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Building Resilience in Children Affected by HIV/AIDS
Sr Silke-Andrea Mallmann CPS
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Catholic AIDS Action, Namibia
Maskew Miller Longman Forest Drive, Pinelands, Cape Town Associated companies, branches and representatives throughout Africa and the world. © Maskew Miller Longman and Catholic Aids Action, Namibia All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. First edition by Catholic Aids Action Namibia Second edition by Longman Namibia 2003 ISBN 99916 1 274 2 Materials developed by Sr Silke-Andrea Mallmann Edited by Michelle Saffer Cover design and artwork by Karlie Hadingham Typesetting by DTP Impressions Reproduction by Printed by For further information contact: Maskew Miller Longman PO Box 396 Cape Town 8000 SOUTH AFRICA Phone: +27-21-531-7750 Fax: +27-21-532-2302 email: firstname.lastname@example.org Catholic AIDS Action PO Box 11525 Windhoek NAMIBIA Phone: +264-61-27-6350 FaxL +264-61-27-6364 email:email@example.com website: www.caa.org.na
Resilience in Orphans and Vulnerable Children What makes children vulnerable? How does a child become resilient? What do children need to cope with adversity? External resources fostering resilience Inner resources fostering resilience How to develop resilience in children The importance of the family The importance of school Experiential learning The benefits of experiential learning Children affected by HIV/AIDS The sickness of a parent Caring for a sick parent The economic impact of a sick parent The stigma of HIV/AIDS Dealing with the death of a parent Preparation for the death of a parent Being infected themselves Dealing with HIV and school Telling others about an HIV/AIDS status Losing a parent Different aspects of mourning Factors that affect the mourning process The death of the parent The relationship with the deceased parent The availability of a surviving parent or caregiver The structure of the extended family Rituals surrounding the parent’s death Support from the community Peers and friends The age and developmental stage of the child Preparing children for the death of a parent Normal versus severe reactions What are severe reactions? vii viii ix 1 2 3 3 3 4 5 6 6 7 8 9 9 10 11 11 12 14 15 15 15 17 18 18 18 18 19 19 20 20 21 21 39 39 40 2. 4. .Contents Preface A note from the author Acknowledgements 1. 3.
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 .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.
self-confidence and co-operation Games to recognise and understand feelings Games that help to deal with aggression Games that calm children down Games for help-seeking. . autonomy and awareness Games to see how feelings appear physically Games to help autobiographical memory Severe problems requiring a specialist How do you know when a reaction is extreme? Complicated grief Severe depression Disturbing intrusive memories Severe and persistent feelings of anxiety Delinquent or anti-social behaviour Physical complaints What can you do to help? Child abuse and neglect What is neglect? What is physical abuse? What is sexual abuse? What is emotional abuse? Is there a type of child who may suffer abuse or neglect? Who abuses children? What can we do to prevent abuse? Talking to children about abuse What to do when you suspect child abuse Important points to remember Child abuse and HIV/AIDS What should I do if a child has been raped? 78 79 79 80 81 82 82 83 84 84 90 96 98 109 114 115 118 123 131 131 131 132 132 132 132 133 133 133 133 135 135 136 137 137 137 138 139 139 140 140 7. Games Games that foster trust Games for group cohesiveness and social skills Games fostering self-esteem.Helplessness Explaining her behaviour What can you do to help? How to help children access their inner resources again Physical complaints and body pains Explaining her behaviour What can you do to help at home? What can you do to help at school? 6.
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.
(Ms) Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah Minister. or rape. physical abuse. Caring for our continent’s orphans and vulnerable children takes time. their hardship. And they are our collective responsibility. the message is that “Love is Not Enough”. 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. and a lost future that affects their entire community. The plight of these children will be the single largest impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on this nation. Within a generation. we have all been moved by news reports of children suffering from severe neglect. and ultimately. who will be our continent’s leaders. There is nothing that any of them did to justify their sorrow. we suffer with them. for example. Above all. had over 82 000 orphans. They belong to all of us. May God bless you in your work of caring for others.Preface Who can say that he or she hasn’t ever seen children begging along our city streets. Too often. Study it. The plight is similar in other African countries. And knowledge. lost hope. the entire country. And as a nation. in 2001 Namibia. Read it. That is what this manual is about. 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. our future? According to the best data we have. Secondly. and recommends it to our fellow Ministries and to all people of goodwill everywhere. most of them suffer a lot. that number is expected to triple. Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Child Welfare Republic of Namibia vii . And effort. and their losses. Thus. our conscience. And yet. heading towards a life of dislocation and crime? Surely. 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. Refer back to it as often as you can. One thing we know for sure: Orphans and vulnerable children don’t deserve their fate. their personal losses result in lost opportunity. and the publication of this revised edition in partnership with Maskew Miller Longman. Attend a training course offered by Catholic AIDS Action or another organisation which supports the contents of this book. this manual is meant to be applied within our own families and in our communities.
but we have experienced teachers on our side – the children themselves! Sometimes children know best what they need. our families. We may need enormous reserves of commitment and compassion. their skills. 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. A book cannot answer all our questions. theories. caregivers and teachers to understand children who are nursing a diseased parent or who have lost a parent. Often we feel unsure about how to help them deal with the loss of a parent. But the children we care for are our future and it is our task to walk beside them into that future. we are faced with an increasing number of children who have already lost or are going to lose their parents. Instead. we have to work with them. The dimension of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and its consequences for our children. we recognise their resources. June 2002 viii . This handbook is aimed at people who live and work with children affected by HIV/AIDS. The impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic challenges us to approach childcare and education differently. Silke-Andrea Mallmann CPS Mariannhill. We teach them in our classrooms. As caregivers. we take them into our homes and we share our lives with them. tasks and exercises that should help us to understand the behaviour and feelings of children affected by HIV/AIDS. In order to assist them. their strengths and their endurance. but also in understanding and friendship. Children need strong advocates to make their voices heard and to fight for their future. our communities and our society often make us feel powerless.A note from the author Dear parents. When we listen to them. 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. It is neither a recipe for success nor a book of rules. caregivers and teachers. We can be committed both to the child and to the rights of that child. Our compassion can be expressed not only in care. pay attention to their ideas and learn from their coping strategies. Working with children affected by HIV/AIDS requires courage and creativity. We can develop a vision of the possibilities that lie beyond the reality that faces us. 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. this handbook consists of a collection of ideas. This handbook is aimed at helping parents.
the National OVC (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) Steering Committee. and the Namibian government for their ongoing work in Namibia with orphans and vulnerable children. We believe that God sent Sr Silke to us. UNICEF. Bristol Myers Squibb and the Catholic Medical Mission Board of the United States. the Ministry of Health and Social Services. The person who must get the lion’s share of the credit for this handbook is Sr Silke Mallmann. Sport and Culture. We are very grateful to the representatives from these organisations who shared their ideas and support. We offer her our deepest thanks and our admiration. Sr Silke is based at St Mary’s Hospital at Mariannhill in South Africa. the Legal Assistance Centre. in cooperation with Philippi Namibia and Masiye Camps (Regional PsychoSocial Institute) in Bulawayo. USAID. we needed additional support. Finally. Among the many organisations that were involved and consulted for the development of the original Namibia edition are: Catholic AIDS Action. is intended to supplement and reinforce various training programmes on Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Namibia and other African countries. the Ministry of Basic Education.Acknowledgements This handbook. NANTU (Namibian National Teachers’ Union). Expressions of interest from other partners and countries led to the development of this revised edition with Maskew Miller Longman as our publishing partners. Thankfully. the Ford Foundation. For that we thank the Secure the Future Foundation. We offer our sincere thanks to our donors. Family Health International and CAFO (Church Alliance for Orphans). ix . 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. we are deeply indebted to Family Health International. But as demand for this handbook increased and the table of contents grew accordingly. Philippi Namibia. the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Child Welfare. From the moment she contacted Catholic AIDS Action we knew we were on the right track. While writing this handbook she drew on her experiences working with refugee children and children affected by HIV/AIDS. originally developed in Namibia. Zimbabwe. as well as in our provision of direct care to orphans and vulnerable children. Initial support for this publication came from a training grant received from NANTU and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation. FHI/USAID continues to assist us in training community leaders and volunteers in psycho-social support.
Sara Bowsky and Paul Pope (from Family Health International/USAID). 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. We also drew inspiration and support from Kurt Madörin at Terre des Hommes in Tanzania and Liz Towell at SINOSIZO in South Africa. Without her commitment and efficiency. as well as for the field-based workshops. 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. Lucy Y Steinitz. Caroline Thomas. Mary Collins and Evy George of the Ministry of Basic Education. as did Susanchen Dippenaar. Francis van Rooi. PhD National Co-ordinator Catholic AIDS Action Windhoek NAMIBIA July 2002 x . our guidance counsellors and our inspiration. based at our national office. has been the administrative coordinator for this project. Finally. Rose de Buysscher. Claudia Tjikuua. suggestions and background material. and Stefan Germain.“Caring for ourselves in order to care for others”. The games and methods used in this book have partly been taken from already existing games and adapted for this book.Some other individuals deserve special mention. we thank the children and their caregivers: they are our teachers. It is to them that this book is dedicated. 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. the rest of us would have given up long ago. Marianne Olivier of Philippi Namibia rearranged some of her own training and curriculum-development in order to accommodate us. Petronella CoetzeeMasabane of the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) and I reviewed the manuscript prior to its publication. Sr Dr Raphaela Händler. The picture story exercise on page 60 has been developed by Dr Gisela Perren-Klinger.
spiritually. Children need a lot of security. 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. Children need to know where they belong and they need close adults with whom they can form an attachment. 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. AIDS orphans are often confronted with the disease and death of both parents. Many children have known someone in their family or community who has died of AIDS. 1 . nurturing environment. AIDS is a disease caused by a virus called HIV that is spread by the exchange of body fluids like blood. This caregiver may be someone in the family or a teacher. The caregiver may also be a person in the community who protects them and allows them to develop in a safe. These adults may be their parents or a close caregiver. he or she will develop AIDS sooner or later. They need guidance as they grow and mature emotionally. Such indicators differ from one culture or society to another and from one country to another. Our ideas of childhood are often based on how old the child is. Children’s needs and interests are different from adults’ needs and interests. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS yet. This then results in both parents getting sick and eventually dying. love and emotional support. This means that. physically and intellectually. semen or vaginal secretions. unlike orphans who have lost a parent due to an accident or a non-infectious disease like cancer. More and more children in Africa are becoming orphans because their parents have died of AIDS. how “grown up” the child is. Children are not little adults.1 There is more than one definition of a child.
However. 2 . discriminated against or exposed to violence makes children vulnerable. Vulnerable children are those children who are easily hurt or harmed. If children are not able to grow up in a caring environment. famine. are vulnerable. 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 held in detention are vulnerable. Researchers have defined resilience as the human capacity to face. Resilient children are generally better able to cope with life’s adversities. Children without a family or a home are vulnerable. children are often found to be either living on their own or looking after younger brothers and sisters and elderly grandparents. as HIV/AIDS affects more and more families. war. poverty. who have no access to schools or adequate medical care. even though children all over the world face illness. Being exploited. whereas others are overwhelmed. Studies have shown that girls in our society tend to be more vulnerable than boys. Households headed by children have become common in many parts of Africa. some children seem to cope quite well. Children who are isolated or withdrawn. Children lacking education and skills are vulnerable. Children who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS are especially vulnerable. Babies and young children are more vulnerable than older children. Children living in poverty are vulnerable. What makes children vulnerable? There are many things that can make children more vulnerable. they become more vulnerable. families and communities that provide for the well-being and development of children. Some children are taken in by their extended families but. domestic violence. abused.It is usually parents. Children who are not involved in taking decisions that affect their own lives are vulnerable. Children whose rights are not upheld are vulnerable. droughts or floods. It is clear that orphaned children are highly at risk of exploitation and increasing impoverishment. A child’s ability to cope seems to have much to do with resilience.
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. a close relationship with the remaining family members. The development of these three capabilities needs to be encouraged. such as dealing with the illness and death of their parents. manage and give meaning to a traumatic event. and the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS could overwhelm a child. and the capability to give deeper meaning to an adverse event. Inner resources refer to the child’s inner strength and ability to deal with a crisis. 3 . clothing and medical services. this is a question that we might ask ourselves. Inner resources help a child to understand. enough food. and close links to his or her cultural community. Most children will develop all three capabilities before reaching the age of 15. Orphaned children need to have access to external resources to strengthen his or her resilience. Orphans and vulnerable children need to become resilient in order to overcome the many problems they face. the capability to believe that they can cope with a crisis because they know that they have some control over what happens. and being responsible for their own lives and the lives of their brothers and sisters. The development of these capabilities is greatly influenced by the child’s external and inner resources.How does a child become resilient? As caregivers to orphans and vulnerable children. But inner resources are just as important to the orphaned child. shelter. You can imagine how feelings of grief. loneliness and guilt. External resources fostering resilience External resources that help build resilience include: a close and secure relationship with a caregiver. education. financial stability. the death of a parent).
This support may change from time to time. A resilient child can usually recall positive relationships. As caregivers we can promote the development of inner resources.Inner resources fostering resilience A wide range of emotions A resilient child is usually comfortable with a wide variety of emotions. A sense of belonging Resilient children know where they belong. This belief system may include faith in any kind of transcendent being. role models (for example parents and teachers). Resilient children know what is right and what is wrong. the school class. whether one God. They are able to use materials in their environment to ensure their 4 . Resilient children have a strong spiritual or ideological belief system. Such children are grounded at home. They sense what is unacceptable behaviour. The child has a feeling for the needs of others and is able to help. Some children (particularly older children) will develop some sort of political or cultural ideology. Resilient children draw strength from their inner resources. Resilient children understand how they fit into a family. a small group of friends. whether in the present or in the past. or may identify with a certain cultural. innovation and curiosity Resilient children are curious and eager to learn. Creativity. Resilient children are able to understand their own emotions and can express them in words or actions. or irritated). “I am angry (or sad. This is usually influenced by the child’s upbringing and culture. it may not be provided by the same person over an extended period of time but may change. in the community and have a sense of their own culture. several Gods or faith in the power of the ancestors. Resilient children are able to look for and find emotional support from other people. Resilient children are creative and use their imagination. For example. the community or the church. Resilient children are self-confident and also confident of the support of peers and caregivers.” A good autobiographical memory The autobiographical memory is the memory in which we save personal memories about our lives and our life histories. as well as personal achievements from the past. as the child’s needs change. a resilient child can say. Interest in others A resilient child feels the need to help others. political or religious leader. moments of kindness. A value and belief system Resilient children have a vision of moral order and a sense of justice.
resourcefulness and identity. By showing children how to express feelings and ideas and how to solve problems and conflicts. cultural rituals. By answering questions and showing them new and interesting things. we encourage them to become increasingly responsible for what they do and say. Allow the children to make mistakes. We learn by our mistakes! Help children to recognise and understand their mistakes. There are various ways in which we can help the children in our care to develop resilience: Provide a safe. religious rituals and festivals. Support them as they deal with negative thoughts.survival. Self-confidence Resilient children have a sense of humour and are confident of their own abilities. Teach the children how to communicate with other people. It is important for children to feel secure at home and to feel that they belong at home. It helps a child if the caregiver provides clear routines for the day and expects the child to stick to the routine. listen to them instead of talking about them. we encourage children to discover their own initiative. creativity and interests.” How to develop resilience in children Resilience should be encouraged and developed in all children. It is important to play with them. but resilience has to be developed. This includes access to health care. Play is very important for children’s development. All children are born with the potential to be resilient. think and feel. and show an interest in them and in what they do. “I have!”and “I am. but also when they are adults. just like other skills and capacities. We also help them to understand other people’s feelings and to respect the needs of others. Encourage them to correct what they did wrong. 5 . “I can!”. A resilient child will say. Resilient children are able to imagine a future and this gives them something to live for and a goal to work towards. Teach the children family routines. We need to promote resilience in the children we care for. Spend time with the children. Involve the children in day-to-day activities as well as family rituals. We all make mistakes. Resilience prepares children for hardships and suffering that they may face in the future – not only when they are young. nurturing environment in which the child’s needs are met. education and welfare services. feelings and behaviour.
In this situation. not only for what they do. Healthy family relationships are the best environment for a child to develop resilience. They have shared life experiences. It is very important to develop the social and emotional development of students: many children come from single-parent homes. writing and arithmetic. Trust the children. The importance of school After the family. Families provide the basic framework for a child’s development and have an enormous impact on a child’s resilience. Most families are bound together by trust. The importance of the family The family is the first environment in which a child experiences love and affection and makes discoveries. Family members can say to each other. “Do you remember when…?” Families have a similar system of values. Elderly relatives or siblings may raise children. In homes like these there is often not enough emphasis (if any) on the social and emotional development of the child. more and more time is spent at school in the company of friends and teachers. 6 . this development is threatening.Acknowledge the children for what they are. For some teachers. the development of resilience takes place primarily in the classroom and in the community. the acquiring of knowledge and skills) while at the same time emphasising the social and emotional development of the child. or homes in which there is no parent. rules and norms. Pray with the children. Others see it as a challenge. Families usually share cultures and religions. solidarity and support for one another. Most children make their first social contacts and experience unconditional love in the family. school is the most important factor in a child’s life. As a child grows up. Schools do not only teach children about reading. The family provides the child with a sense of belonging and an identity. They also look at the whole child and focus on cognitive development (that is. Families have common roots and ancestors. 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.
