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: Catholic AIDS Action PO Box 11525 Windhoek NAMIBIA Phone: +264-61-27-6350 FaxL +264-61-27-6364 website:

4. . 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. 3.Contents Preface A note from the author Acknowledgements 1.

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 .

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. 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. Games Games that foster trust Games for group cohesiveness and social skills Games fostering self-esteem. . 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.

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 .8.

for example. Too often. in 2001 Namibia. the entire country. their personal losses result in lost opportunity. and the publication of this revised edition in partnership with Maskew Miller Longman.Preface Who can say that he or she hasn’t ever seen children begging along our city streets. and ultimately. physical abuse. and their losses. lost hope. we have all been moved by news reports of children suffering from severe neglect. That is what this manual is about. May God bless you in your work of caring for others. Attend a training course offered by Catholic AIDS Action or another organisation which supports the contents of this book. There is nothing that any of them did to justify their sorrow. Thus. and recommends it to our fellow Ministries and to all people of goodwill everywhere. Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Child Welfare Republic of Namibia vii . 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. Refer back to it as often as you can. Above all. The plight of these children will be the single largest impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on this nation. And yet. we suffer with them. 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. or rape. Read it. And as a nation. They belong to all of us. One thing we know for sure: Orphans and vulnerable children don’t deserve their fate. their hardship. Study it. The plight is similar in other African countries. 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. the message is that “Love is Not Enough”. heading towards a life of dislocation and crime? Surely. Secondly. that number is expected to triple. And effort. this manual is meant to be applied within our own families and in our communities. And knowledge. who will be our continent’s leaders. most of them suffer a lot. our conscience. And they are our collective responsibility. (Ms) Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah Minister. had over 82 000 orphans. our future? According to the best data we have. Within a generation. and a lost future that affects their entire community. Caring for our continent’s orphans and vulnerable children takes time.

we recognise their resources. Working with children affected by HIV/AIDS requires courage and creativity. this handbook consists of a collection of ideas. Our compassion can be expressed not only in care. 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. We can be committed both to the child and to the rights of that child. The dimension of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and its consequences for our children. 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.A note from the author Dear parents. we have to work with them. A book cannot answer all our questions. theories. Silke-Andrea Mallmann CPS Mariannhill. This handbook is aimed at helping parents. but also in understanding and friendship. pay attention to their ideas and learn from their coping strategies. As caregivers. The impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic challenges us to approach childcare and education differently. we take them into our homes and we share our lives with them. caregivers and teachers to understand children who are nursing a diseased parent or who have lost a parent. tasks and exercises that should help us to understand the behaviour and feelings of children affected by HIV/AIDS. Children need strong advocates to make their voices heard and to fight for their future. our families. June 2002 viii . 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. Instead. But the children we care for are our future and it is our task to walk beside them into that future. their strengths and their endurance. We can develop a vision of the possibilities that lie beyond the reality that faces us. In order to assist them. their skills. When we listen to them. We may need enormous reserves of commitment and compassion. our communities and our society often make us feel powerless. It is neither a recipe for success nor a book of rules. but we have experienced teachers on our side – the children themselves! Sometimes children know best what they need. caregivers and teachers. Often we feel unsure about how to help them deal with the loss of a parent. 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. We teach them in our classrooms.

we needed additional support. Philippi Namibia. Among the many organisations that were involved and consulted for the development of the original Namibia edition are: Catholic AIDS Action. But as demand for this handbook increased and the table of contents grew accordingly. The person who must get the lion’s share of the credit for this handbook is Sr Silke Mallmann. and the Namibian government for their ongoing work in Namibia with orphans and vulnerable children. Sport and Culture. NANTU (Namibian National Teachers’ Union). the National OVC (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) Steering Committee. 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. 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. originally developed in Namibia. USAID. Finally. FHI/USAID continues to assist us in training community leaders and volunteers in psycho-social support. the Ministry of Basic Education. ix . Thankfully. Zimbabwe. the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Child Welfare. is intended to supplement and reinforce various training programmes on Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Namibia and other African countries. While writing this handbook she drew on her experiences working with refugee children and children affected by HIV/AIDS. Initial support for this publication came from a training grant received from NANTU and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation. Bristol Myers Squibb and the Catholic Medical Mission Board of the United States. the Ford Foundation. For that we thank the Secure the Future Foundation. We believe that God sent Sr Silke to us.Acknowledgements This handbook. We offer our sincere thanks to our donors. We are very grateful to the representatives from these organisations who shared their ideas and support. Family Health International and CAFO (Church Alliance for Orphans). From the moment she contacted Catholic AIDS Action we knew we were on the right track. Sr Silke is based at St Mary’s Hospital at Mariannhill in South Africa. as well as in our provision of direct care to orphans and vulnerable children. we are deeply indebted to Family Health International. the Legal Assistance Centre. the Ministry of Health and Social Services. UNICEF.

as well as for the field-based workshops. based at our national office. Claudia Tjikuua. has been the administrative coordinator for this project. PhD National Co-ordinator Catholic AIDS Action Windhoek NAMIBIA July 2002 x . and Stefan Germain. It is to them that this book is dedicated. Marianne Olivier of Philippi Namibia rearranged some of her own training and curriculum-development in order to accommodate us. Karen Landmann gave us the idea for this handbook when she wrote a chapter on children’s issues for one of our publications called. Sports and Culture. Mary Collins and Evy George of the Ministry of Basic Education. 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. 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. Caroline Thomas. Francis van Rooi. Finally. Sr Dr Raphaela Händler. as did Susanchen Dippenaar. The picture story exercise on page 60 has been developed by Dr Gisela Perren-Klinger. Lucy Y Steinitz. Without her commitment and efficiency. The games and methods used in this book have partly been taken from already existing games and adapted for this book. We also drew inspiration and support from Kurt Madörin at Terre des Hommes in Tanzania and Liz Towell at SINOSIZO in South Africa.Some other individuals deserve special mention. Sara Bowsky and Paul Pope (from Family Health International/USAID). the rest of us would have given up long ago. suggestions and background material. our guidance counsellors and our inspiration.“Caring for ourselves in order to care for others”. Rose de Buysscher. we thank the children and their caregivers: they are our teachers. Petronella CoetzeeMasabane of the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) and I reviewed the manuscript prior to its publication.

They need guidance as they grow and mature emotionally. spiritually. This means that. These adults may be their parents or a close caregiver. This then results in both parents getting sick and eventually dying. he or she will develop AIDS sooner or later. Many children have known someone in their family or community who has died of AIDS. unlike orphans who have lost a parent due to an accident or a non-infectious disease like cancer. love and emotional support. AIDS is a disease caused by a virus called HIV that is spread by the exchange of body fluids like blood. Children are not little adults. Children need a lot of security. Once a person is infected with HIV. whether the child is able to look after himself or herself or whether the child seems to need looking after. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS yet. The caregiver may also be a person in the community who protects them and allows them to develop in a safe. 1 .1 There is more than one definition of a child. This caregiver may be someone in the family or a teacher. how “grown up” the child is. nurturing environment. semen or vaginal secretions. Children’s needs and interests are different from adults’ needs and interests. 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. Our ideas of childhood are often based on how old the child is. Children need to know where they belong and they need close adults with whom they can form an attachment. More and more children in Africa are becoming orphans because their parents have died of AIDS. physically and intellectually. AIDS orphans are often confronted with the disease and death of both parents. Such indicators differ from one culture or society to another and from one country to another.

Children who are not involved in taking decisions that affect their own lives are vulnerable. some children seem to cope quite well. 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. Children living in poverty are vulnerable. war. Children without a family or a home are vulnerable. domestic violence. Vulnerable children are those children who are easily hurt or harmed. children are often found to be either living on their own or looking after younger brothers and sisters and elderly grandparents. Children lacking education and skills are vulnerable. they become more vulnerable. Children who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS are especially vulnerable. If children are not able to grow up in a caring environment. It is clear that orphaned children are highly at risk of exploitation and increasing impoverishment. However. Children who are isolated or withdrawn. famine. as HIV/AIDS affects more and more families. poverty. Some children are taken in by their extended families but. abused. families and communities that provide for the well-being and development of children. A child’s ability to cope seems to have much to do with resilience. Researchers have defined resilience as the human capacity to face. whereas others are overwhelmed. Babies and young children are more vulnerable than older children. are vulnerable. Studies have shown that girls in our society tend to be more vulnerable than boys. droughts or floods. Children whose rights are not upheld are vulnerable. Households headed by children have become common in many parts of Africa. Children held in detention are vulnerable. Resilient children are generally better able to cope with life’s adversities. 2 . What makes children vulnerable? There are many things that can make children more vulnerable. discriminated against or exposed to violence makes children vulnerable. who have no access to schools or adequate medical care.It is usually parents. Being exploited. even though children all over the world face illness.

shelter. manage and give meaning to a traumatic event. and being responsible for their own lives and the lives of their brothers and sisters. Most children will develop all three capabilities before reaching the age of 15. a close relationship with the remaining family members. Orphaned children need to have access to external resources to strengthen his or her resilience. financial stability.How does a child become resilient? As caregivers to orphans and vulnerable children. the capability to believe that they can cope with a crisis because they know that they have some control over what happens. Orphans and vulnerable children need to become resilient in order to overcome the many problems they face. such as dealing with the illness and death of their parents. and the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS could overwhelm a child. 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. But inner resources are just as important to the orphaned child. and the capability to give deeper meaning to an adverse event. External resources fostering resilience External resources that help build resilience include: a close and secure relationship with a caregiver. the death of a parent). and close links to his or her cultural community. You can imagine how feelings of grief. The development of these three capabilities needs to be encouraged. this is a question that we might ask ourselves. enough food. Inner resources refer to the child’s inner strength and ability to deal with a crisis. education. loneliness and guilt. Inner resources help a child to understand. clothing and medical services. The development of these capabilities is greatly influenced by the child’s external and inner resources. 3 .

A resilient child can usually recall positive relationships. Resilient children are able to understand their own emotions and can express them in words or actions. Resilient children are creative and use their imagination. This is usually influenced by the child’s upbringing and culture. Such children are grounded at home.” A good autobiographical memory The autobiographical memory is the memory in which we save personal memories about our lives and our life histories. They are able to use materials in their environment to ensure their 4 . A sense of belonging Resilient children know where they belong. role models (for example parents and teachers). moments of kindness.Inner resources fostering resilience A wide range of emotions A resilient child is usually comfortable with a wide variety of emotions. the school class. They sense what is unacceptable behaviour. Some children (particularly older children) will develop some sort of political or cultural ideology. political or religious leader. This support may change from time to time. Resilient children have a strong spiritual or ideological belief system. Resilient children are able to look for and find emotional support from other people. or may identify with a certain cultural. Resilient children understand how they fit into a family. as the child’s needs change. several Gods or faith in the power of the ancestors. as well as personal achievements from the past. it may not be provided by the same person over an extended period of time but may change. whether one God. the community or the church. For example. The child has a feeling for the needs of others and is able to help. whether in the present or in the past. Creativity. in the community and have a sense of their own culture. As caregivers we can promote the development of inner resources. Interest in others A resilient child feels the need to help others. or irritated). “I am angry (or sad. innovation and curiosity Resilient children are curious and eager to learn. a small group of friends. Resilient children draw strength from their inner resources. This belief system may include faith in any kind of transcendent being. 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 value and belief system Resilient children have a vision of moral order and a sense of justice. a resilient child can say.

Resilient children are able to imagine a future and this gives them something to live for and a goal to work towards.survival. we encourage them to become increasingly responsible for what they do and say. but also when they are adults. resourcefulness and identity. It is important for children to feel secure at home and to feel that they belong at home. By answering questions and showing them new and interesting things. feelings and behaviour. A resilient child will say. listen to them instead of talking about them. Teach the children family routines. Involve the children in day-to-day activities as well as family rituals. 5 . It helps a child if the caregiver provides clear routines for the day and expects the child to stick to the routine. We learn by our mistakes! Help children to recognise and understand their mistakes. Self-confidence Resilient children have a sense of humour and are confident of their own abilities. “I have!”and “I am. This includes access to health care. religious rituals and festivals. we encourage children to discover their own initiative. think and feel. Resilience prepares children for hardships and suffering that they may face in the future – not only when they are young. education and welfare services.” How to develop resilience in children Resilience should be encouraged and developed in all children. Teach the children how to communicate with other people. but resilience has to be developed. Support them as they deal with negative thoughts. Spend time with the children. Encourage them to correct what they did wrong. “I can!”. just like other skills and capacities. creativity and interests. nurturing environment in which the child’s needs are met. By showing children how to express feelings and ideas and how to solve problems and conflicts. cultural rituals. Play is very important for children’s development. All children are born with the potential to be resilient. There are various ways in which we can help the children in our care to develop resilience: Provide a safe. We also help them to understand other people’s feelings and to respect the needs of others. and show an interest in them and in what they do. We all make mistakes. We need to promote resilience in the children we care for. It is important to play with them. Allow the children to make mistakes.

Pray with the children. Most children make their first social contacts and experience unconditional love in the family. They have shared life experiences. “Do you remember when…?” Families have a similar system of values. Trust the children. Families have common roots and ancestors. Healthy family relationships are the best environment for a child to develop resilience. or homes in which there is no parent. Others see it as a challenge. The family provides the child with a sense of belonging and an identity. school is the most important factor in a child’s life. writing and arithmetic. Elderly relatives or siblings may raise children. As a child grows up. Families provide the basic framework for a child’s development and have an enormous impact on a child’s resilience. not only for what they do. In this situation. In homes like these there is often not enough emphasis (if any) on the social and emotional development of the child. For some teachers. 6 . 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. It is very important to develop the social and emotional development of students: many children come from single-parent homes. rules and norms. Schools do not only teach children about reading. Families usually share cultures and religions. more and more time is spent at school in the company of friends and teachers. The importance of school After the family. The importance of the family The family is the first environment in which a child experiences love and affection and makes discoveries. They also look at the whole child and focus on cognitive development (that is. Most families are bound together by trust. the acquiring of knowledge and skills) while at the same time emphasising the social and emotional development of the child.Acknowledge the children for what they are. this development is threatening. Family members can say to each other. the development of resilience takes place primarily in the classroom and in the community. solidarity and support for one another.

A neighbour. They are encouraged to find different ways to solve problems – this teaches initiative and creativity. a home-care volunteer. Experiential learning combines intellectual learning (thinking skills). They need a teacher who will help them to set realistic goals. They need a teacher who will help in times of crisis. learning as quickly or as slowly as they wish. They need a teacher who will help them to develop self-esteem and self-confidence. but they also need someone they can trust. 7 . The teacher’s job may change so that the teacher is encouraging the child’s resilience and not just to pass the exams. Working individually or in small groups. Their discoveries are discussed in groups – this draws group members closer together and promotes trust. Experiential learning A teaching method that can be used in the classroom (and elsewhere) to teach resilience is the method of experiential learning. communication and respect for one another. a church representative or a member of the extended family may also play a critical role. Children are encouraged to find answers to their own questions and problems. they set their own learning pace. but one who will also make learning fun. The teacher’s role changes from being simply an instructor to being an instructor. school is an oasis of normality in a harsh world. It looks at the child’s personality as well as the child’s needs and skills. emotional learning (feelings) and social learning (learning about relationships). Other people in the community can also assist with this process. someone who is interested in their lives. Each child explores questions that are relevant and meaningful to him or her. Student-centred education means that the interests of each child are the main point of focus. For many children. They need a lot of instruction. a counsellor. A student-centred approach Experiential learning is based on a student-centred approach. an adviser and a first-aid person – all rolled into one. Discovering answers for themselves makes the children feel more competent.Children growing up without parents look for extra things in their teachers.

to adjust to change and then to move on.The benefits of experiential learning As children discover that they control their own learning process. Resilient children are better equipped to bounce back. 8 . to gain control and to give meaning to the events that take place in their lives. they get to know their strengths and weaknesses. Being very resilient or having a strong sense of identity does not mean that a child is invulnerable. but being resilient makes them more able to cope with these events. They also discover what interests them. Experiential learning is a teaching method that encourages resilience because it teaches the students knowledge and skills at the same time. They have the ability to understand. In the next section we will identify events that are especially stressful to children and discuss how we. Children can still be very vulnerable to stressful events in their lives. as caregivers and teachers. can support children during these times. They learn to solve problems independently and they realise that they can solve problems on their own.

The sickness of a parent In a family affected by HIV/AIDS. 9 . One of the big decisions to be made is whether or not to tell other people that they have HIV/AIDS. Problems that seem to pile up one on top of another are known as “cumulative stressors”. It makes the child feel overwhelmed and hopeless. the parent may show less interest in the child. This chapter deals with the most common experiences that orphans affected by HIV/AIDS face. Much of this chapter also applies to children who are faced with other severe or life-threatening illnesses in their immediate families. It deals with the negative effect that such experiences may have on a child’s development. 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. One problem leads to another and this creates an enormous burden that is difficult for a child to understand. People with HIV/AIDS may undergo dramatic mood swings because they are under a lot of pressure. It is also very worrying for a child if a member of the family is ill or has HIV/AIDS. children will be faced with problems long before death occurs.Children don’t need to be ill or to have HIV/AIDS themselves to be affected by it. They worry about having the disease and they worry about what will happen to them and to their families. When a parent realises (or thinks) that he or she has HIV/AIDS.

Children of all ages may begin to feel neglected and angry. Other family members have to help. or at school as teachers. Often children are afraid that there will be no one to take care of them. 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. The real pressure begins for a child when he or she realises that the parent is often sick. nurse the sick parent. start missing school and eventually drop out of school completely. Older children will have to accept more responsibility. Often it is culturally and traditionally more 10 . the child will definitely notice that something is different and may react to this with fear and anxiety. the more aware he or she will be about what lies ahead. they worry about going to school and they are afraid of finding their parent dead when they come home. older children help to care for their sick parents and to raise their siblings. With the extra responsibilities. The older the child is. Children of parents infected with HIV/AIDS have reported that they worry about their sick parents. Children who already understand the relationship between disease and death might start to worry that the parent may die. These are very realistic fears and they should be taken seriously. take care of other children in the family. When a mother or a father gets sick. As caregivers. They begin to worry about their own future as well. Caring for a sick parent In many families. we need to discuss these fears either at home as parents. Many children fall behind in their work. but younger children may be very upset by the changes in routine. Besides taking over household chores like fetching water and herding animals. no matter what is wrong with them.Although the child may not know what is wrong with the parent or why the parent seems so moody. life changes for a child that lives with his or her parents. Most children are unhappy when one of their parents is ill. This is very demanding. there is little time left for schoolwork or play. most importantly. do the washing and. children have to prepare food. Older children understand that these changes are because the parent is sick. It is not surprising that children who are preoccupied with such fears can’t concentrate in the classroom. Boys can be caring and responsible caregivers but studies have shown that girls seem to feel more comfortable with this role.

They nurse their parents without having been taught what to do. lack of access to health services and a lack of education are common in families affected by HIV/AIDS. Many children turn to prostitution to earn money and child labour is not uncommon. nursing a patient also includes getting up during the night. This is a crisis – especially in singleincome homes. Nursing a bedridden patient is heavy work – even for an adult. They risk being infected themselves because they don’t know what precautions to take when nursing people with HIV/AIDS. 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. The economic impact of a sick parent When parents become too weak to fulfil their daily tasks. Being too sick to work in the fields will reduce the income of a family.acceptable for girls to accept this responsibility. Many children feel overwhelmed by the huge responsibility. It can be exhausting for a child. They were often the last to receive food and/or to have their school fees paid. 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. which affects their own health. Sometimes the teasing led to physical bullying. Children are hungry at school and they can’t concentrate properly. Orphans were discriminated against by members of their extended families after the death of their parents. Poor housing. Many children suffer from malnutrition. Some schools won’t accept children who can’t pay the school fees or buy the right uniforms and books. Boys sometimes feel ashamed and become confused about their role and gender identity. poor health. the family’s income may decrease drastically. They were expected to work harder than other children in the family. In addition to the daily housework. It is often left to older children to earn money and to provide food. Orphans of school-going age and children with infected parents reported that other children teased them and called them names. The need to earn money is another major reason for children dropping out of school. Research in Africa by the British organisation Save the Children showed the seriousness of the effects. They weren’t allowed to play with other 11 . Losing a job means losing an income as well.

Children between the ages of five and eight may not be able to distinguish between their fantasy world and the real world. Older children and adolescents said that gossip about people’s HIV/AIDS status by members of the community was common.children. Some families keep the HIV-status of a family member secret. 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. a parent’s death is always shocking and traumatising for a child and it leaves a child feeling extremely vulnerable. Older children make up stories about their parents because they feel ashamed and because they don’t want to be different from their friends. what they do and how they express what they feel. children and adults draw back from their friends and other social contacts. In households with televisions they probably see death daily on television and they also hear about it on the radio. Many adolescents felt hurt by the gossip and felt that their sense of self-worth was affected. They hear adults talking about death and see them going to funerals. Some children make up stories about their parents and family. 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. The children wanted teachers to protect them from the teasing and to respect their privacy. Children may start living in this fantasy world in order to cope with what is actually happening at home. Infected parents felt the same way. This will eventually erase the stigma that is attached to HIV/AIDS. religious groups and organisations. Dealing with the death of a parent Most children see dead birds or dead animals at the side of the road. It is quite normal for children to refer to people or animals dying as they play. and institutions that are willing to stand up to support these children and fight for their rights. Nevertheless. 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. They need committed adults. In order to protect the secret. How the death of a parent is understood is strongly influenced by the child’s age. level of understanding and his or her view of the parent. Forced secrecy can be a great burden on children because they have to control what they say. 12 . The children themselves cannot change this. They said that it was hard to support their children who were being teased when they were being gossiped about as well. Many children said that they would rather stay at home than go to school.

