what he or she did at school and after school. In the same way. Bad secrets need to be told to someone who can help. If a child tells you that he or she has been abused.“I am listening to you. Get to know your child’s friends and your child’s teachers.Make time for your child. Childhood is a very important learning time for children. Most children are very trusting. so that I can sit quietly and pay attention to you?”Make sure that you stick to this arrangement and make sure that you can listen to the child without any disturbances. they don’t have rights. Talk with your child about things that happen in his or her life. Bear in mind that the child will only reveal as much information as she or he feels that you. Another is the right to say “No!”when someone touches him or her in a way that makes the child feel uncomfortable. listen to what the child has to say and treat the information seriously. Helping children to live through such difficult experiences and encouraging their resilience often demands more than ordinary caregivers are able to offer. Sometimes children think that because they are “just”children. a child needs to understand the difference between a present given to him or her because they are loved and a present that is given in exchange for something that the child must do in return. The issue of “sugar daddies”must be discussed with children. One of these rights is the right to feel safe. Teach your child that his or her body belongs to him or her alone.
It is important for the child to feel accepted and respected in whatever he or she tells you. Important points to remember The child may not want to talk about the abuse. Recognising these signs doesn’t necessarily mean that the child has been abused. What to do when you suspect child abuse It is very seldom that children tell someone whom they trust that they have been abused.strongly emotional remarks even though you may find it difficult. Abuse is always the fault of the perpetrator. Accepting that a child has been abused is not always easy for the person that the child talks to. The perpetrator thus tries to transfer the responsibility for the abuse on to the child. Although the child understands that the perpetrator did something terrible. what that person did was wrong. It is best to find specialist help for the child. It may become necessary to discuss this with the child. saying that something terrible will happen if the child talks about it. This makes it difficult for you to know what to do. It may be that you know the person who is abusing the child. but you may notice that their behaviour or reactions change (as discussed earlier). It is important for the child to understand that although the person may be likeable. you need to say that it is the fault of the perpetrator and that the child has no reason to feel guilty or ashamed. he or she still likes the person and does not want to lose him or her. Very often children do not have the vocabulary to describe what happened to them. Tell the child that you don’t blame him or her. This is quite normal and may be for different reasons: The perpetrator (the abuser) may have threatened the child. Once again. The child may want to protect the perpetrator – this often happens when the child has been abused by a family member. but there is a risk and you need to investigate it carefully. pay close attention. If you notice such changes. Make sure the child understands that it is the perpetrator’s fault and that the perpetrator needs to be punished! Children who have been abused may feel too ashamed. dirty and guilty to talk about it. The perpetrator may tell the child that you (the parent or caregiver) won’t love the child any more when you hear what the child has done. The child needs to feel that he or she is safe with you and that you are able to cope with the information that he or she is sharing. They may not know how to describe body parts and bodily fluids and they may use images or pet names to describe 139 . An abused child will need help for a long time and it is best for this help to come from a person who has specialised experience.
This sort of situation needs you as the caregiver to be very sensitive when talking to the child. What should you do if a child has been raped? Take the following steps immediately: Contact the police. Trained police. taking post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) within 48 hours of being raped and then taking it for 28 days afterwards reduces the risk of the child becoming infected with HIV. Being able to earn money to look after their brothers and sisters may give them a feeling of control and achievement. Sometimes it helps if you ask the child to draw a picture of what happened. This greatly increases the chances of the child being infected by HIV.) This medicine helps to stop the HIV from entering blood cells if it is taken correctly. A social worker will follow up the case and arrange for the child to be taken for a medical examination. don’t allow the child to wash. The social worker will provide ongoing support throughout the investigation and the trial proceedings. hospitals or support groups can provide more information about this. If the rape has just taken place. Many children like this are weighed down by the responsibility of looking after brothers and sisters. the AIDS pandemic adds to the dangers of child abuse and neglect. Children who are orphaned or impoverished (have no money) are more likely to turn to sex work in order to provide an income for themselves and for their dependants. Don’t try to take matters into your own hands. 140 . but go to the police immediately. (PEP is an anti-retroviral medicine. Sometimes children like this don’t understand why their mother or father has died. preferably someone who has been trained to deal with rape. Some countries have women or child protection units. It is important to act quickly. If a child is HIV negative. The child may be able to think of no other way to earn money.them. Child abuse and HIV/AIDS As if abuse wasn’t hard enough to deal with. Find out whether a social worker will be available. We need to listen very carefully and to find out precisely what the child is referring to.
Thus it is very important for children. caregivers. They have rights. 141 . It describes a new vision of children who now have legally binding rights. One hundred and ninety-one governments have signed the treaty. non-governmental organisations.) Constitution which defines children’s rights in that country. The document was drawn up over a 10-year period and was negotiated by governments. Each country has its own laws and (in many cases. Background to international children’s rights In 1989. and provide guidance on how it can be used in conjunction with the laws of individual countries by local community leaders. social workers. It also recognises the importance of tradition and cultural values for the protection and harmonious development of the child. Once a government agrees to support a convention by signing it. educators and volunteers to advocate accordingly for the rights of children in their own areas. This makes children more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. community leaders and teachers to know about children’s rights. it becomes the same as law in that country. In this chapter we will discuss this Convention. lawyers. It says that children are neither the property of their parents nor are they helpless objects of charity. In other words. Most countries in Africa are also signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. it reflects the main legal systems of the world. human rights advocates. child development experts and religious leaders from all over the world. but they are often not aware of their rights. The convention defines children as people under the age of 18. The only African member of the UN which did not sign the treaty was Somalia as it had no recognised government. health specialists. Because it was so broadly based. the United Nations (UN) drew up a treaty called the Convention on the Rights of the Child. educators. This is often referred to as a “Bill of Rights”for children. those governments must make sure that the rights mentioned in the convention are upheld in their countries.8 Children have rights. just like other human beings: their rights are not an option or a favour.