Children are encouraged to find answers to their own questions and problems. They need a teacher who will help in times of crisis.Children growing up without parents look for extra things in their teachers. Their discoveries are discussed in groups – this draws group members closer together and promotes trust. Experiential learning combines intellectual learning (thinking skills). A student-centred approach Experiential learning is based on a student-centred approach. They need a teacher who will help them to set realistic goals. learning as quickly or as slowly as they wish. For many children. a counsellor. they set their own learning pace. The teacher’s role changes from being simply an instructor to being an instructor. someone who is interested in their lives. but one who will also make learning fun. Discovering answers for themselves makes the children feel more competent. They are encouraged to find different ways to solve problems – this teaches initiative and creativity. 7 . Student-centred education means that the interests of each child are the main point of focus. Working individually or in small groups. A neighbour. They need a teacher who will help them to develop self-esteem and self-confidence. an adviser and a first-aid person – all rolled into one. The teacher’s job may change so that the teacher is encouraging the child’s resilience and not just to pass the exams. Other people in the community can also assist with this process. They need a lot of instruction. school is an oasis of normality in a harsh world. emotional learning (feelings) and social learning (learning about relationships). Experiential learning A teaching method that can be used in the classroom (and elsewhere) to teach resilience is the method of experiential learning. but they also need someone they can trust. communication and respect for one another. a home-care volunteer. Each child explores questions that are relevant and meaningful to him or her. It looks at the child’s personality as well as the child’s needs and skills. a church representative or a member of the extended family may also play a critical role.
to gain control and to give meaning to the events that take place in their lives. Experiential learning is a teaching method that encourages resilience because it teaches the students knowledge and skills at the same time. Children can still be very vulnerable to stressful events in their lives. They also discover what interests them. They learn to solve problems independently and they realise that they can solve problems on their own. they get to know their strengths and weaknesses. but being resilient makes them more able to cope with these events. can support children during these times. In the next section we will identify events that are especially stressful to children and discuss how we. to adjust to change and then to move on.The benefits of experiential learning As children discover that they control their own learning process. as caregivers and teachers. 8 . They have the ability to understand. Resilient children are better equipped to bounce back. Being very resilient or having a strong sense of identity does not mean that a child is invulnerable.
Much of this chapter also applies to children who are faced with other severe or life-threatening illnesses in their immediate families. children will be faced with problems long before death occurs. Problems that seem to pile up one on top of another are known as “cumulative stressors”. One of the big decisions to be made is whether or not to tell other people that they have HIV/AIDS. They worry about having the disease and they worry about what will happen to them and to their families. the parent may show less interest in the child. This chapter deals with the most common experiences that orphans affected by HIV/AIDS face. 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. When a parent realises (or thinks) that he or she has HIV/AIDS. It is also very worrying for a child if a member of the family is ill or has HIV/AIDS. The sickness of a parent In a family affected by HIV/AIDS. 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. 9 .Children don’t need to be ill or to have HIV/AIDS themselves to be affected by it. It deals with the negative effect that such experiences may have on a child’s development. It makes the child feel overwhelmed and hopeless.
no matter what is wrong with them. Most children are unhappy when one of their parents is ill. This is very demanding. or at school as teachers. Older children understand that these changes are because the parent is sick. The older the child is. do the washing and. start missing school and eventually drop out of school completely. They begin to worry about their own future as well. nurse the sick parent. Boys can be caring and responsible caregivers but studies have shown that girls seem to feel more comfortable with this role. The normal rhythm and structure of family life changes (even for a little while) because the sick parent can’t do the jobs around the house that he or she normally does. most importantly. Children of all ages may begin to feel neglected and angry. With the extra responsibilities. older children help to care for their sick parents and to raise their siblings. Older children will have to accept more responsibility. take care of other children in the family. Other family members have to help. The real pressure begins for a child when he or she realises that the parent is often sick. they worry about going to school and they are afraid of finding their parent dead when they come home. children have to prepare food. Children of parents infected with HIV/AIDS have reported that they worry about their sick parents. When a mother or a father gets sick. but younger children may be very upset by the changes in routine. These are very realistic fears and they should be taken seriously. Children who already understand the relationship between disease and death might start to worry that the parent may die. we need to discuss these fears either at home as parents. As caregivers. Often it is culturally and traditionally more 10 . Caring for a sick parent In many families.Although the child may not know what is wrong with the parent or why the parent seems so moody. Besides taking over household chores like fetching water and herding animals. life changes for a child that lives with his or her parents. Often children are afraid that there will be no one to take care of them. there is little time left for schoolwork or play. It is not surprising that children who are preoccupied with such fears can’t concentrate in the classroom. 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. Many children fall behind in their work.
The stigma of HIV/AIDS Children are severely affected by the stigma of this disease. They nurse their parents without having been taught what to do. It is often left to older children to earn money and to provide food. Many children feel overwhelmed by the huge responsibility. Orphans of school-going age and children with infected parents reported that other children teased them and called them names. Many children turn to prostitution to earn money and child labour is not uncommon. They risk being infected themselves because they don’t know what precautions to take when nursing people with HIV/AIDS. This is a crisis – especially in singleincome homes. Being too sick to work in the fields will reduce the income of a family. The need to earn money is another major reason for children dropping out of school. In addition to the daily housework. 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. Children are hungry at school and they can’t concentrate properly. The economic impact of a sick parent When parents become too weak to fulfil their daily tasks. Losing a job means losing an income as well. nursing a patient also includes getting up during the night. They were often the last to receive food and/or to have their school fees paid. 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. Sometimes the teasing led to physical bullying. They weren’t allowed to play with other 11 . Many children suffer from malnutrition.acceptable for girls to accept this responsibility. poor health. lack of access to health services and a lack of education are common in families affected by HIV/AIDS. It can be exhausting for a child. which affects their own health. Orphans were discriminated against by members of their extended families after the death of their parents. They were expected to work harder than other children in the family. the family’s income may decrease drastically. Nursing a bedridden patient is heavy work – even for an adult. Poor housing. Some orphans were isolated from the other family members because it was believed that they were infectious and would transmit HIV/AIDS. Research in Africa by the British organisation Save the Children showed the seriousness of the effects.
Forced secrecy can be a great burden on children because they have to control what they say. 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. It is quite normal for children to refer to people or animals dying as they play. Dealing with the death of a parent Most children see dead birds or dead animals at the side of the road. They hear adults talking about death and see them going to funerals. children and adults draw back from their friends and other social contacts. and institutions that are willing to stand up to support these children and fight for their rights. The children themselves cannot change this. Some families keep the HIV-status of a family member secret. 12 . How the death of a parent is understood is strongly influenced by the child’s age. Children may start living in this fantasy world in order to cope with what is actually happening at home. religious groups and organisations. In households with televisions they probably see death daily on television and they also hear about it on the radio. They need committed adults. 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. Children between the ages of five and eight may not be able to distinguish between their fantasy world and the real world.children. Many adolescents felt hurt by the gossip and felt that their sense of self-worth was affected. Older children make up stories about their parents because they feel ashamed and because they don’t want to be different from their friends. Nevertheless. level of understanding and his or her view of the parent. Many children said that they would rather stay at home than go to school. Infected parents felt the same way. what they do and how they express what they feel. This will eventually erase the stigma that is attached to HIV/AIDS. 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. a parent’s death is always shocking and traumatising for a child and it leaves a child feeling extremely vulnerable. Older children and adolescents said that gossip about people’s HIV/AIDS status by members of the community was common. In order to protect the secret. Some children make up stories about their parents and family. They said that it was hard to support their children who were being teased when they were being gossiped about as well.
Confused by these conflicting feelings. If children have to be separated for financial or practical reasons. After a while.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. 13 . it is very important that these reasons be discussed with older children. Adults move through clear stages when dealing with death. children sometimes act angrily or aggressively towards the substitute caregiver. Because of the social and financial effect of the death of a parent. The children are thus forced to deal with separation from brothers and sisters as well. older children should be asked which relative they would like to stay with. Children don’t grieve constantly: instead their grief is periodic and seems to come and go. Family savings are often divided among family members without taking the needs of the children into consideration. but children grieve differently. while at the same time wanting to be left alone. In many cases. We will concentrate on the emotional and psychological impact of death on children and their understanding of death in Chapter 3 of this book. Children of an orphaned family are often divided between several family members. 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. The caregiver may expect the child to be grateful. During these times the child may become clinging and cry. A child may have phases of severe sadness and depression. the grief seems to fade away and may even be forgotten until something triggers the memory of their deceased parent again. 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. Ideally. Often the family’s last money is used to pay for the costs of the funeral and food for the guests. the deceased parent dies without a will and without making plans for the children. A child may be caught between resenting the substitute caregiver while at the same time being dependent on him or her. making funeral arrangements and organising transport to bring the corpse home from the hospital.
They don’t want to think or talk about their parents and prefer to live in their own fantasy world. Preparing a child for the death of a parent is very painful for everyone concerned. go a long way towards helping their children accept their deaths and preparing for the future of their children. They feel helpless. hyperactivity or outbursts of anger. It also gives the child and the parent quality time to say all the things that they need to share. by drawing up a will to provide for their children and by talking to their children about death. It will take longer for the child to understand what has happened. It sometimes seems that children feel nothing about the death of their parent. it is almost as if they are numb. Other children tell of sudden pictures of the deceased parent flashing through their minds. aggression or severe depression. afraid and sometimes have 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. 14 . They have problems concentrating. but it softens the blow a little. the death of a parent can be extremely traumatic for a child. This makes the grieving process more complicated and may cause severe nightmares. The child may be overwhelmed by the sudden loss and may react with shock and confusion. The death of the parent will still be traumatic. Without such preparation. Looking back one day. Parents who prepare for their own deaths by arranging with relatives to take care of their children. It helps the child and the parent to accept what is going to happen. But this preparation is very important. This preparation for the death of a parent strengthens the child’s ability to cope. 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. Some children try to avoid dealing with the death of their parents.
They may suffer from the aches and pains of opportunistic infections.) Children infected with HIV as a result of abuse have to cope with the trauma of the abuse. although many of them will not express it verbally. In order to assist a child without being overprotective. Even though their friends may not know that they have HIV. for example TB. It is important for the child to keep up with the rest of the class. they will have less strength and energy than their friends and may not always be able to take part in games and activities. Infected children need special support. They may realise that they are sick more often than other children. the disease or death of a parent and their own infection. Telling others about an HIV/AIDS status Many parents and caregivers decide not to reveal the HIV-status of their children. They should not be discriminated against at school and they should go to school for as long as their health and strength permits. Even when they are at school. diarrhoea and vomiting. Children who are infected with HIV and are suffering from AIDS will start thinking about their own death. 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. shingles and herpes infections. Either way. Schools need to provide for their special needs (like medication that needs to be given in class. Dealing with HIV and school Infected children may miss a lot of school and will eventually fall behind their classmates. 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 . this is a difficult decision to make. Teaching methods should be adapted to the learner’s needs. Children who have been infected via mother-to-child transmission (through birth or breastfeeding) often don’t know that they are infected. they may be teased because they get tired quickly.Being infected themselves Some children have to deal with another crisis: their own infection with HIV/AIDS. longer rest periods and catching up with work that has been missed when they were absent). 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. (Opportunistic infections are diseases you get when you have HIV. oral and genital thrush. policies and plans should be drawn up so that infected children can fit in at school.
In order to develop resilience in children. Working against discrimination needs to become part of school activities.HIV/AIDS pandemic. We will study this in Chapter 3. It is important for children and adults to learn to respect one another. which does not help children affected by HIV/AIDS either. 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. to get along with one another and to work as a team. 16 . Some people take a head-in-the-sand attitude and prefer not to know. People need to be friends regardless of whether a person has HIV. we need to understand how children react in difficult situations. The HIV/AIDS pandemic challenges children and adults alike to learn respect and tolerance. These values have to be taught both at home and at school. a different skin colour or speaks a different language.
the child can recall the image of the deceased person from memory. Please note. When a parent dies. By this stage. “Grieving”is the word used to describe the thoughts and feelings that we have when someone has died. All are normal. depression or anger. 17 . aunt or any other primary caregiver who basically fulfilled the child’s needs and is close to the child could replace the term parent. coping responses. Their reactions are all normal reactions. Even a baby will feel the absence of a primary caregiver or the change in faces or routines. In this situation. the young child needs a lot of reassurance and patience. but generally we say that a child can truly mourn the loss of a loved one by the age of three or four. 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. 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. At this stage. however. it is natural for a child to experience feelings of bereavement like sadness. 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. Being able to think about or imagine the person means that the child is able to mourn. caregivers and teachers we have to help the child find a response that is best for him or her. “Mourning”involves accepting the death.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. As parents. making the death part of our memories and moving on to a new life. that grandmother. While some reactions are healthy responses that show that the child is adapting. others are less appropriate. In Chapter 4 we will study how children react to the loss of a parent. the child can think about or imagine the person even though they cannot be seen.
The 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. An unexpected death is even more shocking and is more difficult for the child to accept. The parent can plan for the child’s future by drawing up a will and arranging a substitute caregiver for the child. 3. Death due to a terminal illness often allows the parent and the child to spend some quality time together. 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. 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 stigma attached to HIV/AIDS means that a parent’s death due to the disease is often shrouded in secrecy and disapproval. The child needs to be able to adapt to these changes and to adjust to an environment in which the deceased parent is missing. speaking to them and protecting them. The child feels the pain of loss. 2. This is important because it keeps the connection with the deceased person. 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. This may take a long time and there will probably be problems along the way. the tension may come out later in the form of sickness or behavioural problems. The child accepts that the person has really died and will never come back. This was discussed in Chapter 2. Unfortunately. The death of the parent Death always comes as a shock. Factors that affect the mourning process Various factors influence the child’s mourning process and how the child eventually copes with the death.Different aspects of mourning There are different aspects of mourning that a child needs to work though. 18 . 1. The death of a parent causes many changes in the child’s world. It may be that the child thinks of his mother or father in a certain place (like heaven).
A family divided by conflict or with problems like alcohol dependency. which prevents him or her from providing the support that the children need. Very often the surviving parent is dealing with his or her own grief. Members of a family share the same roots. teachers and spiritual leaders is very important. domestic violence. They can support both the child and the mourning parent – this reduces the stress for the child. severe poverty and an absence of strong values and beliefs can be an additional stressor for the mourning child. 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. neighbours. The structure of the extended family A loving extended family that provides security and care can offer an orphaned child a sense of identity and a sense of belonging. 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 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). it is easier for the child to find meaning and to regain control. 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. The help of other family members. 19 . as well as later on. If the child is supported by the rhythm of a normal routine. A dysfunctional family structure may thus have a negative effect on the coping process and encourage poorly adapted behaviour. the same history and generally have similar values and beliefs. This familiarity provides warmth and protection. The emotional impact of the death of a grandmother will probably be greater when the grandmother raised the child.
This applies to the HIV/AIDS pandemic as well. Communities have their own resources and traditional ways of coping with adversity. 20 . even in a limited way. Although some adults think that they are protecting children from sadness by excluding them (keeping them away) from funerals and other family rituals. control and resilience. in fact the opposite is true. Only if there is a strong sense of community will no one point fingers at or isolate people affected by HIV/AIDS. Instead. At the same time. women’s groups. democratic leadership is an ideal environment in which to nurture resilience in children affected by HIV/AIDS. Rituals acknowledge that something terrible has happened.Rituals surrounding the parent’s death Family beliefs and rituals are very important when a person dies. and not to feel excluded from the rest of the family. home-based care groups and religious groups. that someone has died. Support from the community The importance of community support is easy to overlook. The family’s religious and traditional belief system provides meaning for the death. The mourners understand that they are not alone in their grief. Rituals provide an opportunity to honour and remember the life of the person who has died. Each of these groups provides valuable support. In many societies. A community with a strong sense of unity and sound. Taking part in these rituals has a healing and consoling effect on both children and adults. the impact of disasters is shared rather than experienced alone. 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. it is important for children to take part. communities like these gather their resources and try to support those who are affected or infected by the disease. Even though some children will not understand everything that happens at a funeral (or another ritual). health services. For this reason. The people who attend the ritual comfort the people who are mourning. rituals can include an awareness of a future life – both for the deceased and also for those people who mourn. Communities play a special role in providing supportive structures like schools. This sense of meaning promotes understanding.