A child may be caught between resenting the substitute caregiver while at the same time being dependent on him or her. the deceased parent dies without a will and without making plans for the children. If children have to be separated for financial or practical reasons. Ideally. In many cases.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. but children grieve differently. 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. older children should be asked which relative they would like to stay with. 13 . The children are thus forced to deal with separation from brothers and sisters as well. Confused by these conflicting feelings. Because of the social and financial effect of the death of a parent. Family savings are often divided among family members without taking the needs of the children into consideration. The caregiver may expect the child to be grateful. Often the family’s last money is used to pay for the costs of the funeral and food for the guests. making funeral arrangements and organising transport to bring the corpse home from the hospital. Children of an orphaned family are often divided between several family members. During these times the child may become clinging and cry. A child may have phases of severe sadness and depression. children sometimes act angrily or aggressively towards the substitute caregiver. while at the same time wanting to be left alone. it is very important that these reasons be discussed with older children. the grief seems to fade away and may even be forgotten until something triggers the memory of their deceased parent again. Adults move through clear stages when dealing with death. Children don’t grieve constantly: instead their grief is periodic and seems to come and go. We will concentrate on the emotional and psychological impact of death on children and their understanding of death in Chapter 3 of this book. After a while. 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.

This makes the grieving process more complicated and may cause severe nightmares. They don’t want to think or talk about their parents and prefer to live in their own fantasy world. by drawing up a will to provide for their children and by talking to their children about death. the death of a parent can be extremely traumatic for a child. Without such preparation. Preparing a child for the death of a parent is very painful for everyone concerned. Some children try to avoid dealing with the death of their parents. This preparation for the death of a parent strengthens the child’s ability to cope. 14 . 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. The child may be overwhelmed by the sudden loss and may react with shock and confusion. afraid and sometimes have outbursts of anger. Looking back one day. go a long way towards helping their children accept their deaths and preparing for the future of their children. It sometimes seems that children feel nothing about the death of their parent. hyperactivity or outbursts of anger.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. The death of the parent will still be traumatic. They feel helpless. It will take longer for the child to understand what has happened. They have problems concentrating. It also gives the child and the parent quality time to say all the things that they need to share. Other children tell of sudden pictures of the deceased parent flashing through their minds. aggression or severe depression. But this preparation is very important. but it softens the blow a little. Parents who prepare for their own deaths by arranging with relatives to take care of their children. it is almost as if they are numb.

Infected children need special support. policies and plans should be drawn up so that infected children can fit in at school.Being infected themselves Some children have to deal with another crisis: their own infection with HIV/AIDS. 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. for example TB. It is important for the child to keep up with the rest of the class. Children who have been infected via mother-to-child transmission (through birth or breastfeeding) often don’t know that they are infected. Even when they are at school. They may suffer from the aches and pains of opportunistic infections. 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. diarrhoea and vomiting. Schools need to provide for their special needs (like medication that needs to be given in class. they will have less strength and energy than their friends and may not always be able to take part in games and activities. In order to assist a child without being overprotective. Teaching methods should be adapted to the learner’s needs. Dealing with HIV and school Infected children may miss a lot of school and will eventually fall behind their classmates. Telling others about an HIV/AIDS status Many parents and caregivers decide not to reveal the HIV-status of their children.) Children infected with HIV as a result of abuse have to cope with the trauma of the abuse. Children who are infected with HIV and are suffering from AIDS will start thinking about their own death. They should not be discriminated against at school and they should go to school for as long as their health and strength permits. 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 . they may be teased because they get tired quickly. Even though their friends may not know that they have HIV. this is a difficult decision to make. the disease or death of a parent and their own infection. shingles and herpes infections. oral and genital thrush. Either way. longer rest periods and catching up with work that has been missed when they were absent). (Opportunistic infections are diseases you get when you have HIV. They may realise that they are sick more often than other children. although many of them will not express it verbally.

We will study this in Chapter 3. 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. which does not help children affected by HIV/AIDS either. 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. to get along with one another and to work as a team. 16 . It is important for children and adults to learn to respect one another. People need to be friends regardless of whether a person has HIV. we need to understand how children react in difficult situations. a different skin colour or speaks a different language. Working against discrimination needs to become part of school activities. Some people take a head-in-the-sand attitude and prefer not to know. In order to develop resilience in children.

the child can think about or imagine the person even though they cannot be seen. All are normal. 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.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. Being able to think about or imagine the person means that the child is able to mourn. “Mourning”involves accepting the death. depression or anger. At this stage. In this situation. While some reactions are healthy responses that show that the child is adapting. Even a baby will feel the absence of a primary caregiver or the change in faces or routines. coping responses. the child can recall the image of the deceased person from memory. 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. As parents. 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. “Grieving”is the word used to describe the thoughts and feelings that we have when someone has died. however. When a parent dies. 17 . others are less appropriate. it is natural for a child to experience feelings of bereavement like sadness. In Chapter 4 we will study how children react to the loss of a parent. caregivers and teachers we have to help the child find a response that is best for him or her. that grandmother. making the death part of our memories and moving on to a new life. but generally we say that a child can truly mourn the loss of a loved one by the age of three or four. the young child needs a lot of reassurance and patience. By this stage. Their reactions are all normal reactions. Please note. aunt or any other primary caregiver who basically fulfilled the child’s needs and is close to the child could replace the term parent.

An unexpected death is even more shocking and is more difficult for the child to accept. the tension may come out later in the form of sickness or behavioural problems. the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS means that a parent’s death due to the disease is often shrouded in secrecy and disapproval. 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. The child feels the pain of loss. The death of the parent Death always comes as a shock. 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. Death due to a terminal illness often allows the parent and the child to spend some quality time together.Different aspects of mourning There are different aspects of mourning that a child needs to work though. The child has to find a new place for the deceased person in his or her emotional life and in his or her memory. The child can imagine the parent watching over them. It is important for the child to work through these difficult emotions – if the child doesn’t feel the emotion. 1. It may be that the child thinks of his mother or father in a certain place (like heaven). 2. Factors that affect the mourning process Various factors influence the child’s mourning process and how the child eventually copes with the death. The death of a parent causes many changes in the child’s world. This was discussed in Chapter 2. Unfortunately. The child needs to be able to adapt to these changes and to adjust to an environment in which the deceased parent is missing. This is important because it keeps the connection with the deceased person. The child accepts that the person has really died and will never come back. 3. This may take a long time and there will probably be problems along the way. speaking to them and protecting them. The parent can plan for the child’s future by drawing up a will and arranging a substitute caregiver for the child. 18 .

which prevents him or her from providing the support that the children need. 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. 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. The help of other family members. The emotional impact of the death of a grandmother will probably be greater when the grandmother raised the child. it is easier for the child to find meaning and to regain control.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. Members of a family share the same roots. teachers and spiritual leaders is very important. This familiarity provides warmth and protection. A family divided by conflict or with problems like alcohol dependency. severe poverty and an absence of strong values and beliefs can be an additional stressor for the mourning child. A dysfunctional family structure may thus have a negative effect on the coping process and encourage poorly adapted behaviour. If the child is supported by the rhythm of a normal routine. as well as later on. 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 same history and generally have similar values and beliefs. 19 . They can support both the child and the mourning parent – this reduces the stress for the child. 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. Very often the surviving parent is dealing with his or her own grief. neighbours.

communities like these gather their resources and try to support those who are affected or infected by the disease. that someone has died. The people who attend the ritual comfort the people who are mourning. in fact the opposite is true. Taking part in these rituals has a healing and consoling effect on both children and adults. it is important for children to take part. Rituals provide an opportunity to honour and remember the life of the person who has died. Only if there is a strong sense of community will no one point fingers at or isolate people affected by HIV/AIDS. Although some adults think that they are protecting children from sadness by excluding them (keeping them away) from funerals and other family rituals. The mourners understand that they are not alone in their grief.Rituals surrounding the parent’s death Family beliefs and rituals are very important when a person dies. 20 . control and resilience. the impact of disasters is shared rather than experienced alone. Communities have their own resources and traditional ways of coping with adversity. For this reason. Communities play a special role in providing supportive structures like schools. Even though some children will not understand everything that happens at a funeral (or another ritual). and not to feel excluded from the rest of the family. A community with a strong sense of unity and sound. Instead. Rituals acknowledge that something terrible has happened. health services. This sense of meaning promotes understanding. 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. women’s groups. rituals can include an awareness of a future life – both for the deceased and also for those people who mourn. even in a limited way. In many societies. Support from the community The importance of community support is easy to overlook. This applies to the HIV/AIDS pandemic as well. democratic leadership is an ideal environment in which to nurture resilience in children affected by HIV/AIDS. Each of these groups provides valuable support. At the same time. home-based care groups and religious groups. The family’s religious and traditional belief system provides meaning for the death.

Peers and friends Peers (children of the same age) and friends provide children with vital support in times of grief and mourning. Children from birth to two years old Infants and toddlers are very dependent on their mothers and fathers for love and affection. They understand without having to think. they miss the parent’s voice and smell and they miss the comfort and security the parent provided. comfort and identity. They miss the way the parent touched them. mother and child have an especially strong bond. The developmental stage affects how a child sees death. In addition. The child’s understanding of death When a parent dies. It is often easier for children to share their grief with peers than with adults. This is called “regression”. The age and developmental stage of the child Children understand death differently at different ages and stages of their development. 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. we need to understand how the child understands death at that particular stage of development. The child learns to communicate with his or her parents. Remember that each child will react differently according to his or her personality and access to external support. food. They have no concept of death. children up to the age of two cannot understand what has happened. This makes death impossible to explain to the child. Before deciding how to help a child as he or she mourns. 21 . protection. Toddlers may also seem to forget skills they have learnt and go back to behaving like a younger child. Peers have an intuitive understanding of each other. The mother can understand and anticipate her child’s needs even before the child can speak. bodily contact. 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. they still miss the parent. Although infants can’t understand what has happened. They may cry more and be difficult to pacify. Usually. a sense of security. Toddlers may show signs of irritability or anger. For this reason they may display changes in sleeping and eating patterns.

Ideally the caregiver should be an adult and not an older sibling who still is a child herself. Children grieve very intensely at this age. throw tantrums. It is important that this caregiver should stay the same. • The child’s environment should stay the same. they understand that the person is no longer there but they think the person will return. cling to other relatives or refuse to be touched at all. The infant or toddler preferably should be kept in the same home environment. affectionate relationship with the substitute caregiver will cope more easily with the changes in his or her life. • The substitute caregiver should provide lots of bodily contact. but repeats itself frequently. They may cry. 22 . • The child should not be separated from his or her brothers and sisters. At this age.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. • The child’s routine should stay the same. The infant or toddler will adapt more quickly when there are no major changes in routine. The child’s understanding of death Children at this stage of development do not understand that death means that someone is dead forever. A child who develops a close. Some children experience death as abandonment – they think that the deceased person didn’t want them any more. with his or her brothers and sisters. death or friendship. Between periods of grieving the child seems to forget about what happened. but in the same breath he will say that she might come back. Children from two to four years of age Children at this stage of development are mainly concerned with themselves and their own needs. What can be done to support an infant or toddler after the death of a parent? • The substitute caregiver should be close and consistent. a child may say that his mother has died. They are learning about objects and people but they still can’t understand concepts like life. As they are primarily concerned with their own needs the grief response at this developmental stage is usually brief.

• Encourage the child to play with other children and to explore his or her own world. • The substitute caregiver should provide lots of affection and bodily contact.Children in this age group are more aware of changes in the way they are cared for. Ideally the child should stay with his brothers and sisters and other close family members. • The child’s environment should stay the same. either refusing to go to sleep or waking in the night and being unable to go back to sleep. people should use honest language that the child can understand. 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. • The child’s routine should stay the same. showing an interest in the child. They sense that their safety and security are threatened and they are frightened by the absence of the parent. • Pray with the child. • Share positive memories and stories about the deceased with the child. If the child is separated from the remaining family members. 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. • The substitute caregiver should spend time with the child. Some children display sleeping disorders. playing with the child and having fun together. Signs of distress and regression are common. he or she is very likely to see this as abandonment. Eating habits may change. 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. 23 . Repeat things and answer questions. The child needs to be talked to in language that he or she can understand. • When talking to the child. How you can help the child Once again. Some children may start wetting their beds. Seeing surviving adults sad and crying may be confusing and upsetting for children of this age because they don’t understand what is happening. Listen to what the child says and try to understand what the child is feeling. a consistent substitute caregiver is very important. Use the same words each time you explain. Look at pictures of the deceased parent together.

An orphaned child longs for the parent. They develop a feeling for who they are (they know their own name. They see that family members also have different jobs to do. punishment. Some children react aggressively. and they understand about belonging to a family and having friends. 24 . The fantasy world and the real world are sometimes blurred around the edges and a little confused. Children believe that they have control over what happens in their lives and it helps them to cope with new fears and worries. 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. showing anger towards the dead person as well as towards the surviving adults. Some children may start to think that they can do magic things or change things that happen in “real” life. This is sometimes called the phase of magical thinking. children are able to work through their grief. The child’s emotional range now includes feelings of guilt. The child develops a conscience and the concepts of morals and values become more sophisticated. God is very real to children during this phase of development. fear and guilt). surname and where they live). Children become very creative and explorative at this age. Children this age know whether they are girls or boys. A child develops a strong sense of right and wrong during this phase of development. Their imaginations develop and they believe in things that older children and adults know are not real. like fairies. However. Children love being told stories at this age. The child’s understanding of death The concept that death is for ever is still difficult for children during this developmental phase. With the help of adults.Children from four to seven years old During this phase children start to explore the world outside their immediate environment. sorrow and concern for others. with support. 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. Being able to speak means that they can talk about their thoughts and feelings. They love rhymes and songs. They play games with other children and experience conflict with siblings and friends. They gain a sense of autonomy. They develop a peer group. shows signs of sadness and grief and may cling to substitute caregivers. ghosts or Father Christmas. The resulting changes in family relationships may bewilder a pre-school child. They start to see a difference between the things that girls do and the things that boys do. shame.

“It’s my fault my mother died. Children are also interested in what will happen to the parent after he or she has been buried. “going to be with Jesus”). They may also show great interest in the process of dying. It is not unusual to hear. I was cross with her and I hoped she would die. For adults. They will want to know how and why a person died. Before explaining to a child where the parent has gone. As explained in Chapter 1. then perhaps the deceased parent will return. That’s when she died. Understanding what has happened increases the child’s ability to cope. children with a spiritual and cultural belief system are more resilient. the child starts to understand abstract concepts like moving from one form of existence to another (“becoming an angel”. Saying. 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. but it is important to answer them as honestly as possible. Spiritual. but I carried on.You may need to reassure the child over and over again. “she’s resting”or “we’ve lost Mommy”because at this stage of development the child will take you literally. “Mommy has gone to sleep”will cause the child to expect Mommy to wake up again. This will be the cause of some concern. The repetitive questioning about the parent’s death may be because the child is afraid that the substitute caregiver may die too. Death should be openly discussed and not described with words like. It is crucially important for the caregiver to explain why the parent died in a way that the child can understand. It is the caregiver’s task to explain concepts of heaven. These may be difficult questions for the surviving parent (or the caregiver). they may think that their parent fell sick and died because of something that they themselves did. each time anxiety or fear is triggered. It is important to reassure the child that the substitute caregiver won’t die. Children at this age are looking for the “how”and the “why”. ancestors or reincarnation according to the family’s culture and religion.“ This is complicated by the belief that if they are “good”enough.”Or. “your mommy has gone to sleep”. for example) helps the child to understand what has happened. it is important for the adult to be sure of what he or she himself believes. She told me to stop fighting with my sister. Because they can’t think logically yet. They find it easier to give a deeper meaning to the loss. these fears seem irrational. children may ask the same questions many times. During this phase. It is up to the caregiver to strengthen the child’s belief system.In order to come to terms with the concept of death. But remember that the child is in a developmental phase during which the imagination is very vivid and reality and fantasy overlap. Allowing children to take part in religious and traditional rituals after death (like attending the funeral. religious and cultural beliefs are critically important for the well-being of the child. The child needs to understand that it was not his or 25 . “It’s my fault.

joke and show off after the loss of a parent. and to have some of the belongings of the deceased parent to keep. Children in this age group feel very vulnerable and helpless. How you can help the child In addition to providing a daily routine. Some children may imagine death as a person or a ghost. Children generally like to hear stories about the deceased parent. 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. “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. This helps children to maintain their sense of identity and their sense of belonging. The child may still show signs of regression. Talking about the parent who died helps to keep the child’s memory alive. Provide the child with lots of physical affection. 26 . At this developmental stage it becomes very important for the child to understand what has happened. to see pictures of the deceased parent. This can be very upsetting for the surviving family members who will then scold or punish the children. 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. • Offer comfort and encouragement. Try to understand that these reactions are the child’s attempt to distance himself or herself from the pain of loss. Help the child to have positive memories 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. 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. 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. Caregivers may notice that the child starts playing sickness and death games with other children. This may take a long time to understand because it is not easy for the child to grasp the concept of death and disease. start wetting the bed at night or having nightmares and sleeping problems. But such understanding and meaning are critical for the coping and grieving process.her actions that made the parent die. This is very frightening. Sometimes children giggle. the better the child will be able to cope. Some children may refuse to go outside or use a toilet in the dark.

• Share positive memories and stories about the deceased with the child. The teacher is the one to guide the child through the learning process. • Explain religious rituals (like the funeral) to the child and encourage the child to take part. visit the grave and have moments of remembrance. • Pray with the child. showing an interest in the child. Don’t avoid talking about disease and death. They need a lot of acknowledgement. • If possible. Children start to think logically. Look at pictures of the deceased parent together. 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. 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. this should continue. Explain to the child how disease can affect our bodies. encouraging 27 . • As the caregiver. tell the child stories about things that the deceased parent did when he or she was the child’s own age.• The caregiver should maintain the child’s normal routine. If you are a member of the family. Children start attending school during this phase and they are eager to learn. Where this includes attending a playgroup or pre-primary school. Learning new skills boosts their self-esteem. constructive criticism and praise from their parents and teachers. • Talk to the child. you should spend time with the child. The teacher may spend more time with a child each day than the parent. Teachers are very important to children during this phase of their lives. Try to keep the child’s environment the same or similar. Explain how people feel when they are sick. looking for meaning in the events in their lives but their thought patterns are still very concrete and operational (directed at solving immediate problems). the child should not be separated from his or her brothers and sisters. Encourage the child to play with other children and to explore his or her environment. Use honest language that the child can understand. Listen to what the child says and try to understand what the child is feeling. playing with the child and having fun together. A teacher who is supportive.

it will be necessary to discuss the behaviour with the child. Typical grief will include sadness. The child’s understanding of death At this stage of development. It should be understood that both responses are attempts by the child to come to terms with what has happened.and who responds to the natural curiosity of the child will be able to build a good relationship with the child. depression. Some children may nonetheless feel unsure about what behaviour is expected from them. 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 submerge themselves in household activities or in looking after their siblings in order to compensate for guilty feelings. even though they can relate to their own grief and to the grief of other family members. The child may see an alternative role model in the teacher. anger. Some children may copy adults’ behaviour. children in this age group are able to understand logical explanations for the death of the parent. Some children may still feel responsible for the parent’s death. 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. But unlike younger children. The child will see that even adults are distressed by death and the child has a basic understanding that death is beyond our control. Sadness and a sense of powerlessness seem to be the strongest feelings. If it seems that this behaviour is becoming compulsive. the immediate reaction of a child to the death of a parent is similar to the reaction of a child of pre-school age. trust the teacher and feel able to confide in the teacher when a problem arises. It is important that the child does not burden 28 . Ask whether the child only wants to help or whether there is another reason for working so hard. Children are now able to understand the physical separation from the parent who has died. The child now has the ability to mourn and to recognise mourning in other people. Although friends may change more often than in later stages of development. In response to this sense of vulnerability and helplessness. They may develop a fantasy relationship with the deceased parent in an attempt to keep him/her alive. friendships and group activities are important opportunities for children to learn how to deal with conflict and to contribute as team members. This makes the child feel vulnerable. helplessness. believing that their bad behaviour or unkind thoughts caused the death or disease. School is also where the child learns to socialise with a wider social circle. deep emotional pain and longing for their parent. They may talk to the deceased parent or claim to have had mysterious encounters with the parent. Children in this age group have more specific questions about death and require more detailed information than younger children.

Sometimes children will start to behave like the deceased parent. They need to find ways to relate to the parent after the parent has died. They will worry what will happen to them if they should die. This causes some children to become increasingly concerned about their own health and well-being. 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. 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. 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. This interest is confused and has a strong element of fear. Some children fear that another close relative or caregiver (or even they themselves) may die too. The sadness alone may be overwhelming. Children also want to know where the deceased parent has gone. The child must be made to understand that disease and death are not in any way related to the child’s behaviour. by keeping an object that belonged to the parent or by speaking to the parent. even non life-threatening diseases like flu and the common cold may frighten the child. it is advisable that the child be reassessed by a medical professional and perhaps referred for professional psychological treatment. They are also anxious about how other people may react when they hear that their parent has died. Children in this age group are fascinated by what happens to the body after death. 29 . 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. become hyperactive and attentionseeking or withdraw completely. How you can help the child Schoolteachers may notice a change in the child after the death of a parent.himself or herself with feelings of guilt and self-blame. Since the child has learned that death can be caused by disease. If the pains don’t subside after a few weeks. They keep the connection with the parent by dreaming about him or her. Children worry about how the parent’s death will affect their own lives. This is because children need to fit the deceased parent into a mental and emotional world. draw pictures of the deceased parent. All physical ailments should ideally be medically investigated. The child might re-enact scenes of death and dying during play.