adults had failed children deplorably. exploitation and violence. neglected or exploited – as well as children with special needs.“A World Fit for Children”. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said much work had been accomplished but much still remained to do. Types of children’s rights The rights can be grouped into four categories: Survival rights which include adequate living standards and essential health care. it must be worth living. the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Children. (“A child’s life must not only be saved. protecting against abuse. play and cultural activities.”) Protection rights which safeguard children against harm and address the needs of children in especially difficult circumstances – for example those children who are abused. Participation rights which relate to self-determination. Among its pledges were to protect children and their families from “the devastating impact”of HIV/AIDS. he said. social and political rights of children. such as the right of children to be heard on matters affecting their own lives. Have these rights been upheld? In 2002 the UN held a special international conference on children.” A plan of action was adopted. at which the nations of the world committed themselves to a series of goals to improve the situation of children and young people. Almost one in five of you is not attending school … We. children without families and children with disabilities. the grown-ups. grow and enjoy good mental and physical health. Developmental rights which include the rights to education. There are four priorities for children in the coming decade: promoting healthy lives. combating HIV/AIDS.“One in three of you has suffered from malnutrition before you turned five years old. and the right to play an active role in society. The rights focus on the child’s rights to live. economic. One in four of you has not been immunised against any disease. must reverse this list of failures. all the time. providing quality education. 142 . Unfortunately. It covers the civil.What it does is provide the framework for the protection and promotion of basic human right for all children. Opening the General Assembly.
When decisions are made about the child’s future. that he or she has the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting him or her. 143 . Each of us has the duty to act when we suspect that a child may be in need of care or protection. courts of law. Care for children without parents. These cases must be investigated. Listen to children. cultural and linguistic background. religious.Obligations of 191 countries The 191 countries which signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child should have legislation in place which promotes its aims. It also means that institutions. This could be in the form of foster families. neglect. Children have a right to enjoy their own culture. Even if they don’t. Supervision has to be competent. Those involved must assure the child. Protect and report children in need. services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children have to conform with certain standards. adoption. thought should be given to placing the child in the same ethnic. injury or abuse (including sexual abuse). with due weight being given in accordance with the age and maturity of the child. The convention states: “In all actions concerning children.” This is of particular importance in the case of children who have suffered the loss of one or more parents. the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration. to practise their own religion and use their own language. who is capable of forming his or her own views. followed up and taken to court where appropriate. Even if children are in the care of an adult. they are bound to uphold the principles of the treaty. There must be enough staff and suitable staff.Your country should have ways of identifying and reporting children who have been maltreated. temporarily or permanently. Children with one or more parent with HIV/AIDS face having to live without their natural parents. What are some of the principles which must be upheld? Put children first. they still need to be protected. particularly in the areas of safety and health. whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions. It also means that children have to be given the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting him or her. maltreatment or exploitation. suitable institutions or kafalah of Islamic law. These children should be entitled to special State protection and assistance. It is not unlikely that children affected by HIV/AIDS may have other bodies make decisions about their lives. They need to be protected from mental or physical violence. administrative authorities or legislative bodies. These views should be listened to.
Ethiopia. Rwanda has created the National Assembly for Child Rights. a statutory body of the South African Human Rights Commission. the National Programme of Action is designed to achieve co-ordination of governmental and non-governmental plans in favour of children. Children have a right to rest. working with churches. a review of the Child Care Act in South Africa or the passage of the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act of 1998 in Tanzania. South Africa and in the draft constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. such as in Namibia. 144 . They have a right to protection from any work which is hazardous. interferes with their education or harms them in any way. No child should be discriminated against. whether physically. schools and community groups to create grass-roots support for children’s rights. Zambia’s Human Rights Commission formed a subcommittee on child rights in 1998 which has identified child abuse and education as key issues of concern. sometimes schooling can suffer. Even if children can no longer afford school. Or it could be plans of action. the convention states that primary education should be compulsory and free to all.unicef. If you have a computer. spiritually or socially. identifying goals to be achieved for children’s rights. leisure and play. you can look at the Unicef (United Nations Children’s Fund) website http://www. Besides finding out about legislation.org/crc. Mozambique has an Agenda for Action. The stigma of HIV/AIDS means children with infected parents or who are infected themselves are frequently subject to discriminatory treatment. No child shall be economically exploited. Find out what legislation exists in your country.Right to education. When children are affected by the trauma of having ill and dying parents. Often children with sick parents or who are orphaned find themselves trying to earn a living. What you can do People who know their rights are better able to claim them. Uganda has developed subnational plans to guide actions at municipal level to improve the situation of children. It could be separate legislation such as the ratification in Mozambique of the landmine-ban convention. The State is obliged to take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of drop-out rates. Children’s rights may be enshrined in the constitution. you can boost awareness in your community. mentally. Madagascar has established the Independent Commission on Human Rights and South Africa has established the Child Rights Committee. Promoting the Convention on the Rights of the Child and making its provisions widely known are essential steps to realising children’s rights. or if they have HIV/AIDS themselves. In South Africa.
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