For this reason they may display changes in sleeping and eating patterns. This makes death impossible to explain to the child. The age and developmental stage of the child Children understand death differently at different ages and stages of their development. bodily contact. They understand without having to think. Usually. Toddlers may also seem to forget skills they have learnt and go back to behaving like a younger child. comfort and identity. The child’s understanding of death When a parent dies. protection. a sense of security. Although infants can’t understand what has happened. Peers have an intuitive understanding of each other. The child learns to communicate with his or her parents. food. 21 . Before deciding how to help a child as he or she mourns. Children from birth to two years old Infants and toddlers are very dependent on their mothers and fathers for love and affection. how to interact in social relationships and how to express feelings of comfort and discomfort. they miss the parent’s voice and smell and they miss the comfort and security the parent provided. they still miss the parent. 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. gives meaning to death and is able to access inner and external resources while mourning. They have no concept of death. The developmental stage affects how a child sees death. we need to understand how the child understands death at that particular stage of development. In addition. It is often easier for children to share their grief with peers than with adults. Remember that each child will react differently according to his or her personality and access to external support. mother and child have an especially strong bond. Toddlers may show signs of irritability or anger. children up to the age of two cannot understand what has happened. The mother can understand and anticipate her child’s needs even before the child can speak. They miss the way the parent touched them.Peers and friends Peers (children of the same age) and friends provide children with vital support in times of grief and mourning. They may cry more and be difficult to pacify. This is called “regression”.
• The child should not be separated from his or her brothers and sisters. cling to other relatives or refuse to be touched at all.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. They may cry. They are learning about objects and people but they still can’t understand concepts like life. What can be done to support an infant or toddler after the death of a parent? • The substitute caregiver should be close and consistent. but in the same breath he will say that she might come back. At this age. with his or her brothers and sisters. • The substitute caregiver should provide lots of bodily contact. Ideally the caregiver should be an adult and not an older sibling who still is a child herself. As they are primarily concerned with their own needs the grief response at this developmental stage is usually brief. death or friendship. Between periods of grieving the child seems to forget about what happened. The infant or toddler preferably should be kept in the same home environment. throw tantrums. Some children experience death as abandonment – they think that the deceased person didn’t want them any more. Children from two to four years of age Children at this stage of development are mainly concerned with themselves and their own needs. • The child’s environment should stay the same. but repeats itself frequently. It is important that this caregiver should stay the same. 22 . Children grieve very intensely at this age. A child who develops a close. The child’s understanding of death Children at this stage of development do not understand that death means that someone is dead forever. affectionate relationship with the substitute caregiver will cope more easily with the changes in his or her life. The infant or toddler will adapt more quickly when there are no major changes in routine. they understand that the person is no longer there but they think the person will return. a child may say that his mother has died. • The child’s routine should stay the same.
Some children display sleeping disorders. • Encourage the child to play with other children and to explore his or her own world. Signs of distress and regression are common. • The child’s environment should stay the same. • The substitute caregiver should provide lots of affection and bodily contact. If the child is separated from the remaining family members. Eating habits may change. • The substitute caregiver should spend time with the child. How you can help the child Once again. 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. Ideally the child should stay with his brothers and sisters and other close family members. • The child should not be separated from his or her brothers and sisters. Some children may start wetting their beds. people should use honest language that the child can understand. • When talking to the child. 23 . playing with the child and having fun together. he or she is very likely to see this as abandonment. showing an interest in the child. Listen to what the child says and try to understand what the child is feeling. The child needs to be talked to in language that he or she can understand. Seeing surviving adults sad and crying may be confusing and upsetting for children of this age because they don’t understand what is happening. a consistent substitute caregiver is very important. either refusing to go to sleep or waking in the night and being unable to go back to sleep. Repeat things and answer questions. 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. • Share positive memories and stories about the deceased with the child. They sense that their safety and security are threatened and they are frightened by the absence of the parent.Children in this age group are more aware of changes in the way they are cared for. • The child’s routine should stay the same. Look at pictures of the deceased parent together. • Pray with the child. Use the same words each time you explain. The consistency of daily routine and a familiar environment give the child a feeling of structure and security.
Adults have a very influential role in children’s spiritual development because depending on how God is described to a child by the caregiver. The resulting changes in family relationships may bewilder a pre-school child. Some children react aggressively. shame. Children love being told stories at this age. 24 . A child develops a strong sense of right and wrong during this phase of development. Children become very creative and explorative at this age. Being able to speak means that they can talk about their thoughts and feelings. punishment. sorrow and concern for others. However. God is very real to children during this phase of development. 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. shows signs of sadness and grief and may cling to substitute caregivers. The child’s emotional range now includes feelings of guilt. They develop a feeling for who they are (they know their own name. The child develops a conscience and the concepts of morals and values become more sophisticated. children are able to work through their grief. They love rhymes and songs. Children believe that they have control over what happens in their lives and it helps them to cope with new fears and worries. They see that family members also have different jobs to do. They play games with other children and experience conflict with siblings and friends. The fantasy world and the real world are sometimes blurred around the edges and a little confused. ghosts or Father Christmas. Some children may start to think that they can do magic things or change things that happen in “real” life. fear and guilt). They develop a peer group. An orphaned child longs for the parent. showing anger towards the dead person as well as towards the surviving adults.Children from four to seven years old During this phase children start to explore the world outside their immediate environment. They gain a sense of autonomy. like fairies. children learn how to pray. They start to see a difference between the things that girls do and the things that boys do. and they understand about belonging to a family and having friends. The child’s understanding of death The concept that death is for ever is still difficult for children during this developmental phase. surname and where they live). With the help of adults. Their imaginations develop and they believe in things that older children and adults know are not real. with support. Children this age know whether they are girls or boys. This is sometimes called the phase of magical thinking.
“It’s my fault. This will be the cause of some concern. For adults. these fears seem irrational. “she’s resting”or “we’ve lost Mommy”because at this stage of development the child will take you literally. They may also show great interest in the process of dying. for example) helps the child to understand what has happened. It is not unusual to hear. children with a spiritual and cultural belief system are more resilient. then perhaps the deceased parent will return. Before explaining to a child where the parent has gone. But remember that the child is in a developmental phase during which the imagination is very vivid and reality and fantasy overlap. Death should be openly discussed and not described with words like. Spiritual.“ This is complicated by the belief that if they are “good”enough. but it is important to answer them as honestly as possible. children may ask the same questions many times. “Mommy has gone to sleep”will cause the child to expect Mommy to wake up again. they may think that their parent fell sick and died because of something that they themselves did. “going to be with Jesus”). “It’s my fault my mother died. Because they can’t think logically yet. It is important to reassure the child that the substitute caregiver won’t die. religious and cultural beliefs are critically important for the well-being of the child.You may need to reassure the child over and over again. each time anxiety or fear is triggered. I was cross with her and I hoped she would die. but I carried on. Children are also interested in what will happen to the parent after he or she has been buried. Understanding what has happened increases the child’s ability to cope. They find it easier to give a deeper meaning to the loss. These may be difficult questions for the surviving parent (or the caregiver). Saying. ancestors or reincarnation according to the family’s culture and religion. She told me to stop fighting with my sister.”Or. As explained in Chapter 1. The repetitive questioning about the parent’s death may be because the child is afraid that the substitute caregiver may die too. “your mommy has gone to sleep”. Children at this age are looking for the “how”and the “why”. They will want to know how and why a person died. Allowing children to take part in religious and traditional rituals after death (like attending the funeral. It is crucially important for the caregiver to explain why the parent died in a way that the child can understand. it is important for the adult to be sure of what he or she himself believes. During this phase. 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. That’s when she died. It is up to the caregiver to strengthen the child’s belief system. It is the caregiver’s task to explain concepts of heaven. The child needs to understand that it was not his or 25 . the child starts to understand abstract concepts like moving from one form of existence to another (“becoming an angel”.In order to come to terms with the concept of death.
26 . This may take a long time to understand because it is not easy for the child to grasp the concept of death and disease. 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. Try to understand that these reactions are the child’s attempt to distance himself or herself from the pain of loss. 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. This is often caused by a sense of abandonment and the (realistic) fear that there is no one to look after him or her. joke and show off after the loss of a parent. The child may still show signs of regression. This helps children to maintain their sense of identity and their sense of belonging. At this developmental stage it becomes very important for the child to understand what has happened. This is very frightening. They may refuse to sleep alone in a bed or insist that the lights are kept on during the night. Children generally like to hear stories about the deceased parent. Talking about the parent who died helps to keep the child’s memory alive.her actions that made the parent die. and to have some of the belongings of the deceased parent to keep. 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. How you can help the child In addition to providing a daily routine. But such understanding and meaning are critical for the coping and grieving process. Children in this age group feel very vulnerable and helpless. start wetting the bed at night or having nightmares and sleeping problems. This can be very upsetting for the surviving family members who will then scold or punish the children. Sometimes children giggle. “Re-enacting”play is a normal and natural process by which the child tries to understand and come to terms with the death and it encourages healing and coping. Some children may refuse to go outside or use a toilet in the dark. Provide the child with lots of physical affection. The more the child is able to understand and the more the child can maintain “contact”with the deceased parent. to see pictures of the deceased parent. Help the child to have positive memories of the deceased parent. Caregivers may notice that the child starts playing sickness and death games with other children. Some children may imagine death as a person or a ghost. • Offer comfort and encouragement. the better the child will be able to cope.
but children who do not manage the new challenges of school start to feel disappointed and inferior. Try to keep the child’s environment the same or similar. constructive criticism and praise from their parents and teachers. Where this includes attending a playgroup or pre-primary school. Look at pictures of the deceased parent together. this should continue. Explain how people feel when they are sick. Use the same words each time you explain. Learning new skills boosts their self-esteem. If you are a member of the family. Children start to think logically. Encourage the child to play with other children and to explore his or her environment. Explain to the child how disease can affect our bodies. Children start attending school during this phase and they are eager to learn. • 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. • Talk to the child. playing with the child and having fun together. you should spend time with the child. They need a lot of acknowledgement.• The caregiver should maintain the child’s normal routine. showing an interest in the child. visit the grave and have moments of remembrance. Use honest language that the child can understand. • As the caregiver. • If possible. Listen to what the child says and try to understand what the child is feeling. tell the child stories about things that the deceased parent did when he or she was the child’s own age. 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. looking for meaning in the events in their lives but their thought patterns are still very concrete and operational (directed at solving immediate problems). Don’t avoid talking about disease and death. • Pray with the child. encouraging 27 . Teachers are very important to children during this phase of their lives. A teacher who is supportive. the child should not be separated from his or her brothers and sisters. The teacher may spend more time with a child each day than the parent.
It is important that the child does not burden 28 . Some children may submerge themselves in household activities or in looking after their siblings in order to compensate for guilty feelings. Although friends may change more often than in later stages of development. They may talk to the deceased parent or claim to have had mysterious encounters with the parent. It should be understood that both responses are attempts by the child to come to terms with what has happened. Ask whether the child only wants to help or whether there is another reason for working so hard. This makes the child feel vulnerable. deep emotional pain and longing for their parent. Some children may still feel responsible for the parent’s death. Some children may nonetheless feel unsure about what behaviour is expected from them.and who responds to the natural curiosity of the child will be able to build a good relationship with the child. even though they can relate to their own grief and to the grief of other family members. the child may either try to suppress all feelings or may go to the opposite extreme and have outbursts of anger or sadness. helplessness. Typical grief will include sadness. Some children may copy adults’ behaviour. depression. They may develop a fantasy relationship with the deceased parent in an attempt to keep him/her alive. believing that their bad behaviour or unkind thoughts caused the death or disease. But unlike younger children. trust the teacher and feel able to confide in the teacher when a problem arises. School is also where the child learns to socialise with a wider social circle. anger. The child may see an alternative role model in the teacher. In response to this sense of vulnerability and helplessness. 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. the immediate reaction of a child to the death of a parent is similar to the reaction of a child of pre-school age. The child’s understanding of death At this stage of development. friendships and group activities are important opportunities for children to learn how to deal with conflict and to contribute as team members. children in this age group are able to understand logical explanations for the death of the parent. The child will see that even adults are distressed by death and the child has a basic understanding that death is beyond our control. it will be necessary to discuss the behaviour with the child. Sadness and a sense of powerlessness seem to be the strongest feelings. 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. If it seems that this behaviour is becoming compulsive. Children in this age group have more specific questions about death and require more detailed information than younger children.
himself or herself with feelings of guilt and self-blame. even non life-threatening diseases like flu and the common cold may frighten the child. The sadness alone may be overwhelming. All physical ailments should ideally be medically investigated. They need to find ways to relate to the parent after the parent has died. How you can help the child Schoolteachers may notice a change in the child after the death of a parent. 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. 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. They are also anxious about how other people may react when they hear that their parent has died. This interest is confused and has a strong element of fear. The child might re-enact scenes of death and dying during play. draw pictures of the deceased parent. The child must be made to understand that disease and death are not in any way related to the child’s behaviour. 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. 29 . Children also want to know where the deceased parent has gone. 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. by keeping an object that belonged to the parent or by speaking to the parent. 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. Since the child has learned that death can be caused by disease. They keep the connection with the parent by dreaming about him or her. it is advisable that the child be reassessed by a medical professional and perhaps referred for professional psychological treatment. Sometimes children will start to behave like the deceased parent. Some children fear that another close relative or caregiver (or even they themselves) may die too. Regularly visiting the grave or holding special memorial services are other ways of maintaining the connection. Children in this age group are fascinated by what happens to the body after death. If the pains don’t subside after a few weeks. This is because children need to fit the deceased parent into a mental and emotional world. Children worry about how the parent’s death will affect their own lives. become hyperactive and attentionseeking or withdraw completely.
• Make sure that the child goes to school. • Encourage the child to be part of a group (for example at religious institutions or community level. 30 . the child needs the stability of a secure place in the peer group. 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. Acknowledge the child’s abilities and skills – boost his or her self-esteem and selfconfidence. like a choir or a sports team). Offer comfort and encouragement. The responses of the teacher and the school are critical to the child’s well-being. Rituals emphasise moving towards the future and so they are crucial in promoting resilience and coping. It is good to have a supportive adult with the child during the ritual. at least over parts of his or her life. At a time when there is a crisis at home. This structure helps the child to regain control. increasing the child’s fear and confusion. If the child is unprepared and does not understand what is happening. but they also reinforce that there is a future for the person who has died and for those who mourn. This is crucially important. Rituals are healing and consoling for children and adults. • Provide the child with lots of affection. writing or even drawing pictures) and to answer questions that the child does not dare to ask at home. Excluding the child from the ritual means that you deny the child an opportunity to begin the long walk to hope and healing. The teacher needs to help the child to express his or her feelings (through talking. Taking part in religious (or traditional) rituals also encourages the grieving and healing process. Try not to exclude children from rituals. Performing a ritual gives those who mourn a chance to remember the person who has died and to honour him or her. Knowing that there is somewhere where he or she belongs that has nothing to do with the pressure at home gives a child a sense of security. It gives the mourners a sense of comfort and support as they see that they are not alone in their grief. 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. Providing clear and honest answers helps the child to gain understanding and control. Teach the child basic life skills.School provides an important daily routine and structure in the child’s life. Rituals acknowledge that something terrible has happened. some rituals may be as upsetting as the death itself. The child knows what is expected at school and this provides security. in this case that someone has died. giving support and explanations when needed. but do prepare the child for what he or she is going to see.
understanding the finality of death often leaves the child feeling powerless and helpless. Explain to the child how disease can affect our bodies.• Keep the child’s environment the same or similar. Explain how people feel when they are sick. If you are a member of the family. Although the child may still occasionally use magical thinking (as explained in the section dealing with children aged four to seven). • Pray with the child and teach the child how to pray. • Death and disease are subjects that should be discussed at school. showing an interest in the child. playing with the child and having fun together. However. Talk honestly about how people feel when they die – be honest and use language that the child can understand. Encourage the child to play with other children. It is important that children are helped to regain control over their lives. tell the child stories about things that the deceased parent did when he or she was the child’s own age. Use the same words each time. Children could make a “memory corner” in the classroom. • Talk to the child. 31 . Teachers can use the concepts for creative writing. • If possible. Tell the stories or read the books and then talk about them with the child. 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. Don’t avoid talking about disease and death. 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. • Share happy memories and stories about the deceased parent. the child should not be separated from his or her brothers and sisters. Listen to the child’s replies. Look at pictures of the parent with the child and visit the grave. the child generally knows the difference between fantasy and reality. • The substitute caregiver should spend time with the child. • Try to find stories about death. Abstract concepts like heaven are clear. 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).
it is normal for the child to miss the parent for a long time. By now the child can understand the concept of time and can think about the future. 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. rather than on the details of the behaviour. This may lead to anxiety that shows itself through sleep disturbance. Knowing that death is often related to physical pain and that it is also unpredictable causes more anxiety or worry. try to deny the parent’s death and will simply refuse to accept it. however. Others may look for a reason why the parent died. In the same way that a child in the previous developmental stage tries to regain control over his or her life. loneliness or helplessness). the child is able to look at them from a distance 32 . feelings of abandonment. It is not OK for you to break things in the classroom. From time to time there may be outbreaks of distress. 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. You will need patience and compassion.Children in this age group go through a similar mourning process to the mourning process of an adult. feeling betrayed by fate. Even when a child has come to terms with the parent’s death. fear. The ritual gives deeper meaning to what has happened and in this way encourages resilience. but prevent destructive actions. Some children may. 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.You could say for example. As a caregiver (or a teacher) it is important to focus on the reason for any changes in behaviour (like increased sadness. “It is OK for you to be angry and I understand that. 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. anxiety. poor school performance and disrupted social relationships. How you can help the child It is very important that children at this developmental phase attend rituals like funerals and prayer services. these children need religious or cultural rituals to help them cope. as well as visit the grave after the funeral. anger or regression. anger. Set rules that allow feelings to surface. guilt. Knowing where the body was buried gives them a sense of control. Some children may be able to show these fears by drawing pictures of what scares them most about death and disease. Such children need meaning to be given to the death of their parent. Externalising the anxiety. God or their ancestors. but for some children. By putting thoughts on paper. This helps the child to gain control. It is important to allow the grief to come and go. These thoughts may include happy plans.