This is crucially important. The teacher needs to help the child to express his or her feelings (through talking. writing or even drawing pictures) and to answer questions that the child does not dare to ask at home. Try not to exclude children from rituals. Acknowledge the child’s abilities and skills – boost his or her self-esteem and selfconfidence. Rituals acknowledge that something terrible has happened. It gives the mourners a sense of comfort and support as they see that they are not alone in their grief. Providing clear and honest answers helps the child to gain understanding and control. 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. at least over parts of his or her life. At a time when there is a crisis at home. 30 . If the child is unprepared and does not understand what is happening. 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. • Encourage the child to be part of a group (for example at religious institutions or community level. like a choir or a sports team). giving support and explanations when needed. some rituals may be as upsetting as the death itself. Excluding the child from the ritual means that you deny the child an opportunity to begin the long walk to hope and healing. Offer comfort and encouragement.School provides an important daily routine and structure in the child’s life. Teach the child basic life skills. The child knows what is expected at school and this provides security. but do prepare the child for what he or she is going to see. Rituals are healing and consoling for children and adults. It is good to have a supportive adult with the child during the ritual. but they also reinforce that there is a future for the person who has died and for those who mourn. Taking part in religious (or traditional) rituals also encourages the grieving and healing process. Rituals emphasise moving towards the future and so they are crucial in promoting resilience and coping. increasing the child’s fear and confusion. • Make sure that the child goes to school. in this case that someone has died. 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. The responses of the teacher and the school are critical to the child’s well-being. • Provide the child with lots of affection. the child needs the stability of a secure place in the peer group. This structure helps the child to regain control. Performing a ritual gives those who mourn a chance to remember the person who has died and to honour him or her.

• The substitute caregiver should spend time with the child. understanding the finality of death often leaves the child feeling powerless and helpless. Tell the stories or read the books and then talk about them with the child. showing an interest in the child. • Talk to the child. If you are a member of the family. • Try to find stories about death. the child should not be separated from his or her brothers and sisters. However. Encourage the child to play with other children. 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. Although the child may still occasionally use magical thinking (as explained in the section dealing with children aged four to seven). 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). playing with the child and having fun together. It is important that children are helped to regain control over their lives. 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. • Death and disease are subjects that should be discussed at school. Children could make a “memory corner” in the classroom. Use the same words each time. • Pray with the child and teach the child how to pray. Look at pictures of the parent with the child and visit the grave. Abstract concepts like heaven are clear. Talk honestly about how people feel when they die – be honest and use language that the child can understand. Explain to the child how disease can affect our bodies. • If possible. Don’t avoid talking about disease and death. Teachers can use the concepts for creative writing. 31 . the child generally knows the difference between fantasy and reality. • Share happy memories and stories about the deceased parent. Listen to the child’s replies. Explain how people feel when they are sick. tell the child stories about things that the deceased parent did when he or she was the child’s own age.• Keep the child’s environment the same or similar.

Children in this age group go through a similar mourning process to the mourning process of an adult. These thoughts may include happy plans. Offer alternatives. 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. Even when a child has come to terms with the parent’s death. poor school performance and disrupted social relationships. Knowing that death is often related to physical pain and that it is also unpredictable causes more anxiety or worry. This helps the child to gain control. By now the child can understand the concept of time and can think about the future. but prevent destructive actions. “It is OK for you to be angry and I understand that. however. anxiety. guilt. feeling betrayed by fate. 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. The ritual gives deeper meaning to what has happened and in this way encourages resilience. By putting thoughts on paper. rather than on the details of the behaviour. It is important to allow the grief to come and go. it is normal for the child to miss the parent for a long time. anger or regression. Such children need meaning to be given to the death of their parent. From time to time there may be outbreaks of distress. It is not OK for you to break things in the classroom. 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. Others may look for a reason why the parent died. God or their ancestors. but for some children. Knowing where the body was buried gives them a sense of control. fear. Some children may. Some children may be able to show these fears by drawing pictures of what scares them most about death and disease. It is important that the child be given time to grieve – grieving is a natural process and it should not be rushed or prevented. fear of mortality may be a realistic worry. as well as visit the grave after the funeral. feelings of abandonment. In the same way that a child in the previous developmental stage tries to regain control over his or her life. Set rules that allow feelings to surface. these children need religious or cultural rituals to help them cope. try to deny the parent’s death and will simply refuse to accept it. loneliness or helplessness). You will need patience and compassion. As a caregiver (or a teacher) it is important to focus on the reason for any changes in behaviour (like increased sadness.You could say for example. anger. 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. the child is able to look at them from a distance 32 . Externalising the anxiety.

Sharing thoughts in the classroom situation. drawing or writing. Externalising fear (or feelings of anger or sadness) gives the child a chance to look at the fear face-to-face. Sexuality is more than just a physical act. but because the fear is now outside the child (on the paper). Disease and death are topics that concern most people. Although the private conversations between the teacher (or another community member) and child are helpful and important. Many children in this age group know about condoms because they are constantly exposed to advertisements for condoms. play. Discussions should include feelings. Children at this developmental stage need to express their feelings – whether in speech. Even if a child has not lost a relative. But they may find it difficult to discuss the topic with the remaining parent or a substitute caregiver. For this reason. Due to the tremendous spread of the disease. the child has control and can confront it without being overwhelmed. they are definitely not emotionally ready to have sexual relationships. 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. Many children may have lost relatives to HIV/AIDS. the child can also change things or rub out the parts that are too frightening. disease and death should be included in the school curriculum and discussed in the group situation in class. Children of this age are able to understand that HIV/AIDS is transmitted by the exchange of bodily fluids like blood. children must understand how it is transmitted. especially through sexual intercourse. Talking in class about death. If they are on paper. they may know of other people who have died. Children need to be taught how to care for diseased people without infecting themselves. Sexuality is a topic that should be addressed. faeces and genital excretions. aspects of human rights and human responsibilities. but addressing sexuality in class should not be limited to the biological or physical aspect of sexual intercourse. Protecting themselves against HIV/AIDS. 33 . Some children prefer to discuss their feelings with their friends or with an outsider like a teacher or a community volunteer. traditional and personal values. Teachers. Those who don’t want to contribute to the discussion will learn by observing and listening. feelings related to death and ways to cope with death and loss allows children to share their different experiences and learn from each other.– like an observer or a bystander. Other people argue that this is an invitation to experiment with sexual intercourse. Sharing thoughts with an outsider. community members and peers are valuable resources for a child during this time. Some people believe that distributing condoms amongst nine to 12-year-old children prevents the transmission of HIV/AIDS in teenagers. Although some children in this age group may be physically able to experiment with sexual intercourse.

Encourage the child to express his or her feelings and concerns. the child should not be separated from his or her brothers and sisters. Discuss caring for HIV/AIDS patients. • Spend time with the child.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. • When talking to the child. Have moments of remembrance. Listen to what the child says and try to understand what the child is feeling. • Share positive memories and stories about the deceased with the child. Look at pictures of the deceased parent together. showing an interest in the child and having fun together. • The substitute caregiver should be close and consistent. Encourage the child to spend time with other children. but it is woefully inadequate and does not cover the topic in a suitable way. Teach the child basic life skills. 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. • If possible. • Death and disease are subjects that should be discussed at school. • Hand over small responsibilities and tasks to the child. 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. • Offer comfort and encouragement. use honest language that the child can understand. like a choir or a sports team). 34 . • Make sure that the child goes to school. Encourage the child to be part of a group (for example at religious organisations or community level. tell the child stories about things that the deceased parent did when he or she was the child’s own age. If you are a member of the family. Discuss HIV/AIDS transmission and prevention.

start to smoke. a gender role and a distinct personality. Adolescents are insecure about themselves. Still. Disease and death are very threatening to them. Another form of risk-taking behaviour is demonstrated by the adolescent’s attitude towards HIV/AIDS. It is common for teenagers to react with denial. The adolescent’s understanding of death Adolescents recognise death as final and irreversible. 35 . talking about death and loss and actively mourning. Developing an identity involves developing a body image. They are preoccupied with changes in their body and afraid that their bodies may be harmed. deep fears and insecurities are evoked.Yet when confronted with vulnerability. adolescents take risks because they seem to be convinced that they can’t be harmed. what their purpose in life is and where they belong. delayed reactions and the suppression of feelings.” The transition from childhood to adulthood. They apply the consequences of the parent’s death to their own lives and think. Their cognitive (intellectual) understanding of death is that of an adult. many adolescents (partly due to peer pressure) engage in very early sexual relationships. A teenager’s struggle from childhood to adulthood can be seen in his or her reaction to death. There are various forms of risk-taking behaviour. or sniff glue. 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. extremely angry or totally withdrawn. “I have to leave school “ or.Adolescents: children from 13 to 18 years old The developmental task of an adolescent is to establish a concept of self. pain and death. To imagine that their own life could also end causes confusion and disbelief and so the thought is quickly rejected. Many adolescents tragically believe that it won’t happen to them or that they won’t be infected because. adolescents take risks that can be life threatening. “I have to be responsible for my siblings”– this may be threatening to them. Most adolescents know the facts about HIV/AIDS. They know that it leads to a terminal disease. But while some adolescents cope on the emotional level by expressing appropriate emotions.”is the adolescent’s reaction. They know it is transmitted by unprotected sexual intercourse. They have to work out who they are. with drugs. Adolescents have ambivalent attitudes towards their bodies. “It won’t happen to me. In their imaginary cocoon of security. Some adolescents start to experiment with alcohol. Very often they do not protect themselves. others may appear undisturbed. Adolescents tend to be very egocentric (focused on themselves and their own problems) and they may pity themselves when a parent dies. “It’s the first time. They are fully aware of the consequences of death. Although they are scared that their own bodies may be hurt.

especially girls. Loneliness at a time when support is needed weighs heavily on many teenagers. are rapidly becoming an invisible group. especially when they are heads of households or caregivers. Because adolescents strive for independence. A peer group is essential for an adolescent. 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. For this reason many adolescents feel hopeless and see no opportunities in the future. As adults we sometimes assume that younger children need more support and help 36 . It is difficult for many teenagers to find a role in their society. They fear discrimination. The influence of a peer group. the adolescent also feels alone. self-confidence and developing identity. parenting their younger siblings. Not yet adult men and women. Because many adolescents have to leave school in order to look after their siblings and to earn a living. An adolescent wants to belong to a group of peers and their acceptance is important. Although many teenagers do this with great commitment and compassion. While much has been done for younger children. Loneliness. It is important not to differ in any way from the group. The reality of the HIV/AIDS pandemic is that many adolescents have to become caregivers at home. It makes them vulnerable to abuse.Given their preoccupation with their bodies. In addition to accepting enormous responsibility. adolescents are often left out. meaning that teenagers who belong to the same group show that they are part of the group by having the same interests. betrayed by relatives (which sometimes includes the deceased parent) and lonely. 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. Group acceptance is often achieved through group conformity. the guidance and direction of adults is often rejected. behaving the same way and wearing similar clothes. Since the peer group provides most of the support during this developmental stage. Adolescent orphans. this means that the adolescent is cut off from his or her support group. their future hopes and dreams are often shattered. How you can help the adolescent It is evident from public statements and publications that adolescents receive less recognition than younger orphans. they are not part of the school-going teenage group either because of the burden of responsibility that they bear. Adolescents fear isolation from their peer group. it takes a lot of their time and isolates them from their peer group.

be there as a safety net. • Adolescents strive for independence. Don’t impose what you think they need. and that there is still hope. but at the same time they need support. while at the same time working through a very difficult developmental stage. the situation of the adolescent orphan calls for as much attention as the situation of the younger child. 37 . We need to pay attention to the questions. What can be done to support an adolescent after the death of a parent? • Ensure that the adolescent continues to attend school. comments and behaviour of the adolescent. but in most cases (especially in child-headed households) the adolescent orphan is left with lot of responsibility. this can be very stressful. ask them what they think they need in order to cope better. as well as with the responsibility of providing for a family. At the same time. Acknowledge that adolescents face a difficult situation. We think that adolescent orphans will manage to get along on their own. 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. Focusing on the needs of the younger child should not prevent us as caregivers from keeping the adolescent in mind as well. It is important that there should be other positive role models (like teachers. community members or community leaders) with whom the adolescent can identify.than their older brothers and sisters. Thus. • When trying to assist adolescents. It is true that adolescents have more life experience and cognitive (thinking) skills than younger children. but let the adolescent be involved in decision-making processes. Together. For example. Offer help. adolescents need to be told clearly what the acceptable limits of behaviour are. Often adolescents will refuse to take advice from parents or caregivers but will look for their own role models. Provide substitute caregivers (for example. and to respond by offering emotional understanding and support. This means that the adolescent orphan has to cope with the loss of a parent. your community might have home-based carers) to assist the adolescent with family responsibilities and to free the adolescent to continue studying or training. that he or she still has a future. They also need to understand what is expected from them in terms of responsibilities.

Encourage the adolescent to be part of a peer group (at religious organisation or community level) like a choir or a sports team. set clear rules. • 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. Although an adolescent has more independence and freedom. 38 . If their behaviour becomes selfdestructive. especially when a parent has died and the adolescent has been left in charge of siblings.• Adolescents have to understand the concepts of “rights” and “responsibilities”. but be clear about the limits. discuss the consequences of such behaviour. be clear about what is expected of the adolescent. Set a framework in which the adolescent makes decisions. he or she also has more responsibilities. • As a caregiver. do not separate siblings. • Make sure that the adolescent has time to be with his or her peers. • If possible.

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. Normal versus severe reactions Many children have lost their parents due to HIV/AIDS. It is the children who can’t understand what is happening. 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. as caregivers we need to identify when normal reactions turn into severe changes in behaviour that need professional attention. The situation is even more difficult if more than one parent (or other close relative) dies. The events that lead to a child becoming an orphan are very traumatic. grief or anger from a child are normal reactions to an abnormal event. orphaned children cope even better. Remember that even though children may show signs of stress and grief. 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. As caregivers we can help a child deal with these normal reactions and feelings. the substitute caregiver and the members of the community. they are able to cope as long as they can understand what is happening. They must also believe that they can manage and they must be able to give deeper meaning to the event. Reactions of distress. When they receive support from the other parent. who feel increasingly 39 . helplessness. Nevertheless. some of the time. who feel helpless and out of control and who can’t give deeper meaning to what is happening. Children who experience death may continue to grieve and mourn periodically (that is. Severe illness and the death of a parent are not normal events in a child’s life. but not all of the time) until they are well into adulthood. which is often the case.

it is our job to STOP problems from developing and to help the child to cope. their feelings of stress and grief may become more extreme or “severe”. 40 . helplessness. As caregivers. Reactions that profoundly alter the general behaviour of the child. 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. Reactions that last for a long time. Being unable to cope with the sickness and death of the parent may lead to severe reactions instead of normal reactions. death. fear and isolation become stronger. their feelings of depression. When it becomes obvious that a child’s reactions are severe.overwhelmed and unable to cope as they as they struggle to survive. This will be discussed in more detail in Chapter 6. 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. 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. each of us has an important role to play. 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. As caregivers. If a child lacks resilience. instead of slowly fading away. Preventing severe reactions in a child Ask yourself these questions. This is discussed in more detail in Chapter 7 of this book. stigmatisation. Without help. 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. the child may require more specialised help than ordinary caregivers and teachers can give. The child’s behaviour may change and his or her reactions to new situations may be inappropriate (the child’s reaction may seem wrong).

Collect some of your special belongings to be given to your child as a token of remembrance after you have died. Plan things for your child and share them with him or her. Helping you with small jobs will make your child feel less helpless and enhance the feeling that he or she can cope. But children watch adults constantly and they notice when something is wrong. Learning the truth causes terrible pain. but at the same time it makes the death easier to understand when it happens. children should be told about the likely death of a parent. Choose a substitute caregiver for your child. thoughts and values. Making a memory box is discussed on the next page. they worry. 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. Talk to each other. Trust your child. If children don’t know the truth. Organise arrangements to provide for your child’s financial and emotional stability. It is easier for a child to adapt to change when the change was expected. you can STOP and: Share your thoughts and ideas with your child and listen to your child’s ideas. They want to protect their children. Make sure that all your official documents (your ID card. Having items that keep the memory of the deceased parent alive is critical. Draw up a will. Offer your child Opportunities to help you. Many parents want to give their children something to keep. Although it may be very painful. Many parents are afraid of raising this topic. Prepare your child. your birth certificate and the birth certificates of your children) are kept together in a safe place where they can be found easily.You can pray with your child and pray for your child. Talking to your child about your disease and your death is very difficult. Children often imagine the worst.The STOP system for parents As a parent. 41 .

important documents that the children will need (like birth certificates. Creating a memory box can be an important step for the adult on the way to accepting his or her death. These items may be special messages for each child. the memory box becomes a precious tool for communication. Important documents or tokens of sentimental value could be kept in it. which contain letters to be read after the parent’s death. In this way. Knowing about the family history helps a child to identify with his or her roots. Sealed envelopes. 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. but it could be updated with precious items as time goes by. not just children affected by HIV/AIDS. They can go back to the box and read a letter over and over again. In some families. even if the child is too young to do much more than decorate the box. are kept unopened until after the death. even if no one in the family is sick. Memory boxes promote resourcefulness in all children. photographs.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. 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. letters or a special passage from a spiritual text. They can look at the photographs and think about the message that was left behind. it creates opportunities to express feelings and to talk about death and dying in a caring environment. These letters are also kept in the box. 42 . A memory box project would be worthwhile integrating into the normal school curriculum. a diary. a will and the parent’s ID card). The box can be just a shoe box or a cereal box – what is important is what goes inside it. if you prefer) helps children come to terms with the loss of a loved one. Helping to put the memory box together strengthens a child’s resilience. recorded tapes with messages. the children write messages to the sick parent and put them into the box for the parent to read later. Making a memory box is a wonderful idea for all parents and children. A memory box (or a memory book. When parents and children work on memory boxes together.

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. Faith in a transcendent being is not difficult for most children until they become adolescents. We can tell God about things that worry us. both for the diseased parent as well as for the child. or what may be appropriate to your beliefs). The STOP system for caregivers As a caregiver taking over the responsibility after the death of a parent. but faith will make them feel less helpless. Teach your child about the divine being (God or Allah. Teach your child that God is a loving God. that every person comes from God and returns to God when they die. Safety. They learn to trust in God in the same way that they learned to trust their parents. The structure and rhythm of normal day-today life gives a child security. generally cope better with life’s adversities. Teach your child to pray. knowing that they can depend on God – He will help them to cope. Structure (a normal day-to-day routine). We can tell God in prayer about what happened during the day. Children who have faith. 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.Pray with your child and pray for your child You may want to pray with your child. A feeling of safety and security comes 43 . have hope. Prayer cannot be taught in one lesson Children learn how to pray like they learn how to walk. Structure and normality are very important for a child’s well-being after an upsetting event. you can apply the STOP system as well. God always listens. Prayer time is quality time. Prayer time is quality time Praying with your child is a good way to be close to your child. 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. Children who see their parent praying will start to pray. Older children may blame God for the death of a parent. We can tell God when we are happy and when we are angry. Children who are able to pray and who have strong religious faith. Being able to talk about their feelings makes it easier to come to terms with them. Tell your child that we can ask for anything in a prayer. Security and Solidarity (mutual understanding).

things that fascinated you as child and games that you used to play. Provide opportunities for growth and development. Treat the child like your own child.when a child knows what tomorrow will bring. This may be by talking. The information that you give must be honest. Children need tenderness – care and understanding – but at the same time they need directions. Remember that children need information to understand what has happened. Openness. or how to decorate the graveside). Smaller children may feel more comfortable re-enacting what happened in play. Tenderness. Involve the children when you discuss their future. School is where children mix with their peers. School is also a place of special belonging – children talk about “my school”. Talk. Structure. The STOP system for teachers Schooling. concern and interest as you would show to your own child. uniforms or books. by drawing pictures or by writing in a diary. Don’t try to hide your own feelings. true and shared in a way that the child is able to understand. it is important that the child still goes to school and is treated the same way as all the other children. Involve the children in the preparations for the funeral. Show the same affection. which coffin to choose. care. Truth. Be open and honest with the child. Opportunities for growth and development. especially when their lives seem to be falling apart. Even though something terrible has happened. “my 44 . Even if the child can’t afford school fees. Security. Teach. Teach them things that you are interested in yourself. Let children (especially the older children) help make decisions that affect their own lives. Children need to express how they feel. make sure the child attends school and teach him or her life-skills at home. Seeing adults hiding their feelings worries children even more. School does not only provide knowledge and education. Involve older children in the choices you make for the funeral (for example. the child knows what is expected of him or her and can see that life goes on. Parenting and Participation. Ask them where they would like to live. Doing things together will bring you and the child closer together.

the home-world is in crisis and turmoil. Expressing one’s feelings is the first step to healing. This is particularly true of child-headed households. they often have to accept new responsibilities at home and there is little time to play. It feels normal and in making the child feel normal. Organised play as an Opportunity for children to express themselves. children are still children. 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. Classroom activities will also change.class”and “my teacher”. 45 . Chapter 6 looks at different games that can be played. It emphasises another part of his or her identity. The role of the teacher will change as the number of children coming from families disrupted by the AIDS pandemic increases. but it offers a very rewarding challenge. Together they can share their feelings and discuss life. Although circumstances may force children to take on adult responsibilities. Children express their thoughts and feelings through play and personal expression (like art. we will have to be good listeners so that we encourage children to express their feelings. the child feels in control. music. Peer group support. Going to school after the death of a parent is very important because it gives the child a sense of security. It is also perhaps the only place where the child is allowed to behave like a child. Children who have lost a parent or have experienced other major life crises need to say how they feel and what they think. Talk. This is when the school world becomes a safe haven. School allows a child to fulfil another role. Using these games as teaching aids would be a low-key way of encouraging the development of resilience in children. Spending time with peers allows a child to be a child. Play is an important part of a child’s development. When children are orphaned or a parent is sick. Participation in Peer group activities. There are games and activities that specifically encourage children’s inner resources and coping skills. Schools need to be sensitive to this and perhaps offer substitute play opportunities. At least at school the child knows where he or she belongs and what is expected of him or her. This is a great responsibility. When a child is orphaned. At home the child has the role of a son or a daughter but at school the child is a student. His or her identity as a son or a daughter is confused because his or her parent has died. As teachers. writing and acting). Teaching and Training.

the effort they make and the strength they display. whether in our homes or in our classrooms. Children often feel that they relate better to their peers than they relate to adults. and the manner in which we see these children. will affect the way we treat them. We must never forget the strength. their creativity and their needs. This is wrong. we must ask them what we can do to assist them. for example. resilience and ability to cope of children affected by HIV/AIDS. If they are treated as though they have a psychological disease then they are more likely to need psychological help. we feel pity and compassion and so we distribute goods. They carry an enormous workload. but these children are in fact survivors! Think for a moment about how much they achieve. We need to bear this in mind with regard to the situation of orphans and other so-called “vulnerable”(but resilient) children. you label children “victims of war”or a “lost generation of youth”. They need our support and assistance. Peers support each other and help each other to grow. If we look at them as survivors. It is easy for us to overlook the fact that they are actually coping.Children of a similar age see life differently from how adults see life. 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. helpless and unable to survive. 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. If. offer support and pat their heads. 46 . then we acknowledge their strengths. The attitudes of caregivers and teachers The attitudes of caregivers and teachers play a role in encouraging normal responses in children. Many children prefer to share their problems with a friend rather than with an adult. As parents. Peer groups provide a sense of belonging and identity. The way we look at the children in our care. Seeing them only as victims suggests that they are dependant. help and support their families. do their schoolwork and at the same time grow as individuals. But if we look at them as survivors who have managed to cope. and not everyone has access to this or can afford it. If we look at them as victims. We often overlook their initiative and creativity. then that is how you will react to them. Our assistance will then build on their coping skills. Then will we be providing the best possible assistance and we will be encouraging them to cope better and to become more resilient. their skills and their expertise. caregivers and teachers.