Protecting themselves against HIV/AIDS.– like an observer or a bystander. but addressing sexuality in class should not be limited to the biological or physical aspect of sexual intercourse. Talking in class about death. 33 . traditional and personal values. Sexuality is a topic that should be addressed. Although the private conversations between the teacher (or another community member) and child are helpful and important. aspects of human rights and human responsibilities. But they may find it difficult to discuss the topic with the remaining parent or a substitute caregiver. the child has control and can confront it without being overwhelmed. Sharing thoughts in the classroom situation. Some children prefer to discuss their feelings with their friends or with an outsider like a teacher or a community volunteer. Even if a child has not lost a relative. Externalising fear (or feelings of anger or sadness) gives the child a chance to look at the fear face-to-face. children must understand how it is transmitted. especially through sexual intercourse. Those who don’t want to contribute to the discussion will learn by observing and listening. play. drawing or writing. Although some children in this age group may be physically able to experiment with sexual intercourse. Teachers. Children at this developmental stage need to express their feelings – whether in speech. Sexuality is more than just a physical act. Some people believe that distributing condoms amongst nine to 12-year-old children prevents the transmission of HIV/AIDS in teenagers. Children of this age are able to understand that HIV/AIDS is transmitted by the exchange of bodily fluids like blood. the child can also change things or rub out the parts that are too frightening. community members and peers are valuable resources for a child during this time. Sharing thoughts with an outsider. Many children in this age group know about condoms because they are constantly exposed to advertisements for condoms. Children need to be taught how to care for diseased people without infecting themselves. For this reason. Many children may have lost relatives to HIV/AIDS. If they are on paper. disease and death should be included in the school curriculum and discussed in the group situation in class. Due to the tremendous spread of the disease. they may know of other people who have died. but because the fear is now outside the child (on the paper). feelings related to death and ways to cope with death and loss allows children to share their different experiences and learn from each other. 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. Disease and death are topics that concern most people. Discussions should include feelings. they are definitely not emotionally ready to have sexual relationships. faeces and genital excretions. Other people argue that this is an invitation to experiment with sexual intercourse.
tell the child stories about things that the deceased parent did when he or she was the child’s own age. Look at pictures of the deceased parent together. 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. but it is woefully inadequate and does not cover the topic in a suitable way. 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. • Hand over small responsibilities and tasks to the child. Encourage the child to express his or her feelings and concerns. If you are a member of the family. • The substitute caregiver should be close and consistent.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. • Offer comfort and encouragement. showing an interest in the child and having fun together. Discuss caring for HIV/AIDS patients. Encourage the child to be part of a group (for example at religious organisations or community level. • Death and disease are subjects that should be discussed at school. the child should not be separated from his or her brothers and sisters. Discuss HIV/AIDS transmission and prevention. • When talking to the child. 34 . like a choir or a sports team). Have moments of remembrance. • Make sure that the child goes to school. Encourage the child to spend time with other children. • Spend time with the child. Teach the child basic life skills. • Share positive memories and stories about the deceased with the child. use honest language that the child can understand. Listen to what the child says and try to understand what the child is feeling.
others may appear undisturbed. talking about death and loss and actively mourning. Adolescents are insecure about themselves. Another form of risk-taking behaviour is demonstrated by the adolescent’s attitude towards HIV/AIDS. The adolescent’s understanding of death Adolescents recognise death as final and irreversible.”is the adolescent’s reaction. They know that it leads to a terminal disease. Very often they do not protect themselves.Adolescents: children from 13 to 18 years old The developmental task of an adolescent is to establish a concept of self. They apply the consequences of the parent’s death to their own lives and think. Adolescents tend to be very egocentric (focused on themselves and their own problems) and they may pity themselves when a parent dies. 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. They know it is transmitted by unprotected sexual intercourse. They are preoccupied with changes in their body and afraid that their bodies may be harmed. “It won’t happen to me. Many adolescents tragically believe that it won’t happen to them or that they won’t be infected because. or sniff glue. Most adolescents know the facts about HIV/AIDS. what their purpose in life is and where they belong. pain and death. “I have to be responsible for my siblings”– this may be threatening to them. They have to work out who they are. “It’s the first time.” The transition from childhood to adulthood. Although they are scared that their own bodies may be hurt. Still. a gender role and a distinct personality. Some adolescents start to experiment with alcohol. adolescents take risks that can be life threatening. Adolescents have ambivalent attitudes towards their bodies. extremely angry or totally withdrawn. adolescents take risks because they seem to be convinced that they can’t be harmed. Developing an identity involves developing a body image. But while some adolescents cope on the emotional level by expressing appropriate emotions. delayed reactions and the suppression of feelings.Yet when confronted with vulnerability. many adolescents (partly due to peer pressure) engage in very early sexual relationships. To imagine that their own life could also end causes confusion and disbelief and so the thought is quickly rejected. A teenager’s struggle from childhood to adulthood can be seen in his or her reaction to death. start to smoke. 35 . They are fully aware of the consequences of death. There are various forms of risk-taking behaviour. Disease and death are very threatening to them. It is common for teenagers to react with denial. Their cognitive (intellectual) understanding of death is that of an adult. deep fears and insecurities are evoked. “I have to leave school “ or. with drugs. In their imaginary cocoon of security.
their future hopes and dreams are often shattered. the adolescent also feels alone. A peer group is essential for an adolescent. Since the peer group provides most of the support during this developmental stage. In addition to accepting enormous responsibility. self-confidence and developing identity. The reality of the HIV/AIDS pandemic is that many adolescents have to become caregivers at home. Loneliness at a time when support is needed weighs heavily on many teenagers. Not fitting into either group can have a great impact on the adolescent’s sense of self-worth. Because many adolescents have to leave school in order to look after their siblings and to earn a living. it takes a lot of their time and isolates them from their peer group. Loneliness. parenting their younger siblings. it is not surprising that this struggle often emerges in the form of physical aches and pains. they are not part of the school-going teenage group either because of the burden of responsibility that they bear. It makes them vulnerable to abuse. How you can help the adolescent It is evident from public statements and publications that adolescents receive less recognition than younger orphans. The loss of a parent due to HIV/AIDS is seen as threatening their conformity and so many teenagers try to keep the cause of death a secret in order to avoid any stigma. An adolescent wants to belong to a group of peers and their acceptance is important. the guidance and direction of adults is often rejected. While much has been done for younger children. especially when they are heads of households or caregivers. meaning that teenagers who belong to the same group show that they are part of the group by having the same interests. are rapidly becoming an invisible group. For this reason many adolescents feel hopeless and see no opportunities in the future. It is difficult for many teenagers to find a role in their society. adolescents are often left out. The influence of a peer group. Although many teenagers do this with great commitment and compassion. Adolescents fear isolation from their peer group. It is important not to differ in any way from the group. Not yet adult men and women. They fear discrimination. behaving the same way and wearing similar clothes. As adults we sometimes assume that younger children need more support and help 36 . Group acceptance is often achieved through group conformity. betrayed by relatives (which sometimes includes the deceased parent) and lonely. especially girls.Given their preoccupation with their bodies. this means that the adolescent is cut off from his or her support group. Adolescent orphans. Because adolescents strive for independence.
but let the adolescent be involved in decision-making processes. Offer help. Provide substitute caregivers (for example. the situation of the adolescent orphan calls for as much attention as the situation of the younger child. At the same time. while at the same time working through a very difficult developmental stage. For example. What can be done to support an adolescent after the death of a parent? • Ensure that the adolescent continues to attend school. It is important that there should be other positive role models (like teachers. and to respond by offering emotional understanding and support. Acknowledge that adolescents face a difficult situation. The adolescent needs help to see that things will improve in the long run. comments and behaviour of the adolescent. having to leave school affects the adolescent’s self-confidence and his or her orientation towards the future. 37 . They also need to understand what is expected from them in terms of responsibilities. It is true that adolescents have more life experience and cognitive (thinking) skills than younger children. • When trying to assist adolescents. Often adolescents will refuse to take advice from parents or caregivers but will look for their own role models. • Adolescents strive for independence. Together. that he or she still has a future. your community might have home-based carers) to assist the adolescent with family responsibilities and to free the adolescent to continue studying or training. this can be very stressful. We need to pay attention to the questions. and that there is still hope. but at the same time they need support.than their older brothers and sisters. Focusing on the needs of the younger child should not prevent us as caregivers from keeping the adolescent in mind as well. Thus. but in most cases (especially in child-headed households) the adolescent orphan is left with lot of responsibility. community members or community leaders) with whom the adolescent can identify. as well as with the responsibility of providing for a family. We think that adolescent orphans will manage to get along on their own. Don’t impose what you think they need. be there as a safety net. adolescents need to be told clearly what the acceptable limits of behaviour are. ask them what they think they need in order to cope better. This means that the adolescent orphan has to cope with the loss of a parent.
• Make sure that the adolescent has time to be with his or her peers. do not separate siblings. • If possible. • The transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDS and caring for people with the disease should be discussed in class and in community settings. be clear about what is expected of the adolescent.• Adolescents have to understand the concepts of “rights” and “responsibilities”. Encourage the adolescent to be part of a peer group (at religious organisation or community level) like a choir or a sports team. he or she also has more responsibilities. Although an adolescent has more independence and freedom. discuss the consequences of such behaviour. set clear rules. • When an adolescent engages in risk-taking behaviour. but be clear about the limits. Set a framework in which the adolescent makes decisions. If their behaviour becomes selfdestructive. 38 . especially when a parent has died and the adolescent has been left in charge of siblings. • As a caregiver.
they are able to cope as long as they can understand what is happening. Remember that even though children may show signs of stress and grief. but not all of the time) until they are well into adulthood. 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 can help a child deal with these normal reactions and feelings. Nevertheless. Severe illness and the death of a parent are not normal events in a child’s life. Reactions of distress. 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 need to identify when normal reactions turn into severe changes in behaviour that need professional attention. orphaned children cope even better. the substitute caregiver and the members of the community. who feel increasingly 39 . The situation is even more difficult if more than one parent (or other close relative) dies. grief or anger from a child are normal reactions to an abnormal event. Children who experience death may continue to grieve and mourn periodically (that is. which is often the case. who feel helpless and out of control and who can’t give deeper meaning to what is happening. The events that lead to a child becoming an orphan are very traumatic. They must also believe that they can manage and they must be able to give deeper meaning to the event.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. When they receive support from the other parent. some of the time. helplessness. 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.
the child may require more specialised help than ordinary caregivers and teachers can give. What are severe reactions? Very intense reactions. As caregivers. 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. Being unable to cope with the sickness and death of the parent may lead to severe reactions instead of normal reactions. 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. Preventing severe reactions in a child Ask yourself these questions. Reactions that profoundly alter the general behaviour of the child. If a child lacks resilience. death. fear and isolation become stronger. it is our job to STOP problems from developing and to help the child to cope. 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. their feelings of stress and grief may become more extreme or “severe”. This is discussed in more detail in Chapter 7 of this book. When it becomes obvious that a child’s reactions are severe. 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. their feelings of depression. This will be discussed in more detail in Chapter 6. 40 . instead of slowly fading away. each of us has an important role to play. Reactions that last for a long time.overwhelmed and unable to cope as they as they struggle to survive. helplessness. The child’s behaviour may change and his or her reactions to new situations may be inappropriate (the child’s reaction may seem wrong). Without help. As caregivers. stigmatisation. 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).
41 . you can STOP and: Share your thoughts and ideas with your child and listen to your child’s ideas. Make sure that all your official documents (your ID card. Talk to each other. Organise arrangements to provide for your child’s financial and emotional stability. Many parents want to give their children something to keep. Many parents are afraid of raising this topic. Offer your child Opportunities to help you. thoughts and values. Having items that keep the memory of the deceased parent alive is critical. Collect some of your special belongings to be given to your child as a token of remembrance after you have died. Choose a substitute caregiver for your child. Draw up a will. It is easier for a child to adapt to change when the change was expected. but at the same time it makes the death easier to understand when it happens.The STOP system for parents As a parent. Prepare your child. they worry. They want to protect their children. But children watch adults constantly and they notice when something is wrong. Making a memory box is discussed on the next page. Learning the truth causes terrible pain. Although it may be very painful. Trust your child. This is better than the death coming as a complete shock because the child was not prepared for it. Helping you with small jobs will make your child feel less helpless and enhance the feeling that he or she can cope. Plan things for your child and share them with him or her. your birth certificate and the birth certificates of your children) are kept together in a safe place where they can be found easily. Talking to your child about your disease and your death is very difficult. Children often imagine the worst. Teach your child to be independent.You can pray with your child and pray for your child. If children don’t know the truth. children should be told about the likely death of a parent.
even if no one in the family is sick. They can go back to the box and read a letter over and over again. Creating a memory box can be an important step for the adult on the way to accepting his or her death. 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. In some families. photographs. important documents that the children will need (like birth certificates. These letters are also kept in the box. Important documents or tokens of sentimental value could be kept in it. a will and the parent’s ID card). the memory box becomes a precious tool for communication. it creates opportunities to express feelings and to talk about death and dying in a caring environment. letters or a special passage from a spiritual text. which contain letters to be read after the parent’s death. if you prefer) helps children come to terms with the loss of a loved one. When parents and children work on memory boxes together. They can look at the photographs and think about the message that was left behind. a diary. 42 . In this way. The box can be just a shoe box or a cereal box – what is important is what goes inside it. A memory box (or a memory book. even if the child is too young to do much more than decorate the box. not just children affected by HIV/AIDS. Making a memory box is a wonderful idea for all parents and children. Sealed envelopes. Memory boxes promote resourcefulness in all children.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. recorded tapes with messages. Helping to put the memory box together strengthens a child’s resilience. It shows the children that their parent loved them very much and cared enough to leave something precious and valuable for the child. the children write messages to the sick parent and put them into the box for the parent to read later. A memory box project would be worthwhile integrating into the normal school curriculum. Knowing about the family history helps a child to identify with his or her roots. are kept unopened until after the death. These items may be special messages for each child. Creating a memory box is an ideal opportunity to prepare children for the death of a parent. but it could be updated with precious items as time goes by.
We can tell God about things that worry us. Teach your child that God is a loving God. We can tell God in prayer about what happened during the day. A feeling of safety and security comes 43 . God always listens. Older children may blame God for the death of a parent. or what may be appropriate to your beliefs). Security and Solidarity (mutual understanding). Faith in a transcendent being is not difficult for most children until they become adolescents. have hope. He is always there and He will always take care of us. Prayer time is quality time Praying with your child is a good way to be close to your child. Structure (a normal day-to-day routine). Prayer time is quality time. Teach your child to pray. Teach your child that God is always with us and that God will always hear a prayer. We can tell God when we are happy and when we are angry. generally cope better with life’s adversities. both for the diseased parent as well as for the child. that every person comes from God and returns to God when they die. 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. Teach your child about the divine being (God or Allah. They learn to trust in God in the same way that they learned to trust their parents. but faith will make them feel less helpless. Children who have faith. Children who are able to pray and who have strong religious faith. The structure and rhythm of normal day-today life gives a child security. Structure and normality are very important for a child’s well-being after an upsetting event. Children who see their parent praying will start to pray. Tell your child that we can ask for anything in a prayer. you can apply the STOP system as well. Prayer cannot be taught in one lesson Children learn how to pray like they learn how to walk. Being able to talk about their feelings makes it easier to come to terms with them. knowing that they can depend on God – He will help them to cope. 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. Safety. The STOP system for caregivers As a caregiver taking over the responsibility after the death of a parent.
Even though something terrible has happened. Be open and honest with the child. Tenderness. care. Parenting and Participation. Opportunities for growth and development. Smaller children may feel more comfortable re-enacting what happened in play. the child knows what is expected of him or her and can see that life goes on. Let children (especially the older children) help make decisions that affect their own lives. Teach. which coffin to choose. it is important that the child still goes to school and is treated the same way as all the other children. concern and interest as you would show to your own child. Even if the child can’t afford school fees. Children need to express how they feel. or how to decorate the graveside). “my 44 . Seeing adults hiding their feelings worries children even more. This may be by talking. Doing things together will bring you and the child closer together. School does not only provide knowledge and education.when a child knows what tomorrow will bring. Openness. uniforms or books. Involve the children in the preparations for the funeral. Structure. Ask them where they would like to live. Truth. School is also a place of special belonging – children talk about “my school”. Children need tenderness – care and understanding – but at the same time they need directions. Show the same affection. things that fascinated you as child and games that you used to play. School is where children mix with their peers. by drawing pictures or by writing in a diary. especially when their lives seem to be falling apart. Remember that children need information to understand what has happened. The STOP system for teachers Schooling. Talk. true and shared in a way that the child is able to understand. Involve the children when you discuss their future. Involve older children in the choices you make for the funeral (for example. The information that you give must be honest. Teach them things that you are interested in yourself. Don’t try to hide your own feelings. Security. make sure the child attends school and teach him or her life-skills at home. Treat the child like your own child. Provide opportunities for growth and development.
At least at school the child knows where he or she belongs and what is expected of him or her. 45 . Peer group support. writing and acting). Teaching and Training. Although circumstances may force children to take on adult responsibilities. Using these games as teaching aids would be a low-key way of encouraging the development of resilience in children. Together they can share their feelings and discuss life. music. This is a great responsibility. but it offers a very rewarding challenge. It is also perhaps the only place where the child is allowed to behave like a child. School allows a child to fulfil another role. It emphasises another part of his or her identity. Expressing one’s feelings is the first step to healing. Organised play as an Opportunity for children to express themselves. When a child is orphaned. the child feels in control. Children express their thoughts and feelings through play and personal expression (like art. children are still children. Schools need to be sensitive to this and perhaps offer substitute play opportunities. There are games and activities that specifically encourage children’s inner resources and coping skills. Children who have lost a parent or have experienced other major life crises need to say how they feel and what they think. we will have to be good listeners so that we encourage children to express their feelings. 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. the home-world is in crisis and turmoil. Talk. Classroom activities will also change. This is particularly true of child-headed households. Chapter 6 looks at different games that can be played. At home the child has the role of a son or a daughter but at school the child is a student. When children are orphaned or a parent is sick. It feels normal and in making the child feel normal. Going to school after the death of a parent is very important because it gives the child a sense of security. The role of the teacher will change as the number of children coming from families disrupted by the AIDS pandemic increases. they often have to accept new responsibilities at home and there is little time to play. As teachers.class”and “my teacher”. Spending time with peers allows a child to be a child. This is when the school world becomes a safe haven. Participation in Peer group activities. His or her identity as a son or a daughter is confused because his or her parent has died. Play is an important part of a child’s development.
we must ask them what we can do to assist them. 46 . They need our support and assistance. the effort they make and the strength they display. They carry an enormous workload. If we look at them as victims. The attitudes of caregivers and teachers The attitudes of caregivers and teachers play a role in encouraging normal responses in children. their creativity and their needs. but these children are in fact survivors! Think for a moment about how much they achieve. resilience and ability to cope of children affected by HIV/AIDS. If. then we acknowledge their strengths. We must never forget the strength. If we look at them as survivors. you label children “victims of war”or a “lost generation of youth”. Children often feel that they relate better to their peers than they relate to adults. their skills and their expertise. 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. Many children prefer to share their problems with a friend rather than with an adult. We need to bear this in mind with regard to the situation of orphans and other so-called “vulnerable”(but resilient) children. helpless and unable to survive. we feel pity and compassion and so we distribute goods. offer support and pat their heads. It is easy for us to overlook the fact that they are actually coping. will affect the way we treat them. 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 they are treated as though they have a psychological disease then they are more likely to need psychological help. The way we look at the children in our care. Peer groups provide a sense of belonging and identity. Seeing them only as victims suggests that they are dependant. help and support their families. and not everyone has access to this or can afford it. and the manner in which we see these children. whether in our homes or in our classrooms. As parents. Our assistance will then build on their coping skills.Children of a similar age see life differently from how adults see life. Then will we be providing the best possible assistance and we will be encouraging them to cope better and to become more resilient. Peers support each other and help each other to grow. caregivers and teachers. then that is how you will react to them. But if we look at them as survivors who have managed to cope. This is wrong. do their schoolwork and at the same time grow as individuals. for example. We often overlook their initiative and creativity.
Her mother died two months ago. aggression. Clinging Nangula is four years old. 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. You will need to decide which one works best for you and for the child. magic thinking. auto-aggression (hurting themselves). bed-wetting. Nangula and her siblings are living with their 70-year-old grandmother. Nangula clings to her grandmother. Nangula is very anxious and she cries easily. intrusive memories (sometimes called “flashbacks”). very frightened. 47 .5 There are several specific reactions that caregivers come across when caring for orphaned children. Each time Nangula is separated from her grandmother she starts to cry and scream. These include clinging behaviour. There are several suggestions to deal with the different kinds of reactions. night terrors. At night she sleeps in her grandmother’s bed. sleeping difficulties. nightmares. hyperactivity. Nangula does not play with other children but tries to stay near her grandmother all the time. When other people come to the house. feelings of helplessness and body pains.
you can reassure her and tell her that you are there. and do not leave them alone with Nangula. After Nangula gets used to waking up in her own bed. Praise her for her independence every time she sleeps in her own bed. You could say. 3. “I will be back after you have had your afternoon sleep.”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. although she may cry and scream. prepare her for this. If she wakes up during the night. Nangula thinks that if she is separated from her grandmother. like her mother “left”her. Let Nangula be clinging for a while. Tell her that you will always come back. 2. praise her for being so strong and brave. When you have to leave her alone. Nangula should sleep in her own bed or on her own mattress.Explaining her behaviour Nangula clings to her grandmother because she fears that her grandmother will leave her. Nangula is too young to understand the concept of time. Try not to be away from her for a long time and keep telling her that you will not leave her for ever. In the beginning you may let Nangula fall asleep in your bed and then carry her to her own bed. What can you do to help? 1. so you should link the time with something that she can relate to. start putting her to sleep in her own bed as well. 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. Make her bed next to your own bed. “I will be back after you have eaten your lunch”or. Tell her where you are going and when you will be back. right next to her. 48 . When you get back. don’t force her to stay with them. If there is enough space. her grandmother will never return. Nangula does not understand that separation can be temporary (for a short time). Explain to her that she is big enough to sleep in her own bed. Allow her to sleep with a favourite toy (or something else that gives her comfort). Make sure you are back when you promised – don’t let her wait for you because this will make her more clinging and afraid. Try to find out why Nangula does not want the grandmother (or you) to leave.
Count how many objects she remembered correctly. Remove the cloth and look at all the objects again. Tell her to hide while you close your eyes and count to ten. Agree on these before you start playing. Memory games Which things can you remember? This game teaches Nangula to internalise objects and improves her memory. Try playing games with Nangula. “Look far away. like fridges and cars. When putting Nangula to sleep.If there is no space for Nangula to sleep in her own bed. a stone. give her a big hug. using an object. Ordinary hide-and-seek Teach Nangula how to play ordinary hide-and-seek. a paper-clip) in front of her. make sure it’s far away from Nangula’s bed. These games may be of help to her. Ask Nangula to tell you what is hidden under the cloth. let her sleep with an older sister. Don’t put her to sleep in the same bed as her brothers. very close!”or you let Nangula hide the object and you must look for it. but let yourself be found by Nangula! Make sure the area in which you play is safe so that Nangula can’t hurt herself. (All of these games are much more fun if brothers and sisters or friends play too. There are two ways of doing this. Then swop over: while Nangula closes her eyes you must hide. it still exists. Cover the things with a cloth. If the source of light is a candle or an open fire. Either you can hide the object (like a handkerchief or a spoon) and let Nangula look for it while you help her by saying. This may involve praying together. She needs to learn that objects and people can disappear and return again. When you find her. a piece of wool. leave a light on.”or “You’re close. 49 . If she is afraid of going to sleep in the dark. She has to learn to internalise objects and people so that she will feel secure even when they are not around. Agree that some places are not good hiding places. Make Nangula give you directions while you search for the object. 4. Put some objects that Nangula knows (like a spoon. Ask her to look at all the things and to memorise them. This teaches her that although something can’t be seen. have a ritual (a routine) that is followed every evening. even further. Then go and look for her. telling her a short story or talking about the best moment of her day. 1.) Here are some examples: Hide-and-seek with an object Play hide-and-seek with Nangula.
Sleeping difficulties and nightmares Rebekkah is five years old. Find out the real reason why Rebekkah does not want to go to sleep. At night. 3. remove the cloth and ask Nangula which picture is missing. What can you do to help? 1. Rebekkah refuses to go to bed. or something might have upset her during the night. Both her parents have died. Remove one picture and hide it behind your back.2. 50 . there may be too much noise in the house. Ask her to close her eyes.You could also increase the number of objects you show her. she may not want to be separated from close family members. She makes excuses to stay awake and finally falls asleep anywhere in the house. she may be afraid of having bad dreams.You will need to find new objects. Explaining her behaviour There could be different reasons for Rebekkah refusing to go to bed. Cover all the pictures with a piece of cloth. Her eldest sister. Tell Nangula to open her eyes. Place the pictures in front of her. who is 17 years old. give her something small to eat or a drink of warm milk or water. she may be afraid of the dark. Give Nangula old magazines and help her to cut out pictures of different people. If she is hungry and you have food in the house. Tell Nangula to open her eyes. She and her other siblings live together. When Nangula has played this game a few times it will get boring. remove one object and put it behind your back. Don’t give her cooldrinks or fizzy drinks (like Coke) to drink. but while Nangula’s eyes are closed. for example: she may not be tired enough to go to sleep. Ask her to look at all the pictures and memorise them. looks after them all. Now do the same again. remove the cloth and ask her which object is missing. she may be afraid that her sister (her caregiver) will disappear or die as her parents did. she may be hungry.
Nightmares Manuel is 6 years old. If she is afraid of going to sleep in the dark. Make sure that she has a quiet corner to sleep in. 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.2. Don’t let her watch television before going to bed. This may involve praying together. telling her a short story or talking about the best moment of her day. Sometimes the frightening thing in the dream is based on an imagined fear rather than something that has actually happened. Often Manuel wakes up in the middle of the night and cries. If the source of light is a candle or an open fire. A child needs more sleep than an adolescent or an adult and should go to bed at the same time every day. 51 . Having a child in your family that refuses to go to sleep every night can be stressful for the caregiver. Children’s nightmares are usually related to something the child is afraid of or to something frightening that the child has experienced. Although this may sound mean (and although her crying may upset the other people in the house). Explaining his behaviour Many children have nightmares. Since his mother died he has been living with the neighbours. He dreams that someone has died. Don’t shout at Rebekkah or threaten her. leave a light on. This routine provides security and comfort to the child. When putting Rebekkah to sleep. have a ritual (a routine) that is followed every evening. Wash her with warm water or give her a warm bath before tucking her in. Turn the radio and television down. make sure it’s far away from Rebekkah’s bed. If she starts crying. but then leave her alone in her bed. 3. She will soon learn to calm down and fall asleep when it is her bedtime. comfort her briefly. Try to make her comfortable in her bed and promise her that you will be there when she wakes up. Tell her that you will make sure that she is safe while she is asleep. the nightmares are probably worse because his mother died and he had to move in with the neighbours. stay firm. Tell her that her older sisters will soon be coming to bed as well. In Manuel’s case. Don’t give in when Rebekkah begs you to let her stay up. but do be firm and insist that she goes to sleep. But it is important to be patient and calm. She may cry until she falls asleep but don’t let her get up. Sometimes he dreams that the house is on fire.
2. dreaming about the house being on fire may actually be symbolic of Manuel’s fear of losing all his belongings. including his security. remind Manuel of the dream and talk to him about it. By talking about them. he might be trying unconsciously to understand the death of his mother and to work through his own fears. 2. Manuel may have seen a big fire and heard adults talking about the danger of fires burning settlements down. Don’t allow Manuel to watch a lot of television – especially at night. 52 . Tell him that it was only a bad dream. In older children this can be a sign that there is something serious upsetting the child.What can you do to help? 1. Manuel will be facing the fears. After the death of his mother and losing his own home. Talk to him about the things that he finds frightening. Watching television increases the likelihood that violent or frightening pictures will be triggered while Manuel is sleeping. Find out what scares him in the dream and ask him what scares him when he is awake. In Manuel’s case. comfort him and calm him down. or putting them down on paper during the day. What else can you do to help? 1. the room and an object that he likes – reassure him that he is at home in his bed. 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. Although much of what he dreamt may be symbolic. During the day. 3. our brains work through memories and incorporate them into our understanding of life. While we sleep. Take his dream seriously. make him look at his bed. the underlying fear is real. For example. Ask him to draw you pictures about these frightening events. Tell him that you are with him and that he is safe. warmth and shelter. Some children dream the same nightmare over and over again. When Manuel wakes up during the night. This will slowly reduce the frequency of the nightmares and after a while they will stop. If he is fully awake. Only then ask him what he dreamt about and let him describe the dream in detail.
The child falls asleep again quickly. The teacher may see that the child falls asleep in class. Ndapewa pushes the grandmother away. Explaining her behaviour Night terrors are very common in children. When the child does wake up. What can you do to help at school? There is not much that a teacher can do to assist sleeping problems in children. has problems concentrating or is hyperactive in order to stay awake.Night terrors Ndapewa is 5 years old. but the teacher may realise a child is having sleeping problems before the parent or the caregiver does. he or she remembers nothing of the event and is not afraid. When a child has a night terror. 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 . During the night she wakes up screaming with her body shaking. She does not recognise anybody. What can you do to help at home? During a night terror. help her to relax. make her comfortable again and let her fall asleep again immediately. the child doesn’t wake up completely. is constantly yawning. sit next to the child and watch – don’t wake the child up. When her grandmother tries to hold her and comfort her. When the child does wake up.
the child should be taken to a clinic to see whether the child has a bladder problem. like the death of a parent. Bed-wetting can also result from changes in the family. especially those headed by children. his brothers and sisters have been living with his grandmother and seven other cousins since his father died. If a teacher realises that a child has a sleeping problem he or she may contact the caregiver and explain how important it is for a child to get enough regular sleep. Moosa doesn’t want to go to school anymore. He feels insecure. insecurity and helplessness. If it continues for a few days. Bed-wetting Moosa is seven years old. the bed-wetting could be a reaction to frightening events that the child has witnessed or experienced. His cousins and his brothers laugh at him so he tries to hide the sheets behind the house. a parent moving away from the home. At school the children also laugh at him. He wakes up in the night and finds his bed wet. He is embarrassed and he cries. Moosa feels threatened that something has upset his normal family structure. the bed-wetting is related to fear. children do not have a place of their own but sleep in different places every night. like a father beating up (or screaming at) the mother. If there is no medical reason. a divorce or the unexpected birth of a baby. It is also important for the child to go to sleep at the same time every night. Moosa. It is important for a child to have his or her own place to sleep (even if it is shared with a sibling). It causes a lot of additional emotional suffering. The bigger boys call him “baby” and won’t allow him to play with them. 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 . For some children. bed-wetting is caused by a medical problem. Moosa’s mother had to go to work in town and she only comes home to the farm four times a year.In some households. insecurity and feeling unwanted or abandoned. Explaining his behaviour Bed-wetting is a very serious problem for many children. Many children who have experienced stressful events start to wet their beds again during the night. He misses his mother and wishes his father would come back. Bed-wetting always shows that a child is under a lot of emotional pressure. a friend being run down by a car or a schoolteacher hitting a child (or Moosa himself). Moosa has started wetting his bed for the first time since he was two and a half years old. In each case. After the death of his father. mostly due to emotional reasons like fear.