You will need to decide which one works best for you and for the child. sleeping difficulties. Clinging Nangula is four years old. Nangula is very anxious and she cries easily. At night she sleeps in her grandmother’s bed. Each time Nangula is separated from her grandmother she starts to cry and scream. intrusive memories (sometimes called “flashbacks”). feelings of helplessness and body pains. aggression. Her mother died two months ago. auto-aggression (hurting themselves). Nangula has never met her father. 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. There are several suggestions to deal with the different kinds of reactions. magic thinking. very frightened. Nangula and her siblings are living with their 70-year-old grandmother. hyperactivity. 47 . Nangula does not play with other children but tries to stay near her grandmother all the time. These include clinging behaviour. Nangula clings to her grandmother. bed-wetting.5 There are several specific reactions that caregivers come across when caring for orphaned children. nightmares. When other people come to the house. night terrors.

If there is enough space. After Nangula gets used to waking up in her own bed. When you have to leave her alone. Nangula thinks that if she is separated from her grandmother. her grandmother will never return. In the beginning you may let Nangula fall asleep in your bed and then carry her to her own bed.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. “I will be back after you have eaten your lunch”or. Try to find out why Nangula does not want the grandmother (or you) to leave. start putting her to sleep in her own bed as well. praise her for being so strong and brave. Tell her where you are going and when you will be back. and do not leave them alone with Nangula. like her mother “left”her. If she wakes up during the night. don’t force her to stay with them. 2. so you should link the time with something that she can relate to. although she may cry and scream. you can reassure her and tell her that you are there. 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. Allow her to sleep with a favourite toy (or something else that gives her comfort). Explain to her that she is big enough to sleep in her own bed. Tell her that you will always come back. What can you do to help? 1. Let Nangula be clinging for a while. 3. When you get back.”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. Nangula does not understand that separation can be temporary (for a short time). Try not to be away from her for a long time and keep telling her that you will not leave her for ever. Praise her for her independence every time she sleeps in her own bed. right next to her. Nangula is too young to understand the concept of time. prepare her for this. 48 . Make sure you are back when you promised – don’t let her wait for you because this will make her more clinging and afraid. Make her bed next to your own bed. You could say. Nangula should sleep in her own bed or on her own mattress.

When you find her.”or “You’re close. let her sleep with an older sister. have a ritual (a routine) that is followed every evening. Try playing games with Nangula. Ask Nangula to tell you what is hidden under the cloth. Cover the things with a cloth.) Here are some examples: Hide-and-seek with an object Play hide-and-seek with Nangula. Ordinary hide-and-seek Teach Nangula how to play ordinary hide-and-seek. Ask her to look at all the things and to memorise them. even further. These games may be of help to her. using an object. When putting Nangula to sleep. She needs to learn that objects and people can disappear and return again. give her a big hug. 4. telling her a short story or talking about the best moment of her day. She has to learn to internalise objects and people so that she will feel secure even when they are not around. Don’t put her to sleep in the same bed as her brothers. Agree that some places are not good hiding places. There are two ways of doing this. Tell her to hide while you close your eyes and count to ten. but let yourself be found by Nangula! Make sure the area in which you play is safe so that Nangula can’t hurt herself.If there is no space for Nangula to sleep in her own bed. very close!”or you let Nangula hide the object and you must look for it. it still exists. Make Nangula give you directions while you search for the object. 49 . Put some objects that Nangula knows (like a spoon. 1. If she is afraid of going to sleep in the dark. This teaches her that although something can’t be seen. This may involve praying together. Count how many objects she remembered correctly. make sure it’s far away from Nangula’s bed. Remove the cloth and look at all the objects again. like fridges and cars. leave a light on. (All of these games are much more fun if brothers and sisters or friends play too. a stone. Either you can hide the object (like a handkerchief or a spoon) and let Nangula look for it while you help her by saying. Agree on these before you start playing. “Look far away. If the source of light is a candle or an open fire. Then go and look for her. a paper-clip) in front of her. a piece of wool. Then swop over: while Nangula closes her eyes you must hide. Memory games Which things can you remember? This game teaches Nangula to internalise objects and improves her memory.

she may be afraid of the dark. for example: she may not be tired enough to go to sleep. Ask her to look at all the pictures and memorise them. Give Nangula old magazines and help her to cut out pictures of different people. Place the pictures in front of her. or something might have upset her during the night. She makes excuses to stay awake and finally falls asleep anywhere in the house. remove the cloth and ask her which object is missing. looks after them all. If she is hungry and you have food in the house.You will need to find new objects. Remove one picture and hide it behind your back. 50 . Now do the same again. Both her parents have died. she may be afraid that her sister (her caregiver) will disappear or die as her parents did. but while Nangula’s eyes are closed.You could also increase the number of objects you show her. she may be afraid of having bad dreams. Find out the real reason why Rebekkah does not want to go to sleep. Explaining her behaviour There could be different reasons for Rebekkah refusing to go to bed. remove the cloth and ask Nangula which picture is missing. Her eldest sister. When Nangula has played this game a few times it will get boring. give her something small to eat or a drink of warm milk or water. Ask her to close her eyes. Rebekkah refuses to go to bed. she may not want to be separated from close family members. Sleeping difficulties and nightmares Rebekkah is five years old. She and her other siblings live together. At night. 3. Cover all the pictures with a piece of cloth. who is 17 years old. there may be too much noise in the house. What can you do to help? 1. remove one object and put it behind your back. Tell Nangula to open her eyes. she may be hungry. Don’t give her cooldrinks or fizzy drinks (like Coke) to drink.2. Tell Nangula to open her eyes.

Often Manuel wakes up in the middle of the night and cries. Children’s nightmares are usually related to something the child is afraid of or to something frightening that the child has experienced. Since his mother died he has been living with the neighbours. Sometimes the frightening thing in the dream is based on an imagined fear rather than something that has actually happened. Sometimes he dreams that the house is on fire. leave a light on. Don’t shout at Rebekkah or threaten her. the nightmares are probably worse because his mother died and he had to move in with the neighbours. She may cry until she falls asleep but don’t let her get up. Make sure that she has a quiet corner to sleep in. Turn the radio and television down. If she is afraid of going to sleep in the dark. Explaining his behaviour Many children have nightmares. telling her a short story or talking about the best moment of her day. Try to make her comfortable in her bed and promise her that you will be there when she wakes up. stay firm. Tell her that her older sisters will soon be coming to bed as well. If she starts crying.2. have a ritual (a routine) that is followed every evening. Nightmares Manuel is 6 years old. If the source of light is a candle or an open fire. Don’t give in when Rebekkah begs you to let her stay up. comfort her briefly. make sure it’s far away from Rebekkah’s bed. In Manuel’s case. Don’t let her watch television before going to bed. He dreams that someone has died. She will soon learn to calm down and fall asleep when it is her bedtime. but do be firm and insist that she goes to sleep. Tell her that you will make sure that she is safe while she is asleep. When putting Rebekkah to sleep. 3. 51 . This may involve praying together. Although this may sound mean (and although her crying may upset the other people in the house). This routine provides security and comfort to the child. 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. but then leave her alone in her bed. Having a child in your family that refuses to go to sleep every night can be stressful for the caregiver. But it is important to be patient and calm. Wash her with warm water or give her a warm bath before tucking her in. A child needs more sleep than an adolescent or an adult and should go to bed at the same time every day.

our brains work through memories and incorporate them into our understanding of life. 3. Only then ask him what he dreamt about and let him describe the dream in detail. the room and an object that he likes – reassure him that he is at home in his bed. or putting them down on paper during the day. Don’t allow Manuel to watch a lot of television – especially at night. During the day. including his security. Tell him that it was only a bad dream. Watching television increases the likelihood that violent or frightening pictures will be triggered while Manuel is sleeping. Take his dream seriously. 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. Find out what scares him in the dream and ask him what scares him when he is awake. comfort him and calm him down. remind Manuel of the dream and talk to him about it. Some children dream the same nightmare over and over again. the underlying fear is real. What else can you do to help? 1. By talking about them. dreaming about the house being on fire may actually be symbolic of Manuel’s fear of losing all his belongings. he might be trying unconsciously to understand the death of his mother and to work through his own fears. While we sleep. After the death of his mother and losing his own home. Tell him that you are with him and that he is safe. Talk to him about the things that he finds frightening.What can you do to help? 1. Ask him to draw you pictures about these frightening events. warmth and shelter. Although much of what he dreamt may be symbolic. Manuel will be facing the fears. 2. When Manuel wakes up during the night. In older children this can be a sign that there is something serious upsetting the child. This will slowly reduce the frequency of the nightmares and after a while they will stop. In Manuel’s case. If he is fully awake. 2. For example. Manuel may have seen a big fire and heard adults talking about the danger of fires burning settlements down. 52 . make him look at his bed.

When the child does wake up. is constantly yawning. When a child has a night terror. The teacher may see that the child falls asleep in class. has problems concentrating or is hyperactive in order to stay awake. 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 . but the teacher may realise a child is having sleeping problems before the parent or the caregiver does. Explaining her behaviour Night terrors are very common in children. the child doesn’t wake up completely. The child falls asleep again quickly. What can you do to help at school? There is not much that a teacher can do to assist sleeping problems in children. sit next to the child and watch – don’t wake the child up. Ndapewa pushes the grandmother away. he or she remembers nothing of the event and is not afraid.Night terrors Ndapewa is 5 years old. help her to relax. During the night she wakes up screaming with her body shaking. What can you do to help at home? During a night terror. make her comfortable again and let her fall asleep again immediately. When her grandmother tries to hold her and comfort her. She does not recognise anybody. When the child does wake up.

If there is no medical reason. children do not have a place of their own but sleep in different places every night. Many children who have experienced stressful events start to wet their beds again during the night. Explaining his behaviour Bed-wetting is a very serious problem for many children. In each case. It is important for a child to have his or her own place to sleep (even if it is shared with a sibling). Moosa’s mother had to go to work in town and she only comes home to the farm four times a year. bed-wetting is caused by a medical problem. He feels insecure. Moosa has started wetting his bed for the first time since he was two and a half years old. It causes a lot of additional emotional suffering. After the death of his father. a friend being run down by a car or a schoolteacher hitting a child (or Moosa himself).In some households. For some children. like the death of a parent. Bed-wetting always shows that a child is under a lot of emotional pressure. the child should be taken to a clinic to see whether the child has a bladder problem. He is embarrassed and he cries. His cousins and his brothers laugh at him so he tries to hide the sheets behind the house. 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. 54 . Bed-wetting can also result from changes in the family. Moosa. He misses his mother and wishes his father would come back. insecurity and feeling unwanted or abandoned. especially those headed by children. If it continues for a few days. At school the children also laugh at him. 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. The bigger boys call him “baby” and won’t allow him to play with them. Bed-wetting Moosa is seven years old. the bed-wetting could be a reaction to frightening events that the child has witnessed or experienced. mostly due to emotional reasons like fear. Moosa feels threatened that something has upset his normal family structure. insecurity and helplessness. It is also important for the child to go to sleep at the same time every night. like a father beating up (or screaming at) the mother. the bed-wetting is related to fear. He wakes up in the night and finds his bed wet. a parent moving away from the home. a divorce or the unexpected birth of a baby. his brothers and sisters have been living with his grandmother and seven other cousins since his father died. Moosa doesn’t want to go to school anymore.

He doesn’t wet his bed on purpose. leave a light burning so that he can see. Give him clean sheets and clean clothes and make sure that he doesn’t smell of urine when he goes to school. If he is afraid to go to the outhouse in the dark. When adults in your home talk about violent events in the community. Say things like. I can understand that this is very upsetting/scary/worrying for you…”At the same time. 3. blame or punish Moosa. Try to find out what is upsetting him. listen carefully and encourage him. Don’t let Moosa drink too much in the evening. 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. Teach him to get up during the night and use the bucket when he feels he needs to go to the toilet. Before you go to bed yourself. When Moosa wakes up during the night. 55 . Encourage him by addressing his strengths and say things like. have extra linen nearby. Bedtime routines always help children and adults to relax and prepare for sleep. Don’t let him watch a lot of television. 2. wake Moosa up and send him to the toilet. If possible. have a bucket nearby for him to use. Do not scold. make sure that you explain the conversation to Moosa later on. “You are so good at maths/soccer…”. comfort him calmly and change his linen. Make sure that he is wide awake. Talk to Moosa in private. If Moosa decides to tell you about things that scare him. (You might need to cut down the side of a plastic bin bag and place it beneath his sheet to protect the mattress. Explain that he is safe and that you will take care of him.What can you do to help? 1. 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. Make a point of noticing his skills and give him positive feedback as often as possible. 6. Have a quiet time with him before he falls asleep and chat about the good things that happened during the day. Make sure that he goes to the toilet before he goes to bed at night. “Yes. 4.) If possible. 5. “You are such a big help to me!”or. Make sure Moosa isn’t exposed to a lot of upsetting events. tell him how well he is doing despite his problems. Moosa needs a lot of encouragement and positive assurance to build up his self-image and self-confidence. Tell him that you know that he does not wet the bed deliberately.

Aletta and her two brothers are now living with their aunt. Example of a bed-wetting chart 9. She won’t walk past her old house when she walks home from school. Aletta still goes to school. increase the number of nights that he must stay dry during the week in order to get a reward. She was taken to hospital with acute encephalitis and she died three days later. 56 . She told her teacher that she suddenly remembered her mother being taken away to the hospital. but for a few weeks she has been very absent-minded in class. who is looking after them very well. she started crying and shaking.7. Intrusive memories (flashbacks) Aletta is 8 years old. 8. Two months ago her mother suddenly became sick. Have Moosa help you to draw up a calendar to monitor the dry and wet nights. She seems restless. She is falling behind her classmates. praise him and acknowledge that his bed is dry. Don’t allow the other children to laugh at Moosa. One day. After he manages one dry night in a week. after an ambulance passed the school building. Increase the number of nights until Moosa is dry every night. She finds it difficult to concentrate. In the beginning reward Moosa after he has one dry night in a week. After a night when Moosa did not wet his bed.

They are not recalled willingly. Hold her firmly by the shoulders. take the following steps immediately: Go to her. afraid and sad as she felt when it really happened. her eyes will look blank and glassy. Make eye contact. speak her name in a firm voice and tell her that you are going to touch her. 1. Having a flashback about her mother being taking into hospital left Aletta feeling as helpless. We need to find a way to help Aletta describe the event without becoming overwhelmed. Some children try to prevent intrusive memories by refusing to think or talk about the traumatic event that took place. or even a smell that was present at the time of the original event can trigger the intrusive memory.Explaining her behaviour Aletta is suffering from intrusive memories. objects or even people that they associate with the original event. tremble and get goosebumps. The intensity of intrusive images varies from very mild to very strong. say. However. This means that they flood our minds. 57 . “Look at me!”and don’t allow her to lose eye contact with you. 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 overwhelming and very vivid. her face might get flushed or she might start to shiver. 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. but instead the memories intrude into our brains. When Aletta experiences a very strong flashback her teacher may notice changes in her body: Aletta will breathe more quickly than usual. upsetting or traumatic event that suddenly pop up in your mind and can’t be controlled. They are uncontrollable and they expose us to the stressful event that took place in the past. When Aletta is experiencing an acute flashback. also known as “flashbacks”. A sight. Telling her story would give her control over her memories and help her to come to terms with her strong feelings. They may also try to avoid situations. Intrusive memories are usually triggered by something that resembles the original event – in Aletta’s case the ambulance. Flashbacks are overwhelming and may be very frightening. Intrusive memories are memories of a painful. a sound. Maintaining eye contact is reassuring for her and helps her to keep control. describing the traumatic event may overwhelm Aletta and trigger another flashback. Intrusive memories are like nightmares that happen during the day.

but the child may be flooded with painful. the traumatic event becomes easier to integrate in the memory and in the life context. but talk to her after school. (Wait a moment before saying “In” again. they have to arrange the memory pieces in the order that they really happened for the story to make sense. unwanted feelings. This makes them chaotic and uncontrolled. 3. Direct her breathing all the time. Repeat your directions.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. We have to be careful not to trigger a new flashback when we ask a child to tell his or her story. 58 . (This is to slow down her breathing. the child can give the event meaning and work out how to control it. It is important to find a way for the child to confront the upsetting event in a controlled way. Keep eye contact! 2. let her have something to drink or send her to wash her face. When someone describes something that happened to them. Say things like. “Everything is OK. try to slow her breathing down. Asking Aletta to explore her feelings may trigger another flashback. This structure makes the memory less chaotic and uncontrollable.”Or. “I am with you. Hold your breath.) OK.) Good!” Try to develop a steady rhythm in her breathing. telling a story helps to put pieces of memory into a meaningful structure.) Stop. Once integrated. now breathe out slowly as if you’re blowing through a straw. saying things like this: “In. (As she breathes in. The pieces of memory don’t seem to fit together and they don’t fit into the child’s memory. It happens because she is trying to come to terms with what happened. gradually slowing down as she breathes out. Nothing is going to happen to you! You are safe!” If Aletta is breathing heavily. By having more control. Let her rejoin the classroom activities. Good.You are in the classroom. It is important to talk about the upsetting event. the child is in charge of the situation and of the memories that surface. Don’t ask for too much detail at this stage.Use short sentences when you talk to her. When a child can look at what is upsetting him or her. Reassure Aletta that having flashbacks after a very upsetting event is normal. Don’t ask how she feels about the event. Flashbacks consist of fragmented pieces of memory that suddenly come up. In this way. When Aletta has calmed down. Don’t ask her why she reacted like that. Ask her what was so scary and upsetting.

Drawing pictures is an ideal way of looking objectively at an upsetting event in a controlled way without becoming overwhelmed. 5. 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. Thank her for sharing her story with you. If she is still suffering from flashbacks you may need to contact her caregiver and ask for Aletta to receive professional help. While you will need to be very sensitive to orphans and vulnerable children in the group. Don’t tell Aletta what to do – let her come up with a solution that will suit her own needs. Look at the picture again and ask Aletta what else the child in the picture could do herself to feel better. Talk to Aletta again after two or three weeks. not just with children whose parents or caregivers have died. She may suggest playing with friends. 6. 7. Tell Aletta that the activities she has chosen are great. Tell her you look forward to hearing how they are helping her. Invite her to come and visit you whenever she has a problem. As Aletta puts the upsetting event on paper she can control what goes into the picture and what is still too painful to show. Agree that you will ask her to tell you how she is doing from time to time. Find out how she is doing. Breathing exercises are very helpful when helping children suffering from intrusive images and nightmares. “Yes! You should do those things as often as you can!” Encourage activities involving sport and outdoor games. These activities can be used for an entire youth group or the whole class. Also encourage activities to do with religion or culture. Passive activities (activities that do not involve interacting with other people) like watching television or sitting under a tree are less helpful. Teach her a breathing exercise. 59 . talking to someone or playing with a baby cousin. What does the child usually do to make herself feel better when she is sad. upset or angry? Ask Aletta which of those activities she would like to try herself.4. Say. It is important for Aletta to create her own picture story and to talk about her picture when she has finished drawing. it is best not to single them out because they may experience this as stigmatising.

Point to block five and ask Aletta to draw the worst part of her story (for example. Block 1: Ask Aletta to remember the last time that she felt happy and safe before the upsetting event took place. she will be able to stay in control. a. Ask Aletta to draw pictures in blocks two. Move from picture to picture so that the parts of the story are told in order. Divide a sheet of paper into nine equal squares. If she talks. Talk about “the girl in the picture”– this allows Aletta to distance herself from her story.The picture story exercise This exercise is suitable for children aged seven to ten. This is a critical moment because Aletta will be confronted with painful memories but because she is talking and drawing the event. ask Aletta to tell you the story of the people in the pictures. when her mother fell sick and had to go to hospital). This exercise could be critical to Aletta and she needs your undivided attention. 2. e. d. three and four to show what happened before the worst part (for example. c. 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. Set aside some time to work through the following exercise with Aletta after school.) It is used to assist a child suffering from flashbacks by focusing on the content of the flashback and giving structure to the memories. the neighbours coming to visit and going to the funeral). Ask Aletta to draw pictures in blocks six. Guide the story to 60 . It will take some time and it is imperative that you are not disturbed. 3. Have a few coloured pens so that Aletta can choose which colours she wants to use. listen closely to what she says. Ask Aletta if she can draw a picture story or a comic about what happened to her. seven and eight to show what the people in the pictures did after the worst part was over (for example. ask her to draw a picture of the good moment in block 1. Stay with Aletta as she draws. 1. The picture should be as accurate as possible. Drawing a picture prevents her from having another flashback. What was she doing then? When Aletta is able to remember it clearly. b. Ask Aletta to draw the first good moment she remembers after the upsetting event was over. (It is easier if the child likes to draw. Jump to the opposite corner (block 9). When she has finished all the pictures. the death of her mother).

helping her aunt and attending school.end at the point at which the girl in the picture felt safe and calm again. When you have finished discussing everyone’s feelings. If Aletta says.“good”. “bad”. Ask Aletta where she feels angry. Because it is a group method. Praise her for this achievement. sad or disappointed. 5. help her to find a more precise word like sad. Tell her that it is normal for children to worry about their parents. by having a special memorial place or ritual. It is a normal response for younger children. Describing the feelings in her body helps her to look at those feelings in a controlled way.) Don’t be surprised if Aletta replies that the child needs her mother back. by looking at her picture and by praying. (Remember to refer to “the child in the picture”. Discuss how the child in the picture can still have contact with her mother. Tell her that you can understand this because every child wants a mother but say that there are some things that are impossible. ashamed or helpless. tell Aletta these feelings are quite normal when something like this has happened. Point out all the good things that Aletta did during this difficult time. 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. 61 . repeat her story to her. Tell her that it is normal for children to feel afraid when their mother is taken to hospital. packing the things they needed to take to their new homes. satisfied. guilty. To show Aletta that you paid attention to her story. for example by talking to her. 4. angry. like looking after her brothers. sad or happy feelings in her body. It also helps her to memorise the story in a meaningful form. Ask Aletta what she thinks the child in the picture needs to make her feel better. Hearing her own story told by someone else also helps Aletta to distance herself from what happened. Talk about what people do when they feel angry. help her to find a more precise word like happy. joyful or content. Ask Aletta how the people in the picture felt – especially the girl in the picture. If Aletta replies. Tell her that it is normal for children to cry and to feel lonely and helpless. it can be used in the classroom. This prevents the feelings from becoming overwhelming.

(Observe what the children draw.) Draw anything you like. Draw a picture of yourself doing something that you enjoyed very much. Draw a picture of a day something good happened.The teacher gives the class a specific topic and asks the children to draw a picture related to this topic. Draw anything you like. allow the children to draw whatever they like. It is important not to start immediately with “problem topics”. Don’t force any of the children to discuss their picture. Put the chairs in a circle and spread the pictures on the floor in the middle of the circle. give a new topic like “a great day at school”or. 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 picture of a day something bad happened. (Pictures of funerals or death may appear.) Draw a time when you felt very strong. Ask if anyone would like to talk about his or her picture. Start off with topics that foster resilience and inner resources in children.“something that makes you very angry. 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. Draw someone you love very much. Draw a picture of yourself after you achieved something that you feel very good about. follow up with a resilience-based or resource-based topic. Draw a day when you were very sad. 62 . 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. Take a few minutes after each drawing session to look at all the pictures with the children. If you observed that death featured prominently in the pictures drawn on days nine and ten. “a day you were terribly scared”or. If your “problem topic” keeps the children busy for a few days.) Be flexible.” 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. (Observe what the children draw. If not.

This is normal and part of the healing process. 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. 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). “Memory” or “communication” books Older children and adolescents may not want to draw. Tell the child that what you both write is absolutely confidential – promise that you will not tell anybody. There is probably not much time after school to write in a diary. suggest the rule that no one may laugh at a picture or tease another child about what he or she has drawn. 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. It is up to the child to decide whether or not to agree to this. This book then becomes part of a dialogue. Writing stories down on paper is another way of structuring memories and feelings. other children will usually come forward as well. The memory book is a tool that is suitable for the classroom situation. Have a file (or a large envelope) for each child to keep his or her pictures in. 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. 63 . Adolescents normally find it difficult to relate to a person who is not one of their peers. Tell them that spelling mistakes and bad handwriting don’t matter either! Communication books can be developed into diaries. Never force a child to let you read his or her thoughts. you will read the story the child has written and you will write a comment in the book. self-knowledge and problem-solving skills. Once the children understand how the circle works. Children are usually hesitant to share their feelings with you as an authority figure in the beginning. Most children like to take a few minutes once a day to think about themselves and to write their thoughts down on paper. they will probably not need reminding about this.Before the pictures are shown to the class. It would be helpful to reserve twenty minutes during the school day for children to write in their diaries. Tell the children that these books are their personal property and that no one may read the book except the children themselves. 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. It has been said that play is a means by which children handle and work on experiences and tackle difficult problems.

Children should be encouraged to play. a netball coach and a Sunday School teacher – she has different roles to fulfil at different times). This is known as “repetitive play”. 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. Imagining that he or she can control the event helps the child to cope and to gain control. a broom or a hat). Role-playing allows the child to take on different roles and to view the upsetting event from various angles. a doctor. 1. Talk about the kind of roles that people play (for example. Ask the children to get into groups and to think up a story that they will present to the class later on. Role-playing promotes creativity. Before the plays start. “Rachel. talk to the children about what happened in the play. Take the children out of their roles by saying. This encourages their creative writing. The child may also involve his or her peers.You could ask older children to put their role-plays into writing. who was the bad girl. may be given themes to work with. Explain again that each learner in the play was playing a role. a woman may be a mother. Older children. Provide some props that they might need for their story (like an apron. Together they role-play the event over and over again.Through play. If a story is serious. This means that they must have enough time at school and at home for free play. Before they start. Let them present their play to you and the rest of the class. a caregiver. children express their feelings and work through difficult negative experiences. group cohesion and self-confidence as well as verbal fluency in children. And last but not least. A child that regularly chooses not to play with his peers or siblings should be encouraged to join in. Role-playing can be encouraged in the classroom. problem solving. team spirit. who was the mother that was crying. Children who play. has problems concentrating. 64 . Find out why the child is not taking part in the activities. agree that no one may be laughed at unless the story is funny. 3. Children may also role-play their intrusive images as they try to understand them and to integrate them into their life concept. isn’t the mother anymore – she’s Rachel again!” 2. is the real Sanette again!”and. explain to the children that a role is something you play. has problems falling asleep or demonstrates aggressive behaviour. Roleplaying also allows the child to fantasize about miracles and about superhero strength. “Sanette. Often the child repeats a scene over and over again until a solution is reached. who are used to role-playing. learn better. Give them enough time to work on their story. imagination.

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

Although they may find it difficult to obey the rules. 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. honesty. Authority. the better the chance that it will lead to a change in the child’s behaviour. Sit with the child to draw up the rules. Hitting or beating the child sends the message that violence is acceptable. but you are punishing him for his wrong behaviour. Aggressive children need rules.important that we do not become aggressive ourselves. Distinguish between the child and the behaviour The better the punishment is suited to the aggressive deed of the child. This is sometimes difficult. firm and give clear instructions. Never threaten punishment without fulfilling your threat. It may be appropriate for the child to do something for this person so that they can see that the child is genuinely sorry. caregivers and teachers need to be very clear about what they expect from the child. We need be self-assured and know that we are in control. do not hit or beat an aggressive child. 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). but instead stay calm. 68 . If other people were involved. How can you deal with aggressive children? Aggressive adults who are role models for children promote aggressive behaviour in those children. rules give them the feeling of security and control. The child needs to understand that punishment is not an act of revenge on the side of the caregiver. but is a consequence of inadequate behaviour. The child needs clear guidelines about what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. Make the child apologise to the person who was hurt so that the old relationship can be re-established. When dealing with aggressive children it is important to have confidence in our own skills and our ability to deal effectively with such children. helping at home. 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. As with all children. parents. 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. make sure the child understands the effect of the aggressive behaviour on the other person. The child needs to realise that disobeying the rules will have consequences. or helping repair the damage caused by the aggression (if material objects were involved). Instead of becoming aggressive.

constructive way. You will find some exercises on teaching children to identify emotions and their responses at the end of this section on aggression. 69 . Say. When the child has calmed down you can hand control back to the child. Choose the way you speak to an angry child If a child is in a rage use short. fear or feeling threatened. Explain why you are punishing him. Emotions and feelings need to be discussed in the classroom situation as well in order to support children in their learning process. frustration and helplessness because these feelings usually arise at times of crisis or conflict.“Sit down here. The tension or emotional excitement produced by these feelings is not necessarily negative in itself.” It is important for the child to understand that you are in charge and that you are in control. What made him or her angry.”Keep your voice calm. Aggressive children have to learn how to show their feelings in a positive. these are easier to understand. 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. but unfortunately the tension expresses itself in a negative. Punishment should happen in private and not in public. Talk to the child about why he or she reacts aggressively. At this stage of emotional upset it is your responsibility to provide the necessary control. A child first learns about feelings. for example. but firm. teachers and caregivers should discuss the aggressive behaviour as well as the underlying feelings with the child. Be clear and firm about what you want. Discuss feelings with the child Aggressive children find it difficult to deal with negative emotions like anger. destructive way.Talk to the child about what he did. Ask the child to stop the unwanted behaviour. Because he is emotionally tense. It is important for the child to understand why he or she feels angry or frustrated. Orphaned children need this skill even more because there is often no adult to provide emotional security and protection.“Stop screaming now. Understanding your own feelings helps you to find suitable behaviour. Punishment should not be aimed at degrading the child or increasing his insecurity and frustration. and expressing feelings. frustrated or scared? Try to understand the reason for the behaviour. precise sentences. Understanding our feelings improves our coping skills. Say. Being able to identify feelings is important for all children. We will sort it out. 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. In order to promote this learning process.

“Now think of the next time David takes something away from you without asking. Look at the behavioural response Ask Ebrahim to look at his behaviour with you.“Now imagine the same situation again. 2. 3. more complicated feelings like betrayal. Discuss the best ideas with Ebrahim. neglect and loneliness may be hidden underneath. Sometimes a small event might trigger an aggressive response. 70 .You feel hurt. What could you do instead of breaking his pencils?”Or. Teach positive ways to express emotions 1. Say to Ebrahim. These ideas may include walking way from the source of the frustration. excited or frustrated. What else could you do instead of throwing stones at them?” Write a list of all the ideas that Ebrahim comes up with.(Remember that it may seem like a trivial thing to you. abandonment. getting physical exercise. In addition to feelings like sadness and frustration. Ask him to choose one or two ideas. getting rid of the tension by talking to someone. the death of his mother. you do not agree with the way the child expressed his feelings. Ask him what he did and how he felt. Ebrahim’s aggressive acts can thus be attributed to attention-seeking behaviour and to a need for acceptance. Talk about how other people would see and judge his behaviour. 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. In Ebrahim’s case. Finding the cause for the aggressive behaviour can only happen if you talk to the child. The others are shouting names at you. Agree with him that the next time he gets angry he will try one of these ideas first. Discuss actions Ebrahim could take when he is very angry. the move to his grandmother’s home and the lack of attention are all causes of tension. but you still approve of the child as a person. Make it clear to the child that although you understand the child’s anger or frustration and you acknowledge the reason for his feelings. or doing something that he is good at. asking someone for help. Ebrahim needs to understand that you do not approve of his behaviour.) Support the child as he or she describes his or her feelings and frustrations. Identifying the real cause for the aggressive behaviour can be difficult because there may be many. attention and acknowledgement.

deep breathing exercises) gives the child a way of preventing aggressive outbursts. Ask Ebrahim to come and tell you when he manages to control his anger or frustration. When the child returns. older children may cut themselves deliberately. Children can learn to identify when they are getting really upset. Praise him for his achievement. Auto-aggression Instead of turning tension into aggressive behaviour directed at other people or objects. 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”. and when the child has calmed down. 71 . to foster group co-operation. If auto-aggressive behaviour continues.4. 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. There are many games and exercises to help children relieve tension and cope with frustration and conflict. 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. some children turn the aggressive behaviour against themselves. netball and hockey) are wonderful ways to relieve tension in children and to boost children’s self-esteem. to solve conflict and to identify emotions. all of which will help with aggressive behaviour. to lessen frustration. Auto-aggression means that the aggressive behaviour is directed against one’s own body. no one may make funny remarks or laugh. Ask Ebrahim to draw you a picture of (or write down) what he is going to do the next time he gets angry. 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. No one may disturb the child there. There are games to relieve tension. Small children may bump their heads against walls repeatedly. The picture helps him to memorise the decision he has taken. Look at the games in Chapter 6 for some ideas. to foster selfesteem. then he or she will return to the house (or the classroom). children may hurt themselves deliberately. Severe auto-aggression with self-hurting is a sign that a child has serious problems. This is a very effective way of allowing the child to take control. Games to help aggressive children Wild games and sports activities (soccer. to calm children down.

playing sport. Sara does not know her father. 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 .A child or an adolescent who shows increased signs of auto-aggression urgently needs the attention of a specialist. Find alternative ways to relieve stress like breathing exercises. both with herself and with her friends. She wanders around restlessly. She is easily frustrated. Sometimes it is full of mistakes and at other times there are incomplete sentences or whole parts missing. She is not capable of sitting quietly with the family or sitting still in class without getting up and walking around. Hyperactivity Sara is nine years old. doing creative writing. Hyperactivity can have different causes. The teacher has noticed that Sara (who always was a good student) is becoming restless and finds it difficult to concentrate in class. Sara does not know what has made her mother sick. Sara’s sister is taking care of her mother and the baby. The baby has been sickly since birth. When her mother fell ill six months ago. These are signs that the child is tense and under emotional pressure. Find out when the child bites his or her nails (or hurts himself or herself). Her older sister is 13 years old and her younger brother is one and a half years old. She seems to be very impatient. Her work is becoming increasingly untidy. singing or dancing. Sara was sent to stay with her aunt who lives about an hour’s walk from home. She is the middle child in the family. Sara still attends the same school. What can you do to help? 1. Explaining her behaviour Sara shows the signs of hyperactive behaviour. 2. Minor signs of auto-aggression like nail biting need the attention of the caregiver and the teacher. Sara acts without thinking more often than before and in recent months has had some major conflicts with classmates. Her aunt realises that Sara is finding it difficult to complete tasks. 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. She gets easily distracted and seems to have a shorter attention span. Sara sees her mother and the baby occasionally over weekends when her aunt has the time to take her to visit.

Because she was the only child sent away. Explain to Sara that she has not been sent away because her mother does not love her. Then she could come to terms with her new situation and begin to cope. A radio playing all the time or a television on all the time will increase her hyperactivity. she needs to be prepared for the likely death of her mother. Her hyperactive behaviour reveals a high level of stress and emotional excitement. What can you do to help at home? Sara needs a person she can trust and talk to. 2. and be feeling guilty and inadequate. It would help Sara if she knew why she had been sent away. Explain what is wrong with her mother. the knowledge will give Sara control because she will be able to understand. Sara may be jealous of her sister and her brother who. During these visits Sara should spend as much quality time with her mother as possible. She is probably afraid of what is happening to her mother. She could take little presents or food that she has prepared. It may be possible to arrange for someone else in the community to help care for the mother and her three children. the caregiver to: 1. because she will also be doing something for her mother. She has not been sent away because she misbehaved. It is important for you. 73 . Even if finding out is upsetting. without other adults being present. but hyperactive behaviour can also be caused by an extremely shocking event or traumatic living conditions. This will reduce Sara’s feeling of helplessness. unlike her. It may be better for Sara to return to her mother. 5. were allowed to stay at home. She needs time to come to terms with her situation. Sara needs time with her mother. On the other hand she might blame herself for having been sent away. Her life situation was changed drastically without Sara being involved in the decisions. Sara needs quiet time. Give Sara her own place to sleep and regular bed times.during birth. Sara’s hyperactive behaviour is the result of her separation from her mother and her siblings. frequent visiting times should be arranged. 4. 3. Encourage Sara to prepare for the visits. It will also make her feel that she is still involved with her family. she may feel that she has been abandoned. If this is not possible. Ensure that Sara is not exposed to too much noise or too many visual images.

After she has completed a task successfully. She may say that she felt strong. do not allow Sara to 2. praise her and allow her to take a short break (of three to five minutes) during which she may wander around and “help”you. give Sara small tasks that do not need a long concentration span. 1. Later on. Sara is a good example of a child that would benefit from the breathing exercise before she starts to work. 7. 74 . As her teacher. happy or successful again. This also boosts her self-esteem. you could introduce a chart on which you mark her good days to encourage her to keep up the effort. Let her begin. In the beginning (if time allows) you may need to stay close to Sara. explain it again and make sure she understands. If she has not understood. when she has a whole day of good behaviour. try to make some time for her. Praise her for trying to work so hard under such difficult circumstances. As far as her schoolwork is concerned. How did that make her feel? Let her think about that for a few moments and then ask her to describe her feelings. Explain the new task to her and ask her to explain to you what she is supposed to do. Do not allow her to disturb the other children. 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. like taking a note to the principal’s office. Encourage her to feel the same again now. or successful. Sit down with her before she starts and ask her to remember a time when she did very well.6. Find a task for her to do. She will realise that it helps her to concentrate. Encourage Sara to keep a diary in which to record her thoughts and feelings in words or pictures. Explain that you understand this is a very difficult situation for her. tell her that she will feel strong. While she is doing her work. and if possible. 3. happy. Reward Sara’s good behaviour by acknowledging her efforts. go through the same process again. What can you do to help at school? Sara will also need a lot of understanding and reassurance in the classroom. Make sure that Sara has plenty of opportunities to take part in sport or other after-school (or community) activities. 8. Then give her some more work to do. Tell her that you believe she can do it again.

5. There is medical treatment available that reduces the activity of hyperactive children. Praise her when you realise she has managed to control herself. showing her that you know she is there. This makes it easier for the caregiver and the teacher to deal with the hyperactive child. During group activities make frequent eye contact with her. The medication is a stimulant that is meant to reduce the hyperactivity and impulsiveness in school-age children so as to improve their performance. Keeping her at the front of the classroom will reduce the distractions for her. In Sara’s case. 75 . Give her an opportunity to demonstrate her skills. Don’t allow her to disturb the teaching process or the group activities. 6. Don’t scold her. After Sara completes her work. hyperactive children have a great need for physical activity. 4. but from an educational point of view these drugs may have a bad effect on the child’s coping capacity. encourage her to join in the games and exercises. Encourage her to spend time developing her skills. In addition it has been shown that Ritalin can have severe side effects and may have a bad effect on the child’s development. but understands that it is to help her. It will also make it easier for you to keep an eye on her. Boost Sara’s self-esteem and self-confidence. Discuss this with Sara so that she doesn’t see it as a punishment. The drug suppresses all spontaneous behaviour and makes the child quiet and often a bit drowsy.get up. As with aggressive children. Expect her to turn around and be distracted – even to walk around. 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. 7. and prevent her from distracting the other learners in the class. An example of this is Ritalin (methylphenidate). but insist firmly that she sits down and carries on with her work. Medication. the prescription of a stimulant like this would reduce her hyperactive behaviour but it would be an obstacle to the coping process. During the breaks. To make it easier for her to concentrate. turn her desk back again so that she is part of the group. Make sure she uses up a lot of energy running around in the playground. Find out which are her favourite activities and talents (like running or singing).

He was sick only for a few days. When he makes a mistake he seems frightened. They are not generally recommended. He doesn’t like leaving the house to go to school. he didn’t talk much and he didn’t ask many questions. he said that if he didn’t rub his mistakes out properly. six-year-old Petrus came home from school to be told by his mother that his father had died suddenly. Without magical thinking this would be impossible. When his mother asked him why he thought that. Positive magical thinking – even if it is unrealistic – can help a child to survive.Stimulants should be given to children as a last resort. Petrus did not show signs of excessive grieving at the time. When he gets to school he is very shy. Magical thinking (or “omen”) can help a child to cope with adverse events. he believes that making a mistake and being scolded in school had a direct impact on his father’s death. Explaining his behaviour The example of Petrus is a typical example of a child who engages in magical thinking. Magical thinking helps children to gain control and meaning. He has been withdrawn and quiet since the death of his father. magical thinking originates from the child’s imagination. Negative magical thinking Three months ago. 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. 76 . He attended the funeral and he visits the grave occasionally with his mother. Children Petrus’s age think that their own actions have a direct impact on the events that take place in their lives. He was sad and withdrawn. He concentrates on his work. It is clear that magical thinking can have a positive or a negative impact. As described in Chapter 3. after intense consultation with an experienced medical practitioner. When his teacher confronted him about the holes in his books. he started to cry. compulsively erasing the mistake so that his exercise books are full of holes. his mother would die too. When his mother asked him why he had rubbed holes in his books. which he does neatly and accurately. In Petrus’s case. It is important for caregivers and teachers to identify how the child gives meaning to an adverse event. 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.