When Moosa wakes up during the night. Do not scold. “You are so good at maths/soccer…”. blame or punish Moosa.) If possible. Make sure that he goes to the toilet before he goes to bed at night. Tell him that you know that he does not wet the bed deliberately. “Yes. Have a quiet time with him before he falls asleep and chat about the good things that happened during the day. If Moosa decides to tell you about things that scare him. Don’t let Moosa drink too much in the evening. listen carefully and encourage him. have a bucket nearby for him to use. Teach him to get up during the night and use the bucket when he feels he needs to go to the toilet. Make sure that he is wide awake. 6. 2. 4. Don’t let him watch a lot of television. Make a point of noticing his skills and give him positive feedback as often as possible. Say things like. comfort him calmly and change his linen. When adults in your home talk about violent events in the community. Talk to Moosa in private. Moosa needs a lot of encouragement and positive assurance to build up his self-image and self-confidence. Try to find out what is upsetting him.What can you do to help? 1. Give him clean sheets and clean clothes and make sure that he doesn’t smell of urine when he goes to school. make sure that you explain the conversation to Moosa later on. Before you go to bed yourself. 55 . 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. “You are such a big help to me!”or. 5. tell him how well he is doing despite his problems. (You might need to cut down the side of a plastic bin bag and place it beneath his sheet to protect the mattress. 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. If possible. 3. Encourage him by addressing his strengths and say things like. He doesn’t wet his bed on purpose. Make sure Moosa isn’t exposed to a lot of upsetting events. Bedtime routines always help children and adults to relax and prepare for sleep. wake Moosa up and send him to the toilet. leave a light burning so that he can see. If he is afraid to go to the outhouse in the dark. I can understand that this is very upsetting/scary/worrying for you…”At the same time. Explain that he is safe and that you will take care of him. have extra linen nearby.
but for a few weeks she has been very absent-minded in class. One day. She was taken to hospital with acute encephalitis and she died three days later. After a night when Moosa did not wet his bed. 56 . Example of a bed-wetting chart 9. After he manages one dry night in a week. Two months ago her mother suddenly became sick. Aletta still goes to school. after an ambulance passed the school building. Don’t allow the other children to laugh at Moosa. praise him and acknowledge that his bed is dry. who is looking after them very well. Have Moosa help you to draw up a calendar to monitor the dry and wet nights. increase the number of nights that he must stay dry during the week in order to get a reward. In the beginning reward Moosa after he has one dry night in a week. She told her teacher that she suddenly remembered her mother being taken away to the hospital. 8. She seems restless. Aletta and her two brothers are now living with their aunt. Intrusive memories (flashbacks) Aletta is 8 years old. She finds it difficult to concentrate. Increase the number of nights until Moosa is dry every night. she started crying and shaking.7. She won’t walk past her old house when she walks home from school. She is falling behind her classmates.
or even a smell that was present at the time of the original event can trigger the intrusive memory. Intrusive memories are usually triggered by something that resembles the original event – in Aletta’s case the ambulance. They are not recalled willingly. objects or even people that they associate with the original event. Make eye contact. “Look at me!”and don’t allow her to lose eye contact with you. 57 . They may also try to avoid situations. but instead the memories intrude into our brains.Explaining her behaviour Aletta is suffering from intrusive memories. What can you do to help? Aletta needs to express what is worrying her and it would help her to tell her story. Maintaining eye contact is reassuring for her and helps her to keep control. her eyes will look blank and glassy. Intrusive memories are memories of a painful. speak her name in a firm voice and tell her that you are going to touch her. her face might get flushed or she might start to shiver. Flashbacks are overwhelming and may be very frightening. This means that they flood our minds. take the following steps immediately: Go to her. We need to find a way to help Aletta describe the event without becoming overwhelmed. 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. However. say. A sight. They are uncontrollable and they expose us to the stressful event that took place in the past. Having a flashback about her mother being taking into hospital left Aletta feeling as helpless. also known as “flashbacks”. Intrusive memories are overwhelming and very vivid. Hold her firmly by the shoulders. When Aletta experiences a very strong flashback her teacher may notice changes in her body: Aletta will breathe more quickly than usual. Some children try to prevent intrusive memories by refusing to think or talk about the traumatic event that took place. Intrusive memories are like nightmares that happen during the day. describing the traumatic event may overwhelm Aletta and trigger another flashback. The intensity of intrusive images varies from very mild to very strong. upsetting or traumatic event that suddenly pop up in your mind and can’t be controlled. afraid and sad as she felt when it really happened. Telling her story would give her control over her memories and help her to come to terms with her strong feelings. a sound. When Aletta is experiencing an acute flashback. tremble and get goosebumps. 1.
You are in the classroom. When Aletta has calmed down. The pieces of memory don’t seem to fit together and they don’t fit into the child’s memory. telling a story helps to put pieces of memory into a meaningful structure. “I am with you. This makes them chaotic and uncontrolled. 3. Reassure Aletta that having flashbacks after a very upsetting event is normal.) Stop. the traumatic event becomes easier to integrate in the memory and in the life context. (This is to slow down her breathing. It is important to find a way for the child to confront the upsetting event in a controlled way. Don’t ask for too much detail at this stage. In this way. Ask her what was so scary and upsetting. try to slow her breathing down. but talk to her after school. they have to arrange the memory pieces in the order that they really happened for the story to make sense. Good. 58 . the child is in charge of the situation and of the memories that surface. gradually slowing down as she breathes out. (As she breathes in. It happens because she is trying to come to terms with what happened. Don’t ask her why she reacted like that.) OK. the child can give the event meaning and work out how to control it. saying things like this: “In. Asking Aletta to explore her feelings may trigger another flashback. Don’t ask how she feels about the event.”Or. now breathe out slowly as if you’re blowing through a straw. It is important to talk about the upsetting event. Direct her breathing all the time.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. Keep eye contact! 2. “Everything is OK. unwanted feelings. This structure makes the memory less chaotic and uncontrollable. let her have something to drink or send her to wash her face. Once integrated. Repeat your directions. Flashbacks consist of fragmented pieces of memory that suddenly come up. By having more control. We have to be careful not to trigger a new flashback when we ask a child to tell his or her story. Say things like. Hold your breath. When a child can look at what is upsetting him or her.) Good!” Try to develop a steady rhythm in her breathing. Let her rejoin the classroom activities. Nothing is going to happen to you! You are safe!” If Aletta is breathing heavily. but the child may be flooded with painful.Use short sentences when you talk to her. When someone describes something that happened to them. (Wait a moment before saying “In” again.
Invite her to come and visit you whenever she has a problem. Talk to Aletta again after two or three weeks. Don’t tell Aletta what to do – let her come up with a solution that will suit her own needs. Drawing pictures is an ideal way of looking objectively at an upsetting event in a controlled way without becoming overwhelmed. Passive activities (activities that do not involve interacting with other people) like watching television or sitting under a tree are less helpful. Teach her a breathing exercise. Breathing exercises are very helpful when helping children suffering from intrusive images and nightmares. not just with children whose parents or caregivers have died. Tell Aletta that the activities she has chosen are great. Agree that you will ask her to tell you how she is doing from time to time.4. talking to someone or playing with a baby cousin. Look at the picture again and ask Aletta what else the child in the picture could do herself to feel better. Encourage her self-esteem – praise her for doing so well in such a difficult situation. Also encourage activities to do with religion or culture. upset or angry? Ask Aletta which of those activities she would like to try herself. As Aletta puts the upsetting event on paper she can control what goes into the picture and what is still too painful to show. Tell her you look forward to hearing how they are helping her. it is best not to single them out because they may experience this as stigmatising. Thank her for sharing her story with you. She may suggest playing with friends. “Yes! You should do those things as often as you can!” Encourage activities involving sport and outdoor games. It is important for Aletta to create her own picture story and to talk about her picture when she has finished drawing. 5. What does the child usually do to make herself feel better when she is sad. While you will need to be very sensitive to orphans and vulnerable children in the group. Say. 7. These activities can be used for an entire youth group or the whole class. 59 . 6. Find out how she is doing. How to deal with flashbacks or nightmares There are ways to encourage children to look at the content and structure of flashbacks or nightmares. If she is still suffering from flashbacks you may need to contact her caregiver and ask for Aletta to receive professional help.
The picture should be as accurate as possible. the death of her mother). Ask Aletta to draw pictures in blocks six. she will be able to stay in control. 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. 2.The picture story exercise This exercise is suitable for children aged seven to ten. It will take some time and it is imperative that you are not disturbed. This is a critical moment because Aletta will be confronted with painful memories but because she is talking and drawing the event. If she talks. 1. when her mother fell sick and had to go to hospital). Ask Aletta if she can draw a picture story or a comic about what happened to her. Talk about “the girl in the picture”– this allows Aletta to distance herself from her story. Jump to the opposite corner (block 9). 3. a. e. d. listen closely to what she says. Ask Aletta to draw the first good moment she remembers after the upsetting event was over. When she has finished all the pictures. Move from picture to picture so that the parts of the story are told in order. What was she doing then? When Aletta is able to remember it clearly. Ask Aletta to draw pictures in blocks two.) It is used to assist a child suffering from flashbacks by focusing on the content of the flashback and giving structure to the memories. Block 1: Ask Aletta to remember the last time that she felt happy and safe before the upsetting event took place. (It is easier if the child likes to draw. the neighbours coming to visit and going to the funeral). ask Aletta to tell you the story of the people in the pictures. Divide a sheet of paper into nine equal squares. Set aside some time to work through the following exercise with Aletta after school. Have a few coloured pens so that Aletta can choose which colours she wants to use. Stay with Aletta as she draws. three and four to show what happened before the worst part (for example. seven and eight to show what the people in the pictures did after the worst part was over (for example. Point to block five and ask Aletta to draw the worst part of her story (for example. b. Guide the story to 60 . Drawing a picture prevents her from having another flashback. This exercise could be critical to Aletta and she needs your undivided attention. ask her to draw a picture of the good moment in block 1.
Tell her that it is normal for children to cry and to feel lonely and helpless. by having a special memorial place or ritual. for example by talking to her. by looking at her picture and by praying. “bad”. angry. like looking after her brothers. packing the things they needed to take to their new homes. Tell her that it is normal for children to feel afraid when their mother is taken to hospital. Tell her that you can understand this because every child wants a mother but say that there are some things that are impossible. Ask Aletta how the people in the picture felt – especially the girl in the picture. satisfied. If Aletta says. guilty. When you have finished discussing everyone’s feelings. repeat her story to her. If Aletta replies. To show Aletta that you paid attention to her story. it can be used in the classroom. Ask Aletta what she thinks the child in the picture needs to make her feel better. It also helps her to memorise the story in a meaningful form. 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. joyful or content. Describing the feelings in her body helps her to look at those feelings in a controlled way. This prevents the feelings from becoming overwhelming. help her to find a more precise word like happy. 61 .) Don’t be surprised if Aletta replies that the child needs her mother back. 5. 4. Talk about what people do when they feel angry.end at the point at which the girl in the picture felt safe and calm again. It is a normal response for younger children. ashamed or helpless. Hearing her own story told by someone else also helps Aletta to distance herself from what happened. Discuss how the child in the picture can still have contact with her mother. (Remember to refer to “the child in the picture”. helping her aunt and attending school.“good”. Tell her that it is normal for children to worry about their parents. Ask Aletta where she feels angry. sad or happy feelings in her body. sad or disappointed. 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. help her to find a more precise word like sad. Because it is a group method. Praise her for this achievement.
Draw a picture of yourself after you achieved something that you feel very good about. Put the chairs in a circle and spread the pictures on the floor in the middle of the circle.) Be flexible. Take a few minutes after each drawing session to look at all the pictures with the children. (Observe what the children draw.) Draw a time when you felt very strong. give a new topic like “a great day at school”or. Draw a picture of yourself doing something that you enjoyed very much. If you observed that death featured prominently in the pictures drawn on days nine and ten. 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. 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. allow the children to draw whatever they like. Start off with topics that foster resilience and inner resources in children.” 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. “a day you were terribly scared”or.“something that makes you very angry. Draw someone you love very much.The teacher gives the class a specific topic and asks the children to draw a picture related to this topic.) Draw anything you like. If your “problem topic” keeps the children busy for a few days. 62 . It is important not to start immediately with “problem topics”. Draw a picture of a day something good happened. If not. Draw anything you like. follow up with a resilience-based or resource-based topic. 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. Draw a picture of a day something bad happened. Don’t force any of the children to discuss their picture. Ask if anyone would like to talk about his or her picture. (Observe what the children draw. (Pictures of funerals or death may appear. Draw a day when you were very sad.
This book then becomes part of a dialogue. Most children like to take a few minutes once a day to think about themselves and to write their thoughts down on paper. 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. Tell the child that what you both write is absolutely confidential – promise that you will not tell anybody. Adolescents normally find it difficult to relate to a person who is not one of their peers. Give each child an exercise book and a pen that may only be used for the communication book. suggest the rule that no one may laugh at a picture or tease another child about what he or she has drawn. It would be helpful to reserve twenty minutes during the school day for children to write in their diaries. There is probably not much time after school to write in a diary. Tell them that spelling mistakes and bad handwriting don’t matter either! Communication books can be developed into diaries. Once the first child is brave enough to risk it and your response is warm and encouraging. 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. 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). they will probably not need reminding about this. Putting thoughts and feelings down on paper promotes creative writing skills and encourages self-control. 63 . self-knowledge and problem-solving skills. Children are usually hesitant to share their feelings with you as an authority figure in the beginning. “Memory” or “communication” books Older children and adolescents may not want to draw. It has been said that play is a means by which children handle and work on experiences and tackle difficult problems. Have a file (or a large envelope) for each child to keep his or her pictures in. Once the children understand how the circle works.Before the pictures are shown to the class. This is normal and part of the healing process. Tell the children that these books are their personal property and that no one may read the book except the children themselves. 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. Writing stories down on paper is another way of structuring memories and feelings. The child may decorate the exercise book to make it special. The memory book is a tool that is suitable for the classroom situation. Encourage the child to write about events that have taken place in his or her life. other children will usually come forward as well. It is up to the child to decide whether or not to agree to this.
imagination. 3. may be given themes to work with. has problems falling asleep or demonstrates aggressive behaviour. a broom or a hat). a woman may be a mother. Before the plays start. Children may also role-play their intrusive images as they try to understand them and to integrate them into their life concept.You could ask older children to put their role-plays into writing. Take the children out of their roles by saying. If a story is serious. Often the child repeats a scene over and over again until a solution is reached. Provide some props that they might need for their story (like an apron. Find out why the child is not taking part in the activities. This means that they must have enough time at school and at home for free play. A child that regularly chooses not to play with his peers or siblings should be encouraged to join in. And last but not least. Explain again that each learner in the play was playing a role. Role-playing allows the child to take on different roles and to view the upsetting event from various angles. Ask the children to get into groups and to think up a story that they will present to the class later on. learn better. 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. Talk about the kind of roles that people play (for example. Role-playing can be encouraged in the classroom. agree that no one may be laughed at unless the story is funny. problem solving. Imagining that he or she can control the event helps the child to cope and to gain control. This encourages their creative writing. Let them present their play to you and the rest of the class. who are used to role-playing.Through play. Roleplaying also allows the child to fantasize about miracles and about superhero strength. team spirit. Give them enough time to work on their story. is the real Sanette again!”and. Before they start. Older children. “Rachel. a doctor. “Sanette. who was the mother that was crying. a netball coach and a Sunday School teacher – she has different roles to fulfil at different times). This is known as “repetitive play”. a caregiver. group cohesion and self-confidence as well as verbal fluency in children. isn’t the mother anymore – she’s Rachel again!” 2. Children should be encouraged to play. who was the bad girl. Role-playing promotes creativity. Together they role-play the event over and over again. explain to the children that a role is something you play. The child may also involve his or her peers. 1. has problems concentrating. talk to the children about what happened in the play. 64 . Children who play. children express their feelings and work through difficult negative experiences.
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
parents. 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). How can you deal with aggressive children? Aggressive adults who are role models for children promote aggressive behaviour in those children. but you are punishing him for his wrong behaviour. do not hit or beat an aggressive child. 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. caregivers and teachers need to be very clear about what they expect from the child. The child needs clear guidelines about what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. If other people were involved. firm and give clear instructions.important that we do not become aggressive ourselves. Sit with the child to draw up the rules. Authority. or helping repair the damage caused by the aggression (if material objects were involved). Make the child apologise to the person who was hurt so that the old relationship can be re-established. the better the chance that it will lead to a change in the child’s behaviour. 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. calmness and self-confidence are critical when dealing with aggressive children. but is a consequence of inadequate behaviour. The child needs to understand that punishment is not an act of revenge on the side of the caregiver. It may be appropriate for the child to do something for this person so that they can see that the child is genuinely sorry. 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. This is sometimes difficult. As with all children. We need be self-assured and know that we are in control. rules give them the feeling of security and control. Instead of becoming aggressive. 68 . Aggressive children need rules. Hitting or beating the child sends the message that violence is acceptable. but instead stay calm. Never threaten punishment without fulfilling your threat. Although they may find it difficult to obey the rules. helping at home. The child needs to realise that disobeying the rules will have consequences. make sure the child understands the effect of the aggressive behaviour on the other person. Distinguish between the child and the behaviour The better the punishment is suited to the aggressive deed of the child. When dealing with aggressive children it is important to have confidence in our own skills and our ability to deal effectively with such children.