Play “Real and unreal games“ with Petrus. 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. 3. Explain that it is normal for a boy to miss his father after he has died. Tell him that it shows how much he loved his father. Tell Petrus that you understand that he is still worried about his father’s death. Explain to him that it is normal to make mistakes when we learn and that you love him even when he makes mistakes. 7. The same happens when we pray. Tell the story to Petrus and ask him to tell you what is real and what is unreal. After he has understood the concept of the game. 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. Give Petrus an opportunity to ask questions about his father’s death and try to answer them honestly.What can you do to help at home? Let Petrus tell you the whole story in great detail. While he is telling you. 1. Chaotic thoughts structure themselves and we feel calmed and comforted. Ask him why he thinks that he could have caused his father’s death. if he wants bodily contact hold him close to you. Invent a story consisting of events that can really happen and events that can only happen in your imagination. If you are Petrus’s mother. our thoughts become more structured as we express them. you can mourn the loss of your partner with Petrus. But emphasise strongly that he had nothing to do with his father’s death. Ask Petrus if he wants to draw a picture for his father. even when he makes mistakes. 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. 77 . He needs reassurance and clarity about his father’s death. Tell him that he will always love Petrus. 6. 2. Prayer can be like talking to a person. Try to find some books about children dealing with death and dying. Reassure Petrus that you also love him very much and that you will always love him. that he was proud of everything Petrus did. Tell him that you are very proud that he is doing well in school. Read them to Petrus and discuss them with him. Tell him that his father died because he was very sick. Tell Petrus that his father loved him very much. 5. 4. You can teach Petrus how to pray.

Explain to the class that mistakes are part of the learning process. her mother fell ill and slowly grew worse. when she nursed her mother and when she arranged the 78 . She feels helpless again – just the way she felt at the clinic. Because Tutula is the eldest of four children. her mother was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Tutula took over the responsibility of looking after her mother and her three siblings. What can you do to help at school? It is more effective to concentrate on children’s strengths and abilities rather than their mistakes. but she did not consult Tutula. When Tutula was 13 years old. Tutula reports that she is glad her mother told her. Mistakes are nothing to be afraid of – a mistake is nothing more than a challenge to improve and do better. but no one listened to her complaints. When her mother died six months ago. Tutula felt that she was being treated unfairly. She feels that she is neglecting the responsibilities her mother entrusted to her. but she would rather stay with her brothers and her sister. 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. She managed to generate some income by producing beadwork that her brothers sold on the streets when they walked home from school. They often had to wait for a long time because other patients with adult relatives pushed in front of the queue. When she was 11 years old. Her brothers and her sister were always clean and well cared for. Tutula now lives with her uncle who pays for her education. 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. In her spare time she worked in the garden to provide food. The social worker arranged for the children to be sent to different members of the extended family. Tutula accompanied her mother to the clinic regularly. Explain that everyone has to practise before we can do things without making mistakes. her mother told her about her HIV/AIDS status. She is glad that she can go to school and she is grateful to her uncle. Not many relatives attended the funeral.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. Helplessness Tutula is 14 years old. Tutula arranged a simple funeral.

By coping she demonstrated strong organisational skills as well as a warm and nurturing personality. and it triggers feelings like rage. Because her contribution to the family was ignored. It makes her angry. Tutula may have some concrete suggestions to make. Tutula needs a trusting relationship with an adult. She has to be reassured that everything she did to care for her siblings. In contrast. Treat Tutula like an adult. Tutula coped. yet she somehow managed. guilt. The sense of helplessness makes people feel extremely vulnerable. but remember that because she is not yet an adult she needs more attention and guidance than an adult. 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. inadequacy and shame. 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. 79 . Suddenly all responsibility and control was taken away from her and she was left to face the disruption of her family. based on mutual 2. She has a strong bond with her family. Tutula needs someone to boost her self-esteem and her selfconfidence. Tutula feels desperate and very confused about her situation. Explaining her behaviour The experience of total helplessness is a central experience for people going through trauma and loss. Once again adults are taking decisions in her life without consulting her. she did well and that she did everything she could. She has to learn to trust herself again and to trust other people too. What can you do to help? 1. despite all her efforts to maintain normality.funeral. It is likely that she often felt helpless when she had to care for her mother and parent her siblings. her experiences at the clinic and with the social worker made her feel vulnerable because she was not treated as an adult. Discuss which suggestions may be possible and which are impossible. She maintained control and the helplessness never made her feel inadequate. This sense of helplessness often makes people lose faith in themselves and makes them distrust their own skills and abilities. Helplessness makes people feel overwhelmed by what is happening. Ask Tutula what would help her now. but Tutula’s involvement in the decision and her consent would have left her feeling less inadequate and guilty.

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. 4. Ask the child to imagine a situation where she is in charge. When she can really feel that feeling. ask what memories she had. Encourage her to have frequent contact with her siblings. When she has finished. 3. Reassure her that they are doing well. Listen to what she tells you. The questions are to help her get in deeper contact with her feelings. Does she see the scene she is imagining in black and white. feet on the ground and eyes closed. 4. The following exercise can help children who feel insecure and inadequate to recognise their inner resources again. This will boost her self-esteem. Ask her to remember times when she felt helpless. or with a group of children together. include Tutula in decisions that affect her life. Hand over some responsible tasks to Tutula that she will be able to manage and control. a piece of paper and a pin (or anything that can be used to scratch with).understanding and acceptance. 1. She feels self-confident. 80 . 5. Tutula should cover the whole sheet of paper with those colours. choose some wax crayons in the colours that symbolise this feeling and start colouring the piece of paper. Start off with an imagination exercise. Remind her about 2. 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. they have to rediscover their strengths and abilities. In future. Ask Tutula to sit straight. successful and in control. she is successful and she is managing difficult situations. It can be done on a one-to-one basis. Each child needs wax crayons. Ask her to look around the scene that she is imagining. 3. Ask Tutula how it feels when she is strong. 5. In the new relationship. ask her to open her eyes. Like Tutula. It builds coping skills and selfesteem and is suitable for children aged nine and older. Tutula has to recognise her own strength and her ability to cope.

talk about how she felt while she coloured with the negative colours. Help her give names to her feelings. Sometimes we can’t see them because our problems seem to overshadow (or cover) everything. She is very sensitive and is afraid of leaving the house. If she says no.“I have…” 10. Prompt her to say. 7. Physical complaints and body pains Ingrid is 11 years old. If she says yes. After Tutula has finished. Ask her to colour vigorously over the first layer of colours with the colours of her negative feelings. Explore what it means to have hidden resources. “I am…” Ask her to list the external resources that can help her. look at her picture together and talk about her hidden qualities and resources.) After she has finished. Once again. 9. 8.the way she feels at the moment: angry. “I can…” Ask Tutula to list the things she likes about herself. She must cover them all up! (Usually the child will use darker colours for the negative feelings. Once again. 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. ask her what prevents them from coming up again. Look at her paper together and ask her if this is the way she feels at the moment. Prompt her to say. Prompt her to say. Ask her what needs to change to allow her good qualities to come to the surface again. She doesn’t talk much. Ask Tutula to list the things she is able to do. but she likes to watch the other children. The house is crowded with other cousins who also live with the grandmother. inadequate or exposed. Note: Don’t do an imagination exercise for the negative feelings! 6. Since her mother died of TB six months ago she has been living with her grandmother. Ask her if she can remember her strengths and successes that are hidden beneath her negative feelings. let her describe the way she feels. Ask her if she thinks they will come to the surface again. Ingrid is very quiet and shy. ask her to choose colours that express her negative feelings. Often 81 . ask her when she will let them come up again.

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. she may find out what is bothering her and this will help her pain to go away. the pain in her chest could be related to her mother’s death. 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. Talk to Ingrid about her pain. The doctor could find nothing wrong. She says that all her bones ache. Although she may complain about the pain in her chest. Suggest that if she talks about it. it is likely that the child is reacting to stress. 4.she can’t go to school because of a sharp pain in her chest. This type of sickness is called “psychosomatic”. but the pain will go away. 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. Make sure that Ingrid participates in physical games or sport. Create a warm and nurturing environment. Children often get pains in their stomachs or chests when something is bothering them. 5. Explaining her behaviour When a child is sick but the doctor can’t find anything wrong. 3. 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. They may behave like the deceased parent or they might have similar complaints. Ingrid must attend school. sad or insecure. Once you have thoroughly investigated the cause of the pain and discussed it with her. send her to school just the same. don’t dwell on it. Find out when the pain is stronger and when it fades away. What can you do to help at home? 1. . Pay more attention to her on the days that she feels well. Her grandmother took her to the doctor. This will also reduced the occurrence of the pain. draws a picture about it or writes it down. 82 2. some children identify with the illness suffered by the deceased parent. it usually suggests that the child’s body is reacting to emotional stress. Tell her that many children get aches and pains when they feel scared. Insecurity and anxiety are also often expressed through body pains. In order to stay connected to their parents. In Ingrid’s case.

What can you do to help at school? 1. 2. 7. When she starts working again. Ingrid could use the breathing exercise any time that the pain is very strong. Contact the caregiver to make sure that a doctor has examined Ingrid. Allow her to take a short break. reassure Ingrid when she complaints about pain. but don’t give her too much sympathy or attention. Teach Ingrid the breathing exercise and encourage her to practise it regularly.6. drink a glass of water and then carry on with her work. praise her for handling the pain so well. 83 . just to make sure that you are still dealing with a psychosomatic complaint. If the doctor diagnoses that the pain is stress-related. Take Ingrid for regular check-ups at the clinic.

PLEASE NOTE: The ages indicated below show the minimum ages that activities should be used for. holding their hands in front of them so that the palms of their hands face towards the middle of the circle. The falling game and even for adults.6 Games Children learn as they play. Most activities can be used. Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 7 to 9 Materials required: None Duration: Short 84 . All children except one stand close together in a circle. the group leader gives a signal and the child in the middle lets him or herself fall in any direction. 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. 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. When everyone is ready. 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. The games are designed to foster social and emotional learning and intelligence in children. for any ages above the minimum age. The remaining child stands in the middle of the circle and makes him or herself as stiff as a rod. however.

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.

Walking blindfolded
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

Each child should have a turn at playing both dog and guide. Before starting the game. Agree on the start and the finish. and some items to build an obstacle course: sticks. Blindfold one child in each pair. Once the children have got used to the game. to encourage children to take responsibility for one another and to activate the senses. 88 . 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. 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. benches. 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. Allow each child to take a turn at being blindfolded. schoolbags. The children gather at the start and set off together in pairs. This makes the game more difficult because each blindfolded child has to focus on the voice of his or her own guide. the dogs should bark and listen to each other to identify where the sound comes from to find each other. The blindfolded child has to cross the obstacle course from the start to the finish. Instead. After the dogs have found one another. 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. stones. chairs. 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. build an obstacle course with various obstacles. boxes. Blind walk with directions The aim of this game is to enhance trust and selfconfidence. swop over. several children can start at the same time. 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.not yet familiar with the concepts of left and right.

children could take turns at being the head of the snake. helpless and frightened – can you name any? • In real life. 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. The other children need courage to be led about with their eyes closed and their hands in a fixed position. do you have someone who helps you to overcome obstacles. The snake starts to move forward slowly.When setting up the obstacle course. what did you hear? Smell? Feel? Other than not being able to see. All the other children close their eyes. make sure that the obstacles are manageable for the children. • Was it more difficult crossing an obstacle course that you had not seen? • In real life. how does it feel when you manage something you thought you would never be able to cope with? • In real life. The child at the front of the line is the snake’s head and keeps his or her eyes open. what else felt different? • As the snake’s head. 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. 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. Depending on how much time is available for this game. Variation To make it more difficult. other kinds of obstacles make a person feel weak. The head must be responsible for all the other children in the snake and must move carefully. how did it feel to lead a group? What was the most impressive experience for you? 89 . 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. 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. The head must set the pace so that everyone feels safe and is able to follow. 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.

group-cohesion and self-esteem through overcoming obstacles. 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. encourage social learning skills and responsiveness to the needs of others. 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. flexibility and co-operation.Games for group cohesiveness and social skills The games in this section are to foster group cohesiveness.5 m long and tied in a circle work as well) Duration: Short . This is important. These children lift the hand that is closest to the main messenger. The main messenger now sends a message to another child in the circle by nodding his head towards the other child. Anyone who raises the wrong arm must leave the circle. 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 rule is that no one may let go of the other children’s hands. All the children stand in a circle. The messenger The aim of this game is to encourage observation. team spirit. And so the game continues. concentration. 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. He or she stretches both arms above the head. The first messenger and first helper messengers drop their arms to their sides again. Before the last children hold hands and close the circle. This child now becomes the main messenger and must lift both arms. The game becomes more difficult as fewer children remain in the circle. The children on either side of the main messenger are helper messengers.

The trick is to step through the hula-hoop feet-first and then with the help of one’s neighbours.length of rope) over the hands of the last children so that the hula-hoop hangs over their clasped hands. jiggle the hula-hoop up until the head can be squeezed through. everyone is involved in the activity. For really advanced teams you could have three hoops moving around the circle at the same time. Since all members of the circle are interconnected and everyone is either helping or climbing. sharing. recognising one another’s needs. In this game. Tell the Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 5 or more children Materials required: Sheets of newspaper Duration: Short 91 . survivor skills and problem solving. In the beginning this will take some practice. Discuss these questions with the children • In the beginning. 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. The children must make the hula-hoop move around the circle without the circle ever breaking. To make it more interesting. you could add a second hula-hoop at the opposite side of the circle. The hula-hoop dangles loosely. 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 paper is spread on the floor and each penguin stands on his or her sheet of newspaper. 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. one child is the sun and the other children are penguins. Each penguin is given a sheet of newspaper. 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. The first child’s neighbour must repeat the process.

The second sheets of newspaper are placed in front of each team. Agree on a distance that both groups have to cover. placing it in front of them and stepping on to it. Each team receives two big sheets of newspaper. team spirit. 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. but they don’t have much endurance. bed space. money to pay for school. Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 6 or more children. The team to reach the finish first wins the game. decision-making skills and self-esteem. Eventually penguins will have to stand on one leg or even share ice bricks with neighbours. This is a competitive game. move closer together and hold tightly to each other. A penguin must always be in touch with an ice brick or else it falls into the sea. space. divided into groups of three Materials required: None Duration: Varies 92 .) • 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. conflict resolution skills. On your command. in a row. picking up the sheet of newspaper that they have just stepped off. the children must cover the distance to the finish line by stepping from one sheet of newspaper to the next. To make it more difficult. holding hands. One sheet is placed on the ground and the whole team stands on it. Penguins can swim. clothing. or attention. The sun now walks around and starts tearing pieces of newspaper from the ice bricks on which the penguins are standing.children that the newspaper is the penguin’s ice brick. The children work together in teams of three.) 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. then bending backwards. 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.

the chick becomes the fox and the fox becomes one of the hens. The hens form a line holding hands and the little chick is the last child at the end of the row. Age group: 8 years and older Number of players: 2 or more children. 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. Both children have to learn to adjust to each other’s movements. The fox now tries to chase the chick. one child plays the chick. The children stand facing each other at about the same distance as the length of the stick. Duration: Varies To keep the two sticks balanced. Sticks should be of similar length. team spirit and self-esteem. the chick and the hens The aim of this game is to foster group cohesiveness. and the rest of the children are the hens. the children must observe closely and react quickly to one another. This game can get a little wild! One child plays the fox. Now place the second stick between the tips of the index fingers of the remaining hands. both children have to apply a little pressure. The chick holds hands with the hen beside her. preferably of equal length. divided into pairs Materials required: Each child should have a straight stick (a pen with a lid works as well). 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. 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. To keep the stick balanced. The hen at the end of the line (the one who was next to the chick) becomes the new chick. This is not easy! 93 . Each pair needs two straight sticks.The fox. If the fox manages to touch the chick. awareness of and respect for one another and concentration.

The children stand in a row. If you have a large group of children. they may start counting how often they can toss the ball without falling on the ground. children hold opposite ends of a towel. in two lines or in circles. The child at the front of the row is the head of the snake and the last child is the tail. The aim of the game is for the head of the snake to grab the piece of cloth at the end of the tail. the other pairs try to catch the ball on their towels. the game can be played with children standing in a triangle. Working in pairs. A ball is placed on one of the towels. The game becomes more difficult if more children participate. Once the children get better at this. Much more co-ordination and communication is needed. 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.Depending on the number of children. sheets or blankets and have groups of four children. holding on to each other’s shoulders. one behind the other. Bear in mind that if more children take part it becomes more difficult to catch and toss the ball. 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. Age group: 8 years and older Number of players: 4 or more children. Towel catch The aim of this game is to encourage group co-operation and co-ordination. you could use bigger towels.) As soon as the ball is in the air. 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 . A piece of cloth is stuck into the belt or the trousers of the child at the end of the row.

what things did you have to be aware of? • When you were the head. If this game gets too wild. Discuss these questions with the children • When you were the tail. 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. and to encourage self-esteem. This is quite easy and children usually manage without much difficulty. The head and the tail must pay attention to the rest of the group while running and chasing each other. 1st exercise: The children must get over the rope as a group holding one another’s hands. the children will let go of one another and they may stumble or fall. all the other children hold on tightly to the child in front of him or her. Two children take opposites ends of a rope and pull it taut about 30 cm from the ground. but they must imagine that the rope has an electric current and no one should touch it. This means that the head can only run as fast as the whole snake allows. 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 of the snake chases the tail. to reinforce conflict resolution and decision-making skills. Now the group must get over (not under) the rope without touching it. All other children stand on one side of the rope. You should interrupt the game – the aim of the game is for the children to stay connected to one another. the head becomes the tail and the next child in the row takes over as the head. 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. 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. 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 .

who immediately throws it back to number one in the middle. It is crucial to discuss the game with the children after they have finished. all the number ones throw the ball to each child in the group. the numbers one to eight if there are eight children in the group). older Number of players: 5 or more children Materials required: None Duration: Varies 96 . Each group will need a ball. They will also realise that the stronger children must assist the less agile children. If some children do not manage at all. communicating and decision-making as well? • If you are “strong”. do you have other skills and strengths that are valuable? • What are these skills and strengths? Games for fostering self-esteem. The groups play against each other. Each group stands in a circle and the circles must stay the same size. On your command. 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. 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. 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. children climb over the rope by lifting each other over it or climbing onto each other’s backs. or does it need other skills like thinking. does it mean that you are generally strong or do you have weaker points as well? • If you belonged to the less agile group. Usually. (Nothing else may be used to help them.Some children will still not find this particularly difficult. Divide the class into equal groups of five to eight (or more) children. Each child in the circle gets a number (for example. they may not use chairs to stand on.) 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. Child number one in each group stands in the middle of the circle. The rope should be high enough that the children can just manage without any accidents. make it a little easier for them by lowering the rope. For example.

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.

Twin soccer
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

They should say..”(or happy. angry. If children find this difficult you could change the sentence to.. jealous – any kind of feeling). you could introduce a new rule: no feeling may be mentioned more than once. It is important to find several activities for the same feeling.” Older children will soon realise that there are some feelings that people express more or less in the same way.Soon the children will want to add their own verses and activities. This is a very simple game. Can you remember how it felt? Try to put yourself back into that situation. As the group leader you may notice that the more often you play this game. the more the children become accustomed to expressing their feelings and giving their feelings names. The children could also count how often the ball is passed until none of the children can think of any new feelings. 100 Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: Any number Materials required: A ball Duration: Short . All the children stand in a circle.. 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. Show me how you look when you feel. One child has a ball (or anything you can throw and catch without getting hurt). The other children will have to explain when they felt sad/happy/jealous.“The last time I felt jealous was when. because this teaches the children a variety of responses.“Think about the last time you felt jealous.” • Sometimes children cannot get in touch with their feelings immediately. but it helps children to learn a variety of names for their feelings as well as ways to express their feelings. The child who catches the ball has to act out the feeling with his or her whole body.” • Some children find it difficult to act out a feeling. The child passes the ball to another child calling. but different people express other feelings differently.. It may help to say. “Show me what you do when you are.. to encourage motor co-ordination..“Show me how you look when you feel sad. With children that have become used to the game. The aim of this game is to get to know one’s feelings and how feelings can be expressed.

you should whisper the name of the feeling to them. Write the names of feelings on little cards. for example a soccer player looking happy after scoring a goal. Cut the word out of the list and stick it onto the face. Ask each child to choose one feeling and then to draw a big face showing that feeling. They should make sentences like. “The soccer player is happy because he scored a goal. Hang the faces around the classroom. you can take this activity a step further by asking the child to write a short story about the event happening in the picture. This list may get very long! Display the list in the classroom. (If the child can’t read. Let each child choose a card and read the feeling silently to himself or herself. or a person looking sad saying goodbye to a friend. 101 Age group: 4 years and older Number of players: Any number Materials required: paper or card to be cut into cards Duration: Varies . This enhances their self-expression and writing skills. Discuss the situations that cause certain feelings in the children. excited. a woman looking angry after someone bumped her car.” With older children (eight years old and older). Make a list of the feelings a person can have. satisfied.Picture games The aim of these games is to get to know one’s own feelings and to be able to express them. The other children in the class must guess what the feeling is. Cut out pictures that show people expressing feelings. 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.) Each child must demonstrate the feeling to the class using only facial expressions or body language. a child looking excited on her birthday. Ask the children to describe what they see in each picture. Show the pictures to the children and ask them what the people in the pictures are feeling.) 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. Ask them to describe something that made them angry (or scared.