What made him or her angry. Emotions and feelings need to be discussed in the classroom situation as well in order to support children in their learning process. Understanding our feelings improves our coping skills. teachers and caregivers should discuss the aggressive behaviour as well as the underlying feelings with the child. Punishment should happen in private and not in public. You will find some exercises on teaching children to identify emotions and their responses at the end of this section on aggression. Explain why you are punishing him. for example. these are easier to understand. Identify causes of the aggressive behaviour Aggressive or disruptive behaviour is often a reaction to frustration. Orphaned children need this skill even more because there is often no adult to provide emotional security and protection. Be clear and firm about what you want. fear or feeling threatened. but unfortunately the tension expresses itself in a negative. Say. Ask the child to stop the unwanted behaviour. frustrated or scared? Try to understand the reason for the behaviour. We will sort it out. Being able to identify feelings is important for all children. precise sentences. Often children find it difficult to identify emotions and they lack words to describe their feelings. but firm. destructive way. When the child has calmed down you can hand control back to the child. and expressing feelings. Understanding your own feelings helps you to find suitable behaviour. Choose the way you speak to an angry child If a child is in a rage use short.”Keep your voice calm.Talk to the child about what he did. Say. Discuss feelings with the child Aggressive children find it difficult to deal with negative emotions like anger. Aggressive children have to learn how to show their feelings in a positive. Because he is emotionally tense. The tension or emotional excitement produced by these feelings is not necessarily negative in itself. Talk to the child about why he or she reacts aggressively. constructive way.” It is important for the child to understand that you are in charge and that you are in control. 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.“Stop screaming now. 69 . Punishment should not be aimed at degrading the child or increasing his insecurity and frustration. frustration and helplessness because these feelings usually arise at times of crisis or conflict.“Sit down here. It is important for the child to understand why he or she feels angry or frustrated. In order to promote this learning process. A child first learns about feelings. At this stage of emotional upset it is your responsibility to provide the necessary control.
Talk about how other people would see and judge his behaviour. Discuss actions Ebrahim could take when he is very angry.“Now imagine the same situation again. Ebrahim’s aggressive acts can thus be attributed to attention-seeking behaviour and to a need for acceptance. or doing something that he is good at. Discuss the best ideas with Ebrahim. attention and acknowledgement. The others are shouting names at you. Look at the behavioural response Ask Ebrahim to look at his behaviour with you. Ask him to choose one or two ideas. more complicated feelings like betrayal. Identifying the real cause for the aggressive behaviour can be difficult because there may be many. abandonment. Sometimes a small event might trigger an aggressive response.) Support the child as he or she describes his or her feelings and frustrations. the death of his mother.You feel hurt. Ebrahim needs to understand that you do not approve of his behaviour. Teach positive ways to express emotions 1. Agree with him that the next time he gets angry he will try one of these ideas first. getting rid of the tension by talking to someone. Ask him what he did and how he felt. the move to his grandmother’s home and the lack of attention are all causes of tension. neglect and loneliness may be hidden underneath. What else could you do instead of throwing stones at them?” Write a list of all the ideas that Ebrahim comes up with. In addition to feelings like sadness and frustration. 2. 3. Say to Ebrahim. In Ebrahim’s case.(Remember that it may seem like a trivial thing to you. Make it clear to the child that although you understand the child’s anger or frustration and you acknowledge the reason for his feelings. asking someone for help. 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. but you still approve of the child as a person. These ideas may include walking way from the source of the frustration. getting physical exercise.“Now think of the next time David takes something away from you without asking. excited or frustrated. Finding the cause for the aggressive behaviour can only happen if you talk to the child. 70 . What could you do instead of breaking his pencils?”Or. you do not agree with the way the child expressed his feelings.
This is a very effective way of allowing the child to take control. There are games to relieve tension. Ask Ebrahim to come and tell you when he manages to control his anger or frustration. Ask Ebrahim to draw you a picture of (or write down) what he is going to do the next time he gets angry. netball and hockey) are wonderful ways to relieve tension in children and to boost children’s self-esteem. Games to help aggressive children Wild games and sports activities (soccer. no one may make funny remarks or laugh. 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. Auto-aggression means that the aggressive behaviour is directed against one’s own body. There are many games and exercises to help children relieve tension and cope with frustration and conflict. to foster selfesteem. Teaching the child to move away from the tense situation and do something that calms him or her down (for example. Severe auto-aggression with self-hurting is a sign that a child has serious problems. to solve conflict and to identify emotions. If auto-aggressive behaviour continues. 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”. older children may cut themselves deliberately. to lessen frustration. to foster group co-operation. No one may disturb the child there.4. 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. 71 . The picture helps him to memorise the decision he has taken. to calm children down. Children can learn to identify when they are getting really upset. Auto-aggression Instead of turning tension into aggressive behaviour directed at other people or objects. Look at the games in Chapter 6 for some ideas. children may hurt themselves deliberately. some children turn the aggressive behaviour against themselves. When the child returns. 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. all of which will help with aggressive behaviour. Small children may bump their heads against walls repeatedly. and when the child has calmed down. deep breathing exercises) gives the child a way of preventing aggressive outbursts. then he or she will return to the house (or the classroom). Praise him for his achievement.
When her mother fell ill six months ago. Sara was sent to stay with her aunt who lives about an hour’s walk from home. Sara acts without thinking more often than before and in recent months has had some major conflicts with classmates. She is not capable of sitting quietly with the family or sitting still in class without getting up and walking around. playing sport. Explaining her behaviour Sara shows the signs of hyperactive behaviour. Her work is becoming increasingly untidy. both with herself and with her friends. Sara sees her mother and the baby occasionally over weekends when her aunt has the time to take her to visit. She seems to be very impatient. 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 . She is the middle child in the family. 2. Hyperactivity Sara is nine years old. She wanders around restlessly. Sometimes it is full of mistakes and at other times there are incomplete sentences or whole parts missing. What can you do to help? 1. Find alternative ways to relieve stress like breathing exercises. The baby has been sickly since birth. 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. Sara does not know what has made her mother sick. singing or dancing.A child or an adolescent who shows increased signs of auto-aggression urgently needs the attention of a specialist. Find out when the child bites his or her nails (or hurts himself or herself). She gets easily distracted and seems to have a shorter attention span. Her older sister is 13 years old and her younger brother is one and a half years old. Sara still attends the same school. Sara does not know her father. Sara’s sister is taking care of her mother and the baby. She is easily frustrated. Minor signs of auto-aggression like nail biting need the attention of the caregiver and the teacher. The teacher has noticed that Sara (who always was a good student) is becoming restless and finds it difficult to concentrate in class. doing creative writing. Her aunt realises that Sara is finding it difficult to complete tasks. These are signs that the child is tense and under emotional pressure. Hyperactivity can have different causes.
unlike her. 3. It will also make her feel that she is still involved with her family. 73 . On the other hand she might blame herself for having been sent away. the caregiver to: 1. If this is not possible. Then she could come to terms with her new situation and begin to cope. Even if finding out is upsetting. A radio playing all the time or a television on all the time will increase her hyperactivity. she may feel that she has been abandoned. Her hyperactive behaviour reveals a high level of stress and emotional excitement. Ensure that Sara is not exposed to too much noise or too many visual images. She needs time to come to terms with her situation. were allowed to stay at home. Sara may be jealous of her sister and her brother who. What can you do to help at home? Sara needs a person she can trust and talk to. and be feeling guilty and inadequate. Because she was the only child sent away. This will reduce Sara’s feeling of helplessness. It may be better for Sara to return to her mother. Encourage Sara to prepare for the visits. without other adults being present. 2. It may be possible to arrange for someone else in the community to help care for the mother and her three children. Her life situation was changed drastically without Sara being involved in the decisions. Give Sara her own place to sleep and regular bed times. Sara’s hyperactive behaviour is the result of her separation from her mother and her siblings. It would help Sara if she knew why she had been sent away. Sara needs quiet time. During these visits Sara should spend as much quality time with her mother as possible. the knowledge will give Sara control because she will be able to understand. frequent visiting times should be arranged. she needs to be prepared for the likely death of her mother. 4. but hyperactive behaviour can also be caused by an extremely shocking event or traumatic living conditions. It is important for you. Sara needs time with her mother. She is probably afraid of what is happening to her mother. She has not been sent away because she misbehaved. Explain what is wrong with her mother.during birth. Explain to Sara that she has not been sent away because her mother does not love her. because she will also be doing something for her mother. 5. She could take little presents or food that she has prepared.
After she has completed a task successfully. Make sure that Sara has plenty of opportunities to take part in sport or other after-school (or community) activities. While she is doing her work. Sara is a good example of a child that would benefit from the breathing exercise before she starts to work. Find a task for her to do. happy or successful again. How did that make her feel? Let her think about that for a few moments and then ask her to describe her feelings. As far as her schoolwork is concerned. Do not allow her to disturb the other children.6. 1. like taking a note to the principal’s office. She will realise that it helps her to concentrate. Explain that you understand this is a very difficult situation for her. or successful. go through the same process again. happy. Later on. give Sara small tasks that do not need a long concentration span. Reward Sara’s good behaviour by acknowledging her efforts. Tell her that you believe she can do it again. when she has a whole day of good behaviour. tell her that she will feel strong. Sit down with her before she starts and ask her to remember a time when she did very well. 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. She may say that she felt strong. Encourage her to feel the same again now. Then give her some more work to do. 3. 74 . explain it again and make sure she understands. 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. In the beginning (if time allows) you may need to stay close to Sara. What can you do to help at school? Sara will also need a lot of understanding and reassurance in the classroom. you could introduce a chart on which you mark her good days to encourage her to keep up the effort. If she has not understood. Encourage Sara to keep a diary in which to record her thoughts and feelings in words or pictures. Explain the new task to her and ask her to explain to you what she is supposed to do. try to make some time for her. 8. Let her begin. 7. Praise her for trying to work so hard under such difficult circumstances. As her teacher. and if possible. This also boosts her self-esteem.
This makes it easier for the caregiver and the teacher to deal with the hyperactive child. It will also make it easier for you to keep an eye on her. 5. Keeping her at the front of the classroom will reduce the distractions for her. During group activities make frequent eye contact with her. Expect her to turn around and be distracted – even to walk around. 4. 6. showing her that you know she is there. 75 . but from an educational point of view these drugs may have a bad effect on the child’s coping capacity. Give her an opportunity to demonstrate her skills. the prescription of a stimulant like this would reduce her hyperactive behaviour but it would be an obstacle to the coping process. Encourage her to spend time developing her skills. Find out which are her favourite activities and talents (like running or singing). As with aggressive children. Don’t allow her to disturb the teaching process or the group activities. After Sara completes her work. but understands that it is to help her. Boost Sara’s self-esteem and self-confidence.get up. 7. In Sara’s case. The drug suppresses all spontaneous behaviour and makes the child quiet and often a bit drowsy. but insist firmly that she sits down and carries on with her work. turn her desk back again so that she is part of the group. 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. Medication. Don’t scold her. The child finds it even more difficult to integrate the traumatic incidents that they have survived into their life concept. hyperactive children have a great need for physical activity. Make sure she uses up a lot of energy running around in the playground. In addition it has been shown that Ritalin can have severe side effects and may have a bad effect on the child’s development. Praise her when you realise she has managed to control herself. There is medical treatment available that reduces the activity of hyperactive children. encourage her to join in the games and exercises. During the breaks. and prevent her from distracting the other learners in the class. Discuss this with Sara so that she doesn’t see it as a punishment. An example of this is Ritalin (methylphenidate). The medication is a stimulant that is meant to reduce the hyperactivity and impulsiveness in school-age children so as to improve their performance. To make it easier for her to concentrate.
76 . compulsively erasing the mistake so that his exercise books are full of holes. magical thinking originates from the child’s imagination. Positive magical thinking – even if it is unrealistic – can help a child to survive. Explaining his behaviour The example of Petrus is a typical example of a child who engages in magical thinking. 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. he said that if he didn’t rub his mistakes out properly. He attended the funeral and he visits the grave occasionally with his mother. In Petrus’s case. which he does neatly and accurately. his mother would die too. after intense consultation with an experienced medical practitioner. Without magical thinking this would be impossible. 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. he didn’t talk much and he didn’t ask many questions. When he gets to school he is very shy. six-year-old Petrus came home from school to be told by his mother that his father had died suddenly. Petrus did not show signs of excessive grieving at the time. he started to cry. It is clear that magical thinking can have a positive or a negative impact. It is important for caregivers and teachers to identify how the child gives meaning to an adverse event.Stimulants should be given to children as a last resort. 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. They are not generally recommended. he believes that making a mistake and being scolded in school had a direct impact on his father’s death. He doesn’t like leaving the house to go to school. He concentrates on his work. He was sick only for a few days. Magical thinking (or “omen”) can help a child to cope with adverse events. Negative magical thinking Three months ago. When his teacher confronted him about the holes in his books. As described in Chapter 3. When he makes a mistake he seems frightened. Magical thinking helps children to gain control and meaning. He has been withdrawn and quiet since the death of his father. When his mother asked him why he had rubbed holes in his books. When his mother asked him why he thought that.
even when he makes mistakes. our thoughts become more structured as we express them. Explain that it is normal for a boy to miss his father after he has died. Prayer can be like talking to a person. But emphasise strongly that he had nothing to do with his father’s death.What can you do to help at home? Let Petrus tell you the whole story in great detail. Try to find some books about children dealing with death and dying. if he wants bodily contact hold him close to you. Give Petrus an opportunity to ask questions about his father’s death and try to answer them honestly. You can teach Petrus how to pray. 77 . Reassure Petrus that you also love him very much and that you will always love him. Tell him that he will always love Petrus. 1. Play “Real and unreal games“ with Petrus. Tell him that his father died because he was very sick. Tell the story to Petrus and ask him to tell you what is real and what is unreal. 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. He needs reassurance and clarity about his father’s death. 3. 7. The same happens when we pray. 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. 2. While he is telling you. Tell him that you are very proud that he is doing well in school. Ask Petrus if he wants to draw a picture for his father. 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. 6. After he has understood the concept of the game. Read them to Petrus and discuss them with him. Tell Petrus that his father loved him very much. 4. that he was proud of everything Petrus did. you can mourn the loss of your partner with Petrus. Explain to him that it is normal to make mistakes when we learn and that you love him 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. Chaotic thoughts structure themselves and we feel calmed and comforted. 5. 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. Ask him why he thinks that he could have caused his father’s death.
When her mother died six months ago. Tutula feels confused. Her brothers and her sister were always clean and well cared for. When she was 11 years old. Helplessness Tutula is 14 years old. When Tutula was 13 years old. They often had to wait for a long time because other patients with adult relatives pushed in front of the queue. Tutula reports that she is glad her mother told her. but she would rather stay with her brothers and her sister. her mother was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. She is glad that she can go to school and she is grateful to her uncle. What can you do to help at school? It is more effective to concentrate on children’s strengths and abilities rather than their mistakes. Tutula now lives with her uncle who pays for her education. Tutula took over the responsibility of looking after her mother and her three siblings. Explain to the class that mistakes are part of the learning process. Tutula’s neighbours informed the social worker that Tutula’s mother had died and the social worker came to visit Tutula and her siblings. Because Tutula is the eldest of four children. Tutula arranged a simple funeral. when she nursed her mother and when she arranged the 78 . Mistakes are nothing to be afraid of – a mistake is nothing more than a challenge to improve and do better. but she did not consult Tutula. but no one listened to her complaints. She feels that she is neglecting the responsibilities her mother entrusted to her. 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. The social worker arranged for the children to be sent to different members of the extended family.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. her mother fell ill and slowly grew worse. In her spare time she worked in the garden to provide food. Explain that everyone has to practise before we can do things without making mistakes. She feels helpless again – just the way she felt at the clinic. She managed to generate some income by producing beadwork that her brothers sold on the streets when they walked home from school. her mother told her about her HIV/AIDS status. Tutula felt that she was being treated unfairly. Tutula accompanied her mother to the clinic regularly. Not many relatives attended the funeral.