Pictures and bubbles The aim of this game is to get to know one’s feelings and how feelings can be expressed. “Imagine that the angry child in the picture is a real child. When working with a group of children. 6. Now ask the child to imagine that the picture could come alive like a movie or a TV programme. 8. Say to the child. Is the child in the picture happy. If there is another figure in the picture. Write this on a separate bubble and let the child paste it to the picture. What would happen next? Let the child tell the story. Ask the child to describe what he or she can see in the picture. jealous or angry? When working with younger children you may have to suggest some feelings! 4. Ask the child what the people in the picture are doing. Exercise for children younger than 9 years old Use a speech bubble as shown on this page. ask the child how he or she thinks this person would respond. Praise the child for making up such an interesting story. 5. After the child has finished telling the story. 2. sad. each of the children chooses a picture. Ask the child what the figure in the picture is saying. Ask the child how he or she thinks the people in the picture feel. 7. summarise it. 3. Collect pictures from newspapers or magazines. Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 4-5 Materials required: Pictures showing people interacting in various situations. 1. emphasising the feelings in the story and tell it back to the child. Let the child choose a picture (or show a picture to the child). Use bubbles as illustrated below and on the next page. Duration: Short 102 . What do you think the child would say now?” Write the child’s comment into the bubble and glue it to the picture. Hand a bubble to the child and ask him or her to place it on one of the figures in the picture.

hate. 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. Feeling dice To make it more interesting for the children you could make “feeling dice”with them. Use the rescue star – she could perhaps try to talk to the group leader about her problem. betrayal. After asking what the children see in the picture.Picture and bubbles for children 9 years old and older The exercise is similar to the one for younger children. 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. Write the comments in the appropriate bubbles and paste them onto the picture. revenge. The child could use the rescue star to identify a possible solution to the situation in the picture. fold it along the dotted lines and glue it 103 . what they are thinking and what they are saying or doing. anger. but older children are able to differentiate between feelings. guilt. If a child describes a story that contains negative feelings (or expressions of helplessness. Feeling dice are made out of cardboard or paper. sadness. The group leader could discuss teasing in class and establish a class rule.) Make a copy of the illustration and give one to each child in the class. ask them to describe how the people are feeling. A feeling bubble (how do you think the figures in the pictures are feeling?) could be square. For example. (Of course you could use wooden cubes if they are available. aggression. thoughts and deeds and so it is important to give them different shaped bubbles to use. The children should cut out the illustration. shame or disgust) you could introduce a new symbol: a “help” bubble or a “rescue” star.

Each honest answer will get a point. Before gluing the cube together. For example. 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 . ask the children to draw a face displaying a different feeling on each panel. The goal of the game is to answer the questions as honestly as possible. After the children have finished making their dice ask them to get into small groups or pairs.“Describe what happened when you were last very ______”.together in the form of a cube. Questions will refer to feelings – what causes feelings and how we express them. Explain that they are going to play games with their dice.Younger children may need some help with this.

Lay the two pieces of cardboard on top of each other and with a pencil. 2. Ask the question. Answers like “I don’t know. Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 1 and the person who guides the process Materials required: Two thick pieces of card. it is the next child’s turn. 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. a second child should ask the questions which the first child must answer.) If it lands on an angry face. 4. Both dice are thrown and two different faces come up (for example. With older children who can already reflect more deeply. you could play the game with two dice. When you have finished. angry and excited). Ask the other children if they can think of similar situations. 5. Each time a child answers a question honestly. After answering the question honestly. You now have the cardboard figure. This game encourages children to speak about their feelings and the way they express their feelings. Cut the head off your cardboard figure. a piece of cardboard with a hole in the shape of a figure and another piece of cardboard. scraps of wool. a sharp knife. sellotape. he or she gets a point. scraps of material Duration: Short 3. trace the outline of the figure onto the second piece of cardboard.One child should then throw the die (Note: We use one “die”. the figure should drop out. Dressing the doll Teaching a younger child to identify emotions Preparations 1.” will not be accepted. Glue the rest of the (headless) figure onto the outline that you traced on the second piece of cardboard. koki pens or colouring pencils. Cut along the outline of the figure with a sharp knife without cutting into the figure. Take two thick pieces of card of the same size (approximately 25 cm x 20 cm). but many “dice”to play a game.“When did you feel angry and excited at the same time?”Let the child describe the situation. so it flips 105 . On one piece of card draw the outline of a simple figure.

Choose a head that represents how the child feels and put it in the head and closed like a book. for example during his father’s funeral or when her mother died. scissors. The figure should fit into the hole when the two sides are closed. If the top pieces of card are stuck correctly. 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. Ask the child to open the window and describe what he or she sees in the mirror. 8. Use the head to trace some more heads and cut them out. 3. Ask the child to choose a face that shows how the child felt at any particular moment. 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). The figure in the card can be changed as often as the child wishes. Draw different expressions (or feelings) on each head. 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. The fabric shows through the cut out shape. slide one or two pieces of material inside the card and then close it again. 6. Do the same with the other piece of card. 7. When working with younger children. 10. 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. but stick it along the right-hand side. strong sellotape and a mirror (preferably square) Duration: Varies . 2. These squares will be the “clothing”. Take the card that you have made and glue some wool around the head-hole to look like hair. 11. Flip the card open. 9. Take some scraps of material and cut squares approximately 15 cm x 15 cm. Glue the mirror onto the A4 cardboard. they will open from the centre like cupboard doors to show the mirror inside. slipping the material inside and flipping it closed again.

the collar of your shirt. sad. the child will see him/herself from different angles.The conversation may go like this: “It’s me!” “Yes. angry. As soon as the child’s face changes. 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. Then ask him or her to make a sad (happy/angry/jealous) face. For a mirror book you will need two pieces of cardboard of the same size and two mirrors of the same size. join them to one another with the join in the middle like a book. Say that this is easier to do if he or she thinks of a sad (happy/angry/jealous) situation.. eyebrows. teeth.” Try to get the child to give you as detailed a description as possible. nose. discuss it with the child. The mirror book The mirror book is a development of the mirror window. etc. Emphasise that it is important to feel the feelings in our bodies and that our bodies give us signs about how we feel. ears. Then ask the child to change the picture – let the child experiment with making funny faces. mouth. it’s you. Have a close look and describe what you see. hair. ask the child to open the mirror and check for him/herself. content. After the description. Glue the mirrors onto the cardboard and using sellotape. 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. ask the child whether the reflection in the mirror looks happy. 107 .Yes. If the child puts his or her nose close to the mirrors and moves the two mirrors towards his or her face. Older children may describe what happens to their faces when their emotions change.

Games to deal with aggression and frustration House of cards This games examines how children deal with frustration. 2. 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 . The last time my body gave me a sign that I was very upset.“Where in your body do you feel it when you are really angry?”Or. If you only have one pack of playing cards. Let the children work together in groups of three to five.“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. Say. I can do _______ (activities) to make me feel better.You may want to make notes about how the children react.Ask the child to colour in (or draw a circle around) the part of the body in which he or she feels anger. When my body gives me signs that I am very angry (impatient/jealous/etc) and I can feel it in _______ (part of the body). I_______ (activity the child did) to make me feel better. 3. It is also a way to assist a child in finding adequate and helpful ways to deal with negative feelings. I _______ (activity the child did) to make me feel better when I felt _______ (feeling). Ask the child to complete the sentences below. It helped me a lot/helped me a bit/didn’t help me at all. which makes us think about the way we deal with our feelings. have one group of children demonstrate the game to the rest of the class. 1.

which must be squashed into a paper ball. all children throw their paper balls into the opposite half of the field. end the exercise and discuss it with the class. 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. alarm clock or cellphone (mobile phone) with an alarm Duration: Until everyone is exhausted! 109 . Give the children ten minutes to try. wristwatch. 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. Watch the children for signs of frustration. 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. Age group: 4 years and older Number of players: 4 or more children Materials required: Old newspaper. set the alarm clock for four to eight minutes. The winning team – when time’s up – is the team with the fewest balls on their side of the field. • Ask the class for ideas about what they can do when they get frustrated. Divide the children into two teams and allocate each team to one half of a field with a line down the middle. Each player is given one sheet of layer on top of another as illustrated in the diagram. Get rid of it! This game is good for letting off steam. Don’t forget to ask the children to collect the paper balls and throw them away after you have finished playing. 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.

but the lion has to get closer to the impala to catch them. 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 lion has the advantage that the cloth stays where it falls. depending on who caught him or her. the group leader calls out the name of one of the children sitting in the circle. To start the game. Alternatively. The impala try to hide in the field. The lion must try to get the piece of cloth. The hunter has the advantage of the ball being faster. then the side with the most impala already caught is the winning team. Hit me if you can This game is a good ice-breaker when children are getting to know one another. Immediately. • The rest of the children are the impala. The child whose name was called out Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 7 or more children – the more. The hunter and the lion both chase the impala. • Who is going to be the hunter. depending on the side that has the most impala. the child holding the newspaper tries to hit the knees of the child whose name was called out. 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. First mark the boundaries of a field within which the players must stay. The game ends when all the impala have been caught. the game ends if the hunter hits the lion or the lion hits the hunter. either trying to hit them with the piece of cloth (the lion) or “shoot”them with the ball (the hunter).Lion and hunter This game is good for letting off steam. the better Materials required: One rolled-up newspaper – see “Observations” below Duration: Short 110 . it encourages concentration and quick reactions. Make sure that the ground is soft and that there are no obstacles to trip over or sharp stones to hurt the children. Either the lion’s team or the hunter’s team will win. One child stands in the middle of the circle holding a rolled-up newspaper. All the children sit in a circle. but the ball leaves the field more often and he or she has to fetch it. The hunter must try to get the ball.

The child holding the newspaper immediately tries to hit the second child on the knees. the faster and more fun the game becomes. Observations Because children may hit very hard with the newspaper. Make sure that neither child is interrupted by anybody. This child then stands in the circle with the newspaper and the other child joins the children in the circle. It may be valuable to use this game as a starting game for a group discussion about aggression. The atmosphere could be very unpleasant and it would be useless trying to teach. The rest of the class may also be upset and may have taken sides. In an environment where hitting or beating children is common (although not allowed) it may be necessary to discuss the game with the children. the children who were fighting will be very tense. Don’t take sides.may only “rescue”him or herself by quickly calling out the name of another child in the circle. It helps aggressive children deal with their aggressive behaviour. If there has been a fight in the classroom or during break. The game continues until one child doesn’t react quickly enough and is hit on the knees. explaining that their game is the only time that they may hit one another. it is important that only a newspaper is used and not a stick. Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: The whole class Materials required: None Duration: Varies 111 . anger and how to express negative emotions. anger.) 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. rage. The faster the children react. Ask each of the “opponents” to describe briefly what happened. 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. etc.

• No one is allowed to touch the other person. Everything has to be said by gestures and actions.“Slow!”Everyone should slow down. It might still be full of anger and rage. No one may disobey the rules. press “play”and start the two players off again. (Make sure that the children understand what a remote control is. When you press the rewind button they will have to walk backwards and do all the movements backwards. • Tell the children that you are in charge of an imaginary remote control. 112 . very slowly). Press your imaginary button and call. Press your imaginary button and call. Establish some rules first.Tell them to come to the front and play the fight in the classroom. moving very. • There is no talking. When the two opponents reach the end of the scene. Tell them that you will have to rewind the scene (like you rewind a tape). leaving the two opponents standing there “frozen”.“freeze”them and ask them how they feel in that situation. Each movement has to stop a few centimetres short of the other child.You can even stop the scene. Ask if they can think of another way to solve their conflict and avoid a fight. slow them down with your remote control the movements can be extremely slow. Don’t allow any real fighting to start. Test it on the whole class: ask them to move their arms around.“Fast!” Everyone should speed up.“Start. Start them in slow motion. Press your imaginary button and call. press your imaginary button and call. Ask the players if they would like to try another scene in which they try out other ways to solve the conflict. When you see the players speeding up. Ask the class for ideas (keep the players frozen). When they are back in their starting position. but allow the scene to unfold at normal speed. This will have to happen very quickly because tapes rewind very quickly! This usually looks very funny and makes everyone laugh. The whole scene will first be played in slow motion (like an action replay on television.”Stay in total control of the scene. Arrange the starting scene with the two opponents.) This imagined control allows you to control what is happening.“Stop!”Everyone should freeze.

When you give a sign. If the child understood the sentence correctly. about 15 metres apart. After you have finished. 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. right in the middle. One person from each group tells the teacher the sentence that the group has chosen. One child from each group stands behind the opposite group. 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 there are still negative feelings. so it will be difficult for the children behind the lines to understand their sentences. Discuss the non-violent problem-solving. both groups start shouting their sentence from the child from their group who is standing behind the opposite group. ask them how they feel. his or her group gets a point. The two listeners join their groups again and two other children are chosen to stand behind the lines and listen. Both groups are shouting at the same time. 113 Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: The whole class Materials required: None Duration: Varies . Each group creates a five-word sentence (younger children need only think of one word). Each group stands in a line. the other group gets a point. The teacher stands between the two lines.When they reach the end of the scene. Ask the class what happened. This technique is time-consuming and you will probably not have time to return to your lesson plan. the child must run to the teacher to report the sentence. let the ex-opponents sit down. If the child misunderstood the sentence. 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. talk about what can be done to solve the problem. The screaming game This is a game that helps to relieve tension. As soon as one of the two children thinks they have understood the sentence.

“Fish!”until they meet a child who keeps quiet. saying. let the whole class take time out. If necessary.You may want to add a breathing exercise at this stage. 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. This means that this child must stay silent. Time out If the whole class is restless. The child who bumped into the fish must keep quiet too. Ask them to cross their arms on their desks and put their heads on their arms.“You’re the fish!”into the ear of one of the children. OK. All the children close their eyes and move around the room.) Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: The whole class Materials required: None Duration: Varies The teacher whispers. The game ends when every child is silent. Try to keep your feet still. Ask the children to clear their desks and make sure that each child has enough space for himself or herself. I want you to be very quiet now. (It is easier to use a school hall or a fenced playground where there is no furniture in the way. tell them that you want them to lie quite still. Tell them that you do not expect them to do anything but to keep very quiet. address them by name. All the other children move around and when they bump into each other they say.” If you can play some quiet music. Quietly but firmly.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 the children to sit down. Just rest your head on your hands. you do not wish to see anybody move. this would be even better.“Sara. Then tell the children to open their eyes and sit up. Ask them to close their eyes and just lie silently until you tell them to sit up.You may instead want to blindfold the children. 114 . It helps children to relax. well done.

a short piece of rope or some material. Siamese twins The children work in pairs. tie a shoelace. Together. they need to learn to be assertive enough to express their own feelings.Games for help-seeking. crayons. wishes and thoughts. or place an arm around the waist or shoulder of their partners so that they each have one free hand to use. autonomy and awareness Children have to learn how to function in groups. open a bottle. The following exercises help children to respect other people. sellotape. They need to learn to respect other people’s thoughts and feelings. 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 . 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. Add interest by having the children hold one another’s ears or feet instead of holding hands. they must complete various tasks: carry a bucket. They hold one hand. Small children will probably find it impossible to tie a shoelace. Age group: 5 years and older Number of players: 2 or more children Materials required: Paper. On the other hand. to work with other people and to co-operate in a group while retaining their unique individuality.

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. They hold their hands in front of them. Suggest something straightforward to start with. Encourage them to discuss the questions below. 116 . The children will need to concentrate and anticipate what their partner is going to do next. The children should hold their other hands behind their backs. working in pairs Materials required: None Duration: Varies The children stand facing each other. like a mirror image. let them report back on how they felt. Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 2 or more children. Now ask them to use the joined hands to draw a picture of something. One child starts to move his or her hands and the other should try to copy the movements. like a house or a car. • 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. Observe what happens. Their hands should not touch. Make sure that both children express their opinions. at a distance of approximately 10 cm. palms facing each other. Both children should hold the same pen. Have two children stand beside one another and then tie their adjacent hands together.Siamese twins for older children Use the sellotape to stick the paper to the wall or the floor.

Let the children try this exercise for a while. Once again.Let the children try this for some time. but one child remains alone. As soon as a child has been winked at. 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. Step 2 Form groups of three. the children start to move their hands. 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. each one holding his or her hands out towards the other children in the group. once again approximately 10 cm apart. before taking a rest to discuss the questions below. The winking is done as secretly as possible. Children should stand in a triangle. On your signal. The children standing at the back hold their hands behind their backs. since the partners standing in the outer circle must try to keep the partner standing in front. the pairs form a circle. Standing one behind the other. both facing the middle of the circle. 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? . 117 Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 9 or more children. he or she must try to run to the person who winked. Discuss these questions with the children • How was working in threes different from working in pairs? • If it was more difficult. The partner at the back throws his or her arms around the partner in front to prevent the child from getting away. Observe what changes when both hands are moved. They must discover how best to follow in different directions and to accommodate their partners. their hands may not touch. 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.

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 may not jump any more. Each child must be very attentive and maintain eye contact with the child who has no partner. Each flea may jump ten times. When the flea hunter catches a flea or touches a flea by accident. Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 2 or more children. accurate perception and visual focusing. The observer must make sure that the blindfolded flea catcher doesn’t hurt him or herself or leave the premises. 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. If a partner has been stolen away. they swop roles and the flea becomes the flea catcher. Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 5 or more children. The children agree who will be the camera and who will be the photographer. The fleas squat on the ground and make chirping sounds.The children at the back may not follow if their partner runs to the winker. The fleas are allowed to jump away. The flea catcher is blindfolded and tries to catch the fleas. If the flea catcher correctly identifies the flea. the flea catcher has to identify the flea by gently touching his or her face. The new flea has ten jumps to use and the game begins again. it is then the turn of the partner left behind to wink in order to steal another child. but if a flea uses up all of its ten jumps. Games to see how feelings appear physically Catching fleas One child plays the flea catcher and all the others are fleas. working in pairs Materials required: None Duration: Short 118 . 1 observer Materials required: A cloth to use as a blindfold.

trying to observe as much as possible. This version can only be played with children who are fluent readers. the camera and the photographer sit down and the child who played the camera describes. In the beginning you may want to allow both children to keep their eyes open and watch what is happening.) • 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. opens its eyes. what he or she saw. To make it more difficult. Without moving his or her head. with the help of the inner pictures. 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. The same process is repeated. After a few moments. The receiving child must concentrate and combine the letters in his or her head to form a word. Age group: Children who can read Number of players: 2 Materials required: None Duration: Short 119 . one letter after another.The photographer adjusts the camera and. The second child has to feel what the first child has written. The child pretending to be the camera must try to produce inner pictures of what he or she sees. the child who is writing may decide to write a whole word. 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. One child uses an index finger or a twig to gently “write”a letter on the palm of the other child’s hand. Then the two children swop roles and the game is repeated. the camera looks closely at the subject. awareness of bodily feelings. the shutter closes (the camera’s eyes close) and the camera is led to a new subject. by pulling on the ear of the camera. After taking pictures of three to five subjects.

The children line up and form a circle. awareness of bodily feelings and relaxation. The child must concentrate.”while gently massaging the shoulders of the child in front of him or her. The children should concentrate on their bodies. a circle or a triangle with smaller children. It helps the children to follow this game if you participate as group leader. 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. 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 . awareness of bodily feelings. 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. so that each child faces the back of the child in front of him or her. As group leader. The game goes on until it reaches the front of the line.“And now we all feel the sun rising and shining gently on our backs. you draw a shape with your index finger on the back of the last child in the line. The children stand in a long line. The shape could be a square. so that everybody is gently massaging the child in front of him or her while having his or her own shoulders massaged as well. This helps to prevent the secret message from being revealed before reaching its goal. The other children follow suit. The group leader starts the game by saying.) Each child places his or her hands on the shoulders of the child in front of him or her. (The group leader is part of the circle as well. No one may talk. letters or numbers with bigger children.Secret messages The aim of this game is to encourage concentration.

“and suddenly it stops. the sun comes out.) Group leader: “And the rain grew harder and harder.) “And then a strong wind blows.) All children follow suit. Other children will love the game since it allows them to relax and be active and focused at the same time.”(Tapping firmly with all fingers. touch should be restricted to the shoulders and the upper part of the back. Children who don’t want to participate should not be forced to do so.”(Pause. Some children may feel uncomfortable since the game requires a lot of bodily contact.) “And more and more.” (Tapping harder and faster.” (Tapping gently on the shoulders of the child in front of you.) “And more lightning!”(Draw another line.” (Massage the child’s back gently.) “And a loud roar of thunder!”(Gently clap with both hands on the child’s back.”(Making whooshing sounds and stroking firmly left to right.”(tap with fingertips only). and back again.) “And more thunder!”(Another clap.“Suddenly big clouds appear in the sky. 121 . quietly.Then the group leader continues. 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.”(Tap more gently.) “And still harder!”(Tapping hard and fast.) “And slowly.) “And suddenly the rain grows softer.) “And rain!”(Tap.) “And softer. It blows the clouds away.) Comments When playing this game.”(Stroke the shoulders of the child in front of you very strongly.

Fingertip reading
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.


One method worth trying is the journalist’s report. they should invent a story about a child facing a situation that relates to the headline. The stories can be shared later on with the whole group and can be used as a basis for a group discussion. To make them reflect on their situation and express themselves. 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 . Invite the adolescents to choose one of the headlines that interests them most and ask them to compile the story. like “School fees for AIDS Orphans”. Collect headlines from newspapers referring to difficult situations. Ask the adolescents to imagine that they are newspaper reporters and that they have to compile a report on one of the headlines. it helps find ways to engage in the topic without the discussion becoming too personal. Have several headlines prepared and spread them out so that everyone can see them. The next step is to distribute the original article that was attached to the headline. Often they are reluctant to talk about their own feelings and try to keep emotionally distressing memories at a distance. In order to make it more interesting for the reader. Ask them to compare their story with the original article.Journalist’s report Older children may resent focusing on conflict situations that have to do with their own lives.

After drawing your picture. but we are all different. I am in Grade 3. This is what I look like. others have long hair. my sister Maggie and my brothers Benjamin and Harry. We are all in one class. Some children have dark skin. Here you see a picture of me. We all look different. Next to my picture you’ll find an empty box. I’m wearing my favourite shirt. how about writing a short story about yourself? Don’t forget to say what’s special about you. Some children are big and others are small. That’s for you to paste or draw a picture of yourself. others are short. Each of one of us is special.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. I live in Katutura in Windhoek with my granny. Hi! I am Nangula! I am 8 years old. Some children are tall. I go to school in Katutura. some children are light in complexion. Some children have short hair. There are 35 children in my class. 126 .

127 . Rebecca and Freddy can help me and I can help Freddy and Rebecca. I’m the fastest runner in my school. Freddy can do some things better than I can. Not only do we look different. Together. I even can invent dances on my own. Here you can write what you are good at: I can do some things better than Freddy. I am proud of the things I can do! I am good at Maths. Sometimes it’s good to know you’re not the best. I am good at reading! And I can ride a bicycle. I am good at climbing trees. But some things Rebecca is best at.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. I can draw well. 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. but we each have different strengths and skills. Some things I can do better than Freddy. I am also good at making up stories. I can count and subtract. People like to listen to my stories! I am a good runner. And I am good at playing soccer. I am proud to be a member of the school soccer team! I know how to knit. Rebecca can do some things better than either of us. I am good at dancing.

I love to invent things. full of ideas. but also very curious and inventive. Not only on the outside but also inside. hardworking. I am also a_____________person. kind. I am a ______________ person. brave. She is fun to be with. My friend Rebecca is a gentle and quiet person. feels and acts differently. We call this “personality”. curious. intelligent. respectful. humorous. musical. gentle. sensitive. responsible. quiet. He is a good friend and a very helpful person. knowledgeable. For example: I am a very creative person. He is full of ideas. But you can also add others we haven’t thought of before. a good listener. helpful.Worksheet 3 Even if we are a team and we are good at different things. My friend Freddy is a very energetic person. sporty 128 . thoughtful. strong. This makes us special. creative. energetic. And I try to be very honest. active. loving. Each one of us thinks. a good friend. understanding. friendly. I am very friendly. honest. clever. we are still different from one another. She is very thoughtful. What kind of person are you? Which things would you use to describe yourself? You can pick them from the list below. fun. Each one of us has a different personality. faithful.

And she has Freddy – he protects her and helps her with her homework. has a sewing machine. Some people have things they are proud of. Nangula has something else that is very important to her. 129 . but it is more important to have people whom we love and trust. 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. Other people have things that are very important to them and that they need to survive. Do you have special things that are important to you? It is important to have special things in our lives. She has Maggie – Maggie shares her clothes with Nangula. This makes her feel better. Harry. Each time she misses her mum. for example. Nangula has Rebecca – she tells Rebecca all her secrets. Nangula’s brother.Worksheet 4 “I have…” I have many things to be happy about.You won’t guess what it is! It is a photograph of her mother. and who help us. so that nothing can happen to it. but more importantly. Nangula doesn’t like the puppy. I have a bed to sleep in. The sewing machine is important because Granny uses it to make clothes that she sells at the market to earn money. Nangula looks at the picture. has a puppy. but the puppy is very important to Harry. Nangula loves her schoolbooks because she loves to read and write. Nangula has her schoolbooks. She knows that they are expensive. like a certificate showing how well they did at school. Nangula keeps this photograph hidden beneath her mattress. I have a sister and two brothers. I have my good friend Rebecca. Nangula’s granny. I have a house to live in. The photograph of her mother is very important to Nangula. Harry can’t think of a better friend than his puppy. Nangula has a list of people she likes and a list of people who help her.

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 has her brother Harry – he likes to hug her. There is the nurse at the clinic who helps Nangula when she has to collect Granny’s medicine. Ms Shikongo comes to visit the family and helps Granny to collect her pension money. She is Rebecca’s mum. Nangula has Mrs Kakona – she is her teacher and she helps Nangula when she has problems at school. And Nangula has Ms Shikongo who is the social worker. She tells Nangula stories about her own mum. And Nangula has Granny. And there is Mr Blom who owns the bookshop and allows Nangula to look at the books in his shop. Rebecca’s mum always sees when Nangula is sad. even though she is Rebecca’s mum. She likes Nangula very much. Mrs Smith asks Nangula why she looks so sad. Sometimes when Nangula misses her own mum. Mrs Smith is a very good friend. And there is Mrs Smith. She listens to her. she can go and visit Rebecca’s mum.

In other children. How do you know when a reaction is extreme? These are the characteristics of severe or extreme reactions. These are signs that the child needs specialised help. The child does not seem to have inner resources or protective mechanisms. 131 . Pay particular attention to the following extreme reactions: complicated grief. rather than subsiding (slowly going away). the normal stress and grief reactions described in Chapters 4 and 5 may become more intense and prolonged as time passes. the child will probably need more specialised help than caregivers and teachers can offer. severe depression. If you think that the child’s reaction is severe. 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 reaction is very intense. Complicated grief Complicated grief refers to grief and mourning reactions that can’t be expressed. It may become chronic (extremely severe) and lead to behaviour changes. The child’s behaviour changes dramatically. The reaction lasts for a long time and does not change in its intensity. Although the child may accept that the parent has died.7 Some children may experience extreme reactions to grief. This is known as “prolonged emotional numbing” because the whole grieving process freezes and the child is unable to experience feelings. delinquent or antisocial behaviour and physical sickness.

or staying away from home for several days in a row. Staying out all night. 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.Severe depression A child suffering from severe depression feels sad all the time and cries a lot. The child seems to withdraw from all activities. The child says over and over again that he or she wants to be where the deceased parent is. Missing a lot of school. it would be wise to seek specialised help. Remember that for some children this is the only way that they can earn some money. With some children. Engaging in risk-taking behaviour and impulsive behaviour (refer to Chapter 4). The child may refuse to eat and lose a lot of weight. 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. The child may show self-destructive and auto-aggressive behaviour like cutting himself or herself. The child feels tired all day long. the fear becomes so irrational (lacking in reason) and so great that it leads to irrational anxiety and recurring panic attacks. Disturbing intrusive memories When unhappy memories crash into a child’s mind too often. Children affected by this withdraw from others and become isolated. destroying objects that were formerly precious to him or her. may talk a lot about wanting to die and has suicidal thoughts (thinks about killing himself or herself). wants to stay in bed all day but finds it difficult to sleep at night. 132 . pulling out his or her own hair. Delinquent or anti-social behaviour Delinquent or anti-social behaviour varies from child to child. Behaving sexually promiscuously (“sleeping around”) or engaging in prostitution (having sex for money). deliberately causing hurt to his or her own body. If you see a child in your care doing one or more of the following things. can’t concentrate and can’t relax. the child can’t cope with the memories. Breaking into houses and stealing.

If psychosomatic illnesses carry on for a long time. Girls are especially at risk. your help may be refused.Showing signs of substance abuse – this could be alcohol. gluesniffing or smoking. Neglect can be physical. Physical complaints As explained earlier in this book. drugs. become subject to abuse or neglect. you need to speak to the child and explain that you have noticed he or she is going through a difficult time. Child abuse and neglect Sometimes children. A child who is neglected in this way does not go to school or is not taught the basics of reading and writing. If the child feels that you are being critical. It is important for you to make the child realise that you are not criticising his or her behaviour. This is more likely in situations in which a child’s caregiver is overwhelmed and the child’s needs do not receive enough attention. Many neglected and abandoned children end up as “street children”. What can you do to help? If you know of a child who is experiencing these severe problems. Signs of substance abuse include restlessness. you need to take the child to a childcare specialist (psychologist) so that the child can get professional help. What is neglect? Neglect means that the child’s basic needs are not properly cared for. 133 . Sometimes the child will not tell you that he or she is being abused or neglected. A child is physically neglected when he or she is not properly looked after: the child doesn’t receive food. shelter or medical care. especially those who are vulnerable. psychosomatic aches and pains are physical complaints for which a doctor can find no medical reason. but you may notice some of the signs or symptoms that have been described in this chapter. 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. Neglect can be educational. even within the limits of what the household can afford. 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. being unable to sleep and slurred speech. fighting for survival with little chance of going to school.

Neglect can also be emotional. Children affected by HIV and AIDS often have to take on responsibilities that would normally be shouldered by their older brothers and sisters. Being exposed to violence also hurts a child’s normal emotional development. Signs of children in need of care Signs of malnutrition Reddish-looking. 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. Circumstances sometimes make it difficult for children to attend school – they may live far away from the nearest school. It is often clear that parents do not intentionally neglect their children. irritated-looking eyes Behavioural signs: Withdrawal Sadness Crying Increased anxiety Aggressive or delinquent behaviour 134 . 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. or their parents. but the children are neglected as a result of the situation at home. or they may have to help at home because a parent is too sick to look after the family. A child who is emotionally neglected does not enjoy a caring. mouth or on the legs Swollen belly Diarrhoea Vomiting Pus in the child’s ears Runny nose Sore. nurturing home environment or may be exposed to violence at home.

penetration (inserting the penis into the child’s mouth. What physical signs may idicate sexual abuse? Bruises (especially in the genital areas and on the thighs.Clinging Trying to please everyone Using abusive language and swear words. anus or vagina as well as inserting objects into the child’s mouth. choking or stabbing. even if the person who hurt the child tells you. hitting. burning.” 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. anus or vagina). Whether the person meant to hurt the child is not important.“I didn’t mean to hurt him (or her). indecent exposure (another person revealing his or her sexual body parts to a child). throwing. Such injuries are considered abuse. beating. This ranges from small bruises to broken bones or even death. vocabulary that is not appropriate for the child’s age What is physical abuse? Physical abuse is when the child’s body is hurt. shaking. but also anywhere on the body) 135 . biting. using a child to earn money through sex and producing pornographic (“dirty”) pictures or videos of children. The child’s body may be hurt by punching.

or refuses to support or guide the child. Abused children learn that sexual behaviour is a good way to get attention and rewards. As abused children move towards young adulthood. needing to wash him or herself over and over Attention-seeking behaviour Frequent drawing or acting-out of sexual scenes Playing sexual games (fondling). some of them become promiscuous (have sexual intercourse with many people) because they believe that their bodies are for others to use.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. you could say that the child is emotionally abused. 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. What is emotional abuse? Emotional abuse covers many different behaviours. These rewards may include money. 136 . If a child is criticised all the time. If a “caregiver” always refuses to be loving and affectionate. 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. 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). repeatedly threatened or pushed away. but we can say that any repeated behaviour that harms a child’s emotional development. is abusive. food or clothing.

children usually need the help of a specialist in order to cope with their thoughts and reactions to the abuse. Who abuses children? There is no “typical”child abuser. 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. They are vulnerable to adults who promise to help them but who request sexual acts in exchange for the help. Children are safest from abuse and neglect if they are raised in environments that value and support children. Such people are commonly known as “sugar daddies”. After being abused. If a child refuses to stay alone with a certain person. Being a victim of child abuse has severe long-term consequences and can still have an impact on the person as an adult. Remember that children often know the people that abuse them. Children affected by HIV and AIDS are even more could say that the child is emotionally abused. Children have the right to be valued and supported. do not force him or her to do so. What can we do to prevent abuse? Make sure that each child has his or her own place to sleep. 137 . 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. like a teacher or a priest. Children who are orphaned often lack the means to support themselves and their families. It is critically important that child abuse cases are reported. 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. Child abuse is a very serious offence and perpetrators need to be reported and dealt with appropriately.

Ask the child what he or she did at school and after school. but you need to talk about the emotional and physical consequences for the child and the reason why men like these offer their help. Children must be made to understand that men like this want to harm the child. Talking to children about abuse In this chapter we have looked at very basic definitions of child abuse and neglect.Make time for your child. Childhood is a very important learning time for children. We should talk about this. Most children are very trusting. Try to avoid making judgmental comments or 138 . It is important for children to learn the difference between good secrets and bad secrets. Talk with your child about things that happen in his or her life. If you are busy doing something that cannot wait. The issue of “sugar daddies”must be discussed with children. they don’t have rights. not help him or her. Bear in mind that the child will only reveal as much information as she or he feels that you. listen to what the child has to say and treat the information seriously. Good secrets are OK to keep. Children need to understand that rights are things that they are allowed to do and no one may stop them from doing them. One of these rights is the right to feel safe. Gifts and support may be very tempting for a child. 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. Talk about safe places where children can find help and support from people who will not hurt them. Bad secrets need to be told to someone who can help. Sometimes children think that because they are “just”children. the listener. are comfortable with. In the same way. Teach your child that his or her body belongs to him or her alone. Take time to listen.“I am listening to you. say to the child. If a child tells you that he or she has been abused. Show an interest in what your child is doing. 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. It is an important time for children to learn to be confident and assertive. Can we talk about it in half an hour (choose a time that suits you both). Teach your child about feelings: which feelings are OK and which feelings are not OK. Helping children to live through such difficult experiences and encouraging their resilience often demands more than ordinary caregivers are able to offer. Another is the right to say “No!”when someone touches him or her in a way that makes the child feel uncomfortable. Get to know your child’s friends and your child’s teachers.

This makes it difficult for you to know what to do. he or she still likes the person and does not want to lose him or her. what that person did was wrong. It is best to find specialist help for the child. but you may notice that their behaviour or reactions change (as discussed earlier). The child may want to protect the perpetrator – this often happens when the child has been abused by a family member. What to do when you suspect child abuse It is very seldom that children tell someone whom they trust that they have been abused. saying that something terrible will happen if the child talks about it. Accepting that a child has been abused is not always easy for the person that the child talks to. Once again. It may become necessary to discuss this with the child. but there is a risk and you need to investigate it carefully. Abuse is always the fault of the perpetrator. Recognising these signs doesn’t necessarily mean that the child has been abused. you need to say that it is the fault of the perpetrator and that the child has no reason to feel guilty or ashamed. 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. Important points to remember The child may not want to talk about the abuse. Very often children do not have the vocabulary to describe what happened to them. Although the child understands that the perpetrator did something terrible. 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. 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. It is important for the child to feel accepted and respected in whatever he or she tells you. If you notice such changes. Tell the child that you don’t blame him or her.strongly emotional remarks even though you may find it difficult. It is important for the child to understand that although the person may be likeable. The perpetrator thus tries to transfer the responsibility for the abuse on to the child. pay close attention. They may not know how to describe body parts and bodily fluids and they may use images or pet names to describe 139 . 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. It may be that you know the person who is abusing the child. This is quite normal and may be for different reasons: The perpetrator (the abuser) may have threatened the child.

We need to listen very carefully and to find out precisely what the child is referring to. The child may be able to think of no other way to earn money. Some countries have women or child protection units. (PEP is an anti-retroviral medicine. Being able to earn money to look after their brothers and sisters may give them a feeling of control and achievement. 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. If a child is HIV negative.them. Don’t try to take matters into your own hands. Many children like this are weighed down by the responsibility of looking after brothers and sisters. don’t allow the child to wash. What should you do if a child has been raped? Take the following steps immediately: Contact the police. Sometimes children like this don’t understand why their mother or father has died. the AIDS pandemic adds to the dangers of child abuse and neglect.) This medicine helps to stop the HIV from entering blood cells if it is taken correctly. hospitals or support groups can provide more information about this. If the rape has just taken place. It is important to act quickly. Find out whether a social worker will be available. preferably someone who has been trained to deal with rape. This greatly increases the chances of the child being infected by HIV. 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. but go to the police immediately. 140 . Sometimes it helps if you ask the child to draw a picture of what happened. The social worker will provide ongoing support throughout the investigation and the trial proceedings. Trained police. Child abuse and HIV/AIDS As if abuse wasn’t hard enough to deal with. A social worker will follow up the case and arrange for the child to be taken for a medical examination. This sort of situation needs you as the caregiver to be very sensitive when talking to the child.

8 Children have rights. Most countries in Africa are also signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Each country has its own laws and (in many cases. but they are often not aware of their rights. health specialists. educators. social workers. It says that children are neither the property of their parents nor are they helpless objects of charity. The only African member of the UN which did not sign the treaty was Somalia as it had no recognised government. lawyers. it reflects the main legal systems of the world. the United Nations (UN) drew up a treaty called the Convention on the Rights of the Child. caregivers. Thus it is very important for children. The document was drawn up over a 10-year period and was negotiated by governments. non-governmental organisations. community leaders and teachers to know about children’s rights. it becomes the same as law in that country. Because it was so broadly based. those governments must make sure that the rights mentioned in the convention are upheld in their countries. Background to international children’s rights In 1989. One hundred and ninety-one governments have signed the treaty. In this chapter we will discuss this Convention. 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. It also recognises the importance of tradition and cultural values for the protection and harmonious development of the child. child development experts and religious leaders from all over the world. 141 . just like other human beings: their rights are not an option or a favour. The convention defines children as people under the age of 18.) Constitution which defines children’s rights in that country. human rights advocates. In other words. This makes children more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. It describes a new vision of children who now have legally binding rights. This is often referred to as a “Bill of Rights”for children. They have rights. and provide guidance on how it can be used in conjunction with the laws of individual countries by local community leaders.

the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Children. exploitation and violence. It covers the civil. play and cultural activities. such as the right of children to be heard on matters affecting their own lives. Participation rights which relate to self-determination. One in four of you has not been immunised against any disease. 142 . Types of children’s rights The rights can be grouped into four categories: Survival rights which include adequate living standards and essential health care.” A plan of action was adopted. neglected or exploited – as well as children with special needs. it must be worth living.“One in three of you has suffered from malnutrition before you turned five years old. providing quality education. Among its pledges were to protect children and their families from “the devastating impact”of HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately. The rights focus on the child’s rights to live.”) Protection rights which safeguard children against harm and address the needs of children in especially difficult circumstances – for example those children who are abused. adults had failed children deplorably. (“A child’s life must not only be saved.“A World Fit for Children”.What it does is provide the framework for the protection and promotion of basic human right for all children. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said much work had been accomplished but much still remained to do. combating HIV/AIDS. social and political rights of children. Opening the General Assembly. Almost one in five of you is not attending school … We. must reverse this list of failures. Have these rights been upheld? In 2002 the UN held a special international conference on children. There are four priorities for children in the coming decade: promoting healthy lives. economic. at which the nations of the world committed themselves to a series of goals to improve the situation of children and young people. all the time. grow and enjoy good mental and physical health. Developmental rights which include the rights to education. children without families and children with disabilities. he said. the grown-ups. and the right to play an active role in society. protecting against abuse.

It also means that children have to be given the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting him or her. Even if they don’t. the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration. Children have a right to enjoy their own culture. that he or she has the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting him or her. This could be in the form of foster families. These views should be listened to. Supervision has to be competent. Care for children without parents. Even if children are in the care of an adult. Protect and report children in need. cultural and linguistic background.” This is of particular importance in the case of children who have suffered the loss of one or more parents. they still need to be protected. thought should be given to placing the child in the same ethnic. 143 . maltreatment or exploitation. These cases must be investigated. It is not unlikely that children affected by HIV/AIDS may have other bodies make decisions about their lives. It also means that institutions. religious. What are some of the principles which must be upheld? Put children first. temporarily or permanently. Those involved must assure the child.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. Children with one or more parent with HIV/AIDS face having to live without their natural parents. neglect. courts of law. they are bound to uphold the principles of the treaty. followed up and taken to court where appropriate. suitable institutions or kafalah of Islamic law. There must be enough staff and suitable staff. Each of us has the duty to act when we suspect that a child may be in need of care or protection. services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children have to conform with certain standards. administrative authorities or legislative bodies. whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions. who is capable of forming his or her own views. adoption. with due weight being given in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.Your country should have ways of identifying and reporting children who have been maltreated. The convention states: “In all actions concerning children. to practise their own religion and use their own language. They need to be protected from mental or physical violence. These children should be entitled to special State protection and assistance. When decisions are made about the child’s future. particularly in the areas of safety and health. injury or abuse (including sexual abuse). Listen to children.

or if they have HIV/AIDS themselves. you can boost awareness in your community. whether physically. you can look at the Unicef (United Nations Children’s Fund) website http://www. Even if children can no longer afford school. a statutory body of the South African Human Rights Commission. In South Africa. Besides finding out about legislation. Ethiopia. Or it could be plans of action. The stigma of HIV/AIDS means children with infected parents or who are infected themselves are frequently subject to discriminatory treatment. What you can do People who know their rights are better able to claim them. a review of the Child Care Act in South Africa or the passage of the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act of 1998 in Tanzania. spiritually or socially. sometimes schooling can suffer. If you have a computer. Find out what legislation exists in your country. Promoting the Convention on the Rights of the Child and making its provisions widely known are essential steps to realising children’s rights. No child shall be economically exploited. No child should be discriminated against. 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.unicef. Mozambique has an Agenda for Action. 144 . identifying goals to be achieved for children’s rights. interferes with their education or harms them in any way. working with churches. mentally. South Africa and in the draft constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. the convention states that primary education should be compulsory and free to all. Children’s rights may be enshrined in the constitution. Children have a right to rest. It could be separate legislation such as the ratification in Mozambique of the landmine-ban convention. Madagascar has established the Independent Commission on Human Rights and South Africa has established the Child Rights Committee. The State is obliged to take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of drop-out rates. Often children with sick parents or who are orphaned find themselves trying to earn a leisure and play. They have a right to protection from any work which is hazardous. Uganda has developed subnational plans to guide actions at municipal level to improve the situation of children. such as in Namibia. schools and community groups to create grass-roots support for children’s rights. the National Programme of Action is designed to achieve co-ordination of governmental and non-governmental plans in favour of children.Right to education. Rwanda has created the National Assembly for Child Rights. When children are affected by the trauma of having ill and dying parents.

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