79 . Tutula needs someone to boost her self-esteem and her selfconfidence. It is likely that she often felt helpless when she had to care for her mother and parent her siblings. She has to learn to trust herself again and to trust other people too. It makes her angry. and it triggers feelings like rage. Treat Tutula like an adult. but remember that because she is not yet an adult she needs more attention and guidance than an adult. Helplessness makes people feel overwhelmed by what is happening. 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. but Tutula’s involvement in the decision and her consent would have left her feeling less inadequate and guilty. This sense of helplessness often makes people lose faith in themselves and makes them distrust their own skills and abilities. Tutula needs a trusting relationship with an adult. based on mutual 2. Suddenly all responsibility and control was taken away from her and she was left to face the disruption of her family. In contrast. The separation of the siblings may well have been in the best interests of the family in the long run. inadequacy and shame. guilt. she did well and that she did everything she could. She maintained control and the helplessness never made her feel inadequate. Tutula coped. She has a strong bond with her family. By coping she demonstrated strong organisational skills as well as a warm and nurturing personality.funeral. The sense of helplessness makes people feel extremely vulnerable. yet at the same time she knows that she should feel grateful because she is getting an education. despite all her efforts to maintain normality. 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. What can you do to help? 1. yet she somehow managed. Because her contribution to the family was ignored. Discuss which suggestions may be possible and which are impossible. Ask Tutula what would help her now. her experiences at the clinic and with the social worker made her feel vulnerable because she was not treated as an adult. Tutula may have some concrete suggestions to make. She has to be reassured that everything she did to care for her siblings.
ask what memories she had. Ask her to remember times when she felt helpless. Listen to what she tells you.understanding and acceptance. Ask Tutula how it feels when she is strong. In future. Like Tutula. they have to rediscover their strengths and abilities. The following exercise can help children who feel insecure and inadequate to recognise their inner resources again. include Tutula in decisions that affect her life. It builds coping skills and selfesteem and is suitable for children aged nine and older. 5. Ask her to look around the scene that she is imagining. 4. In the new relationship. feet on the ground and eyes closed. Tutula should cover the whole sheet of paper with those colours. When she has finished. Ask the child to imagine a situation where she is in charge. It can be done on a one-to-one basis. successful and in control. 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. she is successful and she is managing difficult situations. 80 . Does she see the scene she is imagining in black and white. 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. Each child needs wax crayons. choose some wax crayons in the colours that symbolise this feeling and start colouring the piece of paper. Hand over some responsible tasks to Tutula that she will be able to manage and control. Encourage her to have frequent contact with her siblings. ask her to open her eyes. 4. She feels self-confident. The questions are to help her get in deeper contact with her feelings. Ask Tutula to sit straight. Start off with an imagination exercise. or with a group of children together. When she can really feel that feeling. 3. Reassure her that they are doing well. a piece of paper and a pin (or anything that can be used to scratch with). 5. Tutula has to recognise her own strength and her ability to cope. This will boost her self-esteem. 3. Remind her about 2. 1.
If she says yes. Physical complaints and body pains Ingrid is 11 years old. She doesn’t talk much. Often 81 . 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 to choose colours that express her negative feelings. Ask her what needs to change to allow her good qualities to come to the surface again. inadequate or exposed. Ingrid is very quiet and shy. “I am…” Ask her to list the external resources that can help her.the way she feels at the moment: angry. look at her picture together and talk about her hidden qualities and resources. She must cover them all up! (Usually the child will use darker colours for the negative feelings. ask her when she will let them come up again. 7. Sometimes we can’t see them because our problems seem to overshadow (or cover) everything.“I have…” 10. Once again. The house is crowded with other cousins who also live with the grandmother. talk about how she felt while she coloured with the negative colours. but she likes to watch the other children. 8. If she says no. Help her give names to her feelings. Ask her if she thinks they will come to the surface again. Ask her if she can remember her strengths and successes that are hidden beneath her negative feelings. 9.) After she has finished. Look at her paper together and ask her if this is the way she feels at the moment. Since her mother died of TB six months ago she has been living with her grandmother. Ask Tutula to list the things she is able to do. ask her what prevents them from coming up again. Prompt her to say. Prompt her to say. “I can…” Ask Tutula to list the things she likes about herself. Prompt her to say. Ask her to colour vigorously over the first layer of colours with the colours of her negative feelings. Once again. After Tutula has finished. Note: Don’t do an imagination exercise for the negative feelings! 6. Explore what it means to have hidden resources. let her describe the way she feels. She is very sensitive and is afraid of leaving the house.
she can’t go to school because of a sharp pain in her chest. Explaining her behaviour When a child is sick but the doctor can’t find anything wrong. don’t dwell on it. Make sure that Ingrid participates in physical games or sport. What can you do to help at home? 1. Although she may complain about the pain in her chest. Her grandmother took her to the doctor. 4. the pain in her chest could be related to her mother’s death. Pay more attention to her on the days that she feels well. Create a warm and nurturing environment. 82 2. 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. some children identify with the illness suffered by the deceased parent. but the pain will go away. Find out when the pain is stronger and when it fades away. They may behave like the deceased parent or they might have similar complaints. The doctor could find nothing wrong. 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. Insecurity and anxiety are also often expressed through body pains. Talk to Ingrid about her pain. 3. Tell her that many children get aches and pains when they feel scared. In order to stay connected to their parents. 5. 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. she may find out what is bothering her and this will help her pain to go away. Suggest that if she talks about it. send her to school just the same. This type of sickness is called “psychosomatic”. 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. sad or insecure. . it is likely that the child is reacting to stress. She says that all her bones ache. Ingrid must attend school. Children often get pains in their stomachs or chests when something is bothering them. In Ingrid’s case. it usually suggests that the child’s body is reacting to emotional stress. Once you have thoroughly investigated the cause of the pain and discussed it with her. draws a picture about it or writes it down. This will also reduced the occurrence of the pain.
just to make sure that you are still dealing with a psychosomatic complaint. praise her for handling the pain so well. Contact the caregiver to make sure that a doctor has examined Ingrid. 2.6. Ingrid could use the breathing exercise any time that the pain is very strong. Take Ingrid for regular check-ups at the clinic. but don’t give her too much sympathy or attention. Teach Ingrid the breathing exercise and encourage her to practise it regularly. When she starts working again. drink a glass of water and then carry on with her work. Allow her to take a short break. 7. reassure Ingrid when she complaints about pain. What can you do to help at school? 1. 83 . If the doctor diagnoses that the pain is stress-related.
The games are designed to foster social and emotional learning and intelligence in children. Most activities can be used. The remaining child stands in the middle of the circle and makes him or herself as stiff as a rod. The falling game and even for adults. 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. 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 group leader gives a signal and the child in the middle lets him or herself fall in any direction. These games have been developed to assist teachers. All children except one stand close together in a circle. Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 7 to 9 Materials required: None Duration: Short 84 . When everyone is ready. 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.6 Games Children learn as they play. however. for any ages above the minimum age. 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.
Let the game go on for a few minutes and then discuss the questions below with the children. • How did you (the child in the middle) feel when you had to let yourself fall? • How did it feel when someone fell towards you and you caught that person and gently pushed him or her in a new direction? • What must we remember to make the game to work properly? What risks are involved? What would happen if someone in the circle was not paying attention?
Variation The child in the middle closes his or her eyes while falling and being pushed gently to and fro. Ask the child how the experience changes. Does this require more trust? Is this more frightening?
It is important that the children trust one another. While the children in the circle learn to take responsibility for the one in the middle, the child in the middle experiences what it means to be dependent on others but also looked after and protected. The child in the middle experiences how much trust it requires to rely on others. Be prepared – some children might find it difficult to let themselves fall towards the circle.
The human cradle
The aim of this game is to enhance trust and group cohesiveness, and to encourage children to take responsibility for one another. All children except one divide into two groups. Children in each group stand shoulder-toshoulder in two lines, with the two lines facing one another, close enough so that with arms outstretched, they can touch the hands of the children in the opposite group. One child lies on the floor between the two groups. When the group leader gives the signal, the children in the two opposite lines link hands beneath the child lying on the floor. When all the children are ready, one child gives the command to stand up carefully and to raise the child in the middle on their linked hands. Once everyone is standing, the children start to rock the child slowly to and fro. When the exercise is finished, the children supporting the feet and legs of the child being carried slowly lower their arms so that the child can jump off. 85
Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 7 to 11 Materials required: None Duration: Short
Discuss these questions with the children • How did you (the child being lifted) feel when you were lifted off the ground? Were you scared? Anxious? Nervous? Why did you feel like this? • How did it feel to be rocked to and fro? • How did it feel to support someone on your hands? • What must you be aware of for the game to work? What risks are involved? What would happen if someone didn’t pay attention? What would happen if the groups didn’t work together? • Would you be able to lift a child on your own like this? • When is it especially important to work as a group or a team? (As group leader, you want the children to name various things that cannot be done alone but need teamwork to achieve them.)
The ambulance game
The aim of this game is to enhance trust and group cohesiveness, to encourage children to take responsibility for one another. One child pretends to be a sick person who must be taken to hospital urgently. Three or four children form an “ambulance” by kneeling closely together on their knees and hands. Decide in advance where the “hospital” is. First, the ambulance fetches the sick person from his or her house. The sick person lies across the backs of the children (who are on their hands and knees) and holds on. The ambulance starts to move slowly, but the children must make sure that the sick person is neither shaken up too much nor falls off. The game ends when the ambulance reaches the hospital. The more often the game is played, the better the ambulance children learn to co-ordinate their movements, to find a common rhythm and to reach their goal quickly. Children should take turns at being the patient.
Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 5 Materials required: None Duration: Short
Discuss these questions with the children • How did it feel to be a patient? • How did it feel to be part of the ambulance? • What are the difficulties for the patient and for the ambulance? • Why is it important to find a common rhythm?
Variation to the game Once the children have become used to this exercise, it can be played as a competition with more ambulances and patients. The group that reaches the hospital first wins the competition.
The aim of this game is to enhance trust, to encourage children to take responsibility for one another and to activate the senses. The children get into pairs. One child in each pair is blindfolded and his or her partner is the guide. 86
Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: Any equal number of children Materials required: Pieces of cloth to blindfold one child in each pair Duration: Short
Ideally, the blindfolded child places one hand on the shoulder of the child who will lead. Together, they explore the environment by walking in different directions, up and down steps, over gravel, across sand, etc. The guide must make sure that the child who is blindfolded doesn’t trip over things or bump into things. The blindfolded child can explore objects in the environment using senses other than the sense of sight, i.e. by touching, smelling and listening. Bear in mind that it may be frightening for some children to allow themselves to be led around by someone else. After playing the game once, the children should swop roles: the guide wears the blindfold and the other child leads him or her around.
Discuss these questions with the children • How did it feel to be blindfolded and guided by someone else? • What did the blindfolded child hear? And smell? And feel? Does walking around feel different from when you are able to see? Other than not being able to see, what else felt different? • How did the guide feel? What was the most impressive experience for you? • What was the most difficult part of being blindfolded/leading someone around? • What did you not like about the exercise? • Did you prefer being led or being the guide? Why?
The blind dogs
The aim of this game is to enhance trust, to encourage children to take responsibility for one another and to activate the senses. Sometimes we see blind people who have specially trained dogs to help them. In this game, the dogs are blind. The two pairs of children are 10-20 metres apart from each other. In each pair, one child pretends to be the dog and kneels on his or her hands and knees. The dogs are blindfolded. After the group leader gives a signal, the dogs start to run towards each other with the other child running (or walking) alongside. The second child is the guide, and must help his or her dog by tapping on the left or right shoulder (or pulling gently on the left or right ear) to indicate to the dog when he or she needs to move to the left or the right. A gentle tap on the head indicates that the dog must stop. It is important to use nonverbal signs because many younger children are 87 Age group: 4 years and older Number of players: 4, in two pairs Materials required: 2 pieces of cloth for blindfolds Duration: Short
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. schoolbags. Agree on the start and the finish. 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. Blindfold one child in each pair.not yet familiar with the concepts of left and right. Blind walk with directions The aim of this game is to enhance trust and selfconfidence. 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. Each child should have a turn at playing both dog and guide. build an obstacle course with various obstacles. Instead. benches. This makes the game more difficult because each blindfolded child has to focus on the voice of his or her own guide. The blindfolded child has to cross the obstacle course from the start to the finish. to encourage children to take responsibility for one another and to activate the senses. the dogs should bark and listen to each other to identify where the sound comes from to find each other. swop over. Before starting the game. Allow each child to take a turn at being blindfolded. 88 . and some items to build an obstacle course: sticks. 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. boxes. 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. After the dogs have found one another. chairs. Once the children have got used to the game. stones. The children gather at the start and set off together in pairs. several children can start at the same time. 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.
When setting up the obstacle course. • Was it more difficult crossing an obstacle course that you had not seen? • In real life. The head must set the pace so that everyone feels safe and is able to follow. The head must be responsible for all the other children in the snake and must move carefully. Depending on how much time is available for this game. 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. what did you hear? Smell? Feel? Other than not being able to see. 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 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. helpless and frightened – can you name any? • In real life. 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. 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. other kinds of obstacles make a person feel weak. do you have someone who helps you to overcome obstacles. The other children need courage to be led about with their eyes closed and their hands in a fixed position. The child at the front of the line is the snake’s head and keeps his or her eyes open. make sure that the obstacles are manageable for the children. Variation To make it more difficult. what else felt different? • As the snake’s head. All the other children close their eyes. children could take turns at being the head of the snake. 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. how did it feel to lead a group? What was the most impressive experience for you? 89 . The snake starts to move forward slowly. how does it feel when you manage something you thought you would never be able to cope with? • In real life.
This is important. group-cohesion and self-esteem through overcoming obstacles.5 m long and tied in a circle work as well) Duration: Short . 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. The main messenger now sends a message to another child in the circle by nodding his head towards the other child. 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. The rule is that no one may let go of the other children’s hands. The messenger The aim of this game is to encourage observation. This child now becomes the main messenger and must lift both arms. Before the last children hold hands and close the circle. All the children stand in a circle. The game becomes more difficult as fewer children remain in the circle. He or she stretches both arms above the head. The first messenger and first helper messengers drop their arms to their sides again. 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. And so the game continues. flexibility and co-operation. One child is the main messenger. team spirit. All of the children stand in a circle holding hands.Games for group cohesiveness and social skills The games in this section are to foster group cohesiveness. These children lift the hand that is closest to the main messenger. The children on either side of the main messenger are helper messengers. Anyone who raises the wrong arm must leave the circle. encourage social learning skills and responsiveness to the needs of others. concentration. The last three children to remain in the circle are the winners.
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. you could add a second hula-hoop at the opposite side of the circle. 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. sharing. The trick is to step through the hula-hoop feet-first and then with the help of one’s neighbours. Since all members of the circle are interconnected and everyone is either helping or climbing. Discuss these questions with the children • In the beginning. recognising one another’s needs. The paper is spread on the floor and each penguin stands on his or her sheet of newspaper. everyone is involved in the activity. jiggle the hula-hoop up until the head can be squeezed through. 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. In this game. The children must make the hula-hoop move around the circle without the circle ever breaking. survivor skills and problem solving. Each penguin is given a sheet of newspaper. one child is the sun and the other children are penguins. 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 hula-hoop dangles loosely. To make it more interesting. In the beginning this will take some practice.length of rope) over the hands of the last children so that the hula-hoop hangs over their clasped hands. Tell the Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 5 or more children Materials required: Sheets of newspaper Duration: Short 91 . For really advanced teams you could have three hoops moving around the circle at the same time. The first child’s neighbour must repeat the process.
decision-making skills and self-esteem. clothing. placing it in front of them and stepping on to it. bed space. the children must cover the distance to the finish line by stepping from one sheet of newspaper to the next. 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. but they don’t have much endurance.) • 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.children that the newspaper is the penguin’s ice brick. To make it more difficult. One sheet is placed on the ground and the whole team stands on it. The children work together in teams of three. or attention. Each team receives two big sheets of newspaper. picking up the sheet of newspaper that they have just stepped off. Penguins can swim. Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 6 or more children. space. the children may not let go of each other’s hands and they have to collect the remaining piece of paper with their free hands. On your command. divided into groups of three Materials required: None Duration: Varies 92 . This is a competitive game. in a row. money to pay for school.) 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. team spirit. conflict resolution skills. move closer together and hold tightly to each other. holding hands. The second sheets of newspaper are placed in front of each team. The team to reach the finish first wins the game. then bending backwards. The sun now walks around and starts tearing pieces of newspaper from the ice bricks on which the penguins are standing. A penguin must always be in touch with an ice brick or else it falls into the sea. Agree on a distance that both groups have to cover. Eventually penguins will have to stand on one leg or even share ice bricks with neighbours.
preferably of equal length. The hen at the end of the line (the one who was next to the chick) becomes the new chick.The fox. Age group: 8 years and older Number of players: 2 or more children. 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. Both children have to learn to adjust to each other’s movements. Each pair needs two straight sticks. The hens form a line holding hands and the little chick is the last child at the end of the row. awareness of and respect for one another and concentration. This is not easy! 93 . The fox now tries to chase the chick. one child plays the chick. This game can get a little wild! One child plays the fox. 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 chick holds hands with the hen beside her. Place one end of the stick against the tip of the index finger of the first child’s right hand and the other end at the tip of the index finger of the second child’s left hand. the children must observe closely and react quickly to one another. team spirit and self-esteem. the chick and the hens The aim of this game is to foster group cohesiveness. the chick becomes the fox and the fox becomes one of the hens. Sticks should be of similar length. and the rest of the children are the hens. Duration: Varies To keep the two sticks balanced. divided into pairs Materials required: Each child should have a straight stick (a pen with a lid works as well). The children stand facing each other at about the same distance as the length of the stick. Now place the second stick between the tips of the index fingers of the remaining hands. both children have to apply a little pressure. To keep the stick balanced. If the fox manages to touch the chick.
Much more co-ordination and communication is needed. they may start counting how often they can toss the ball without falling on the ground. 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. sheets or blankets and have groups of four children. (This may need practice at first. If you have a large group of children. Bear in mind that if more children take part it becomes more difficult to catch and toss the ball. Age group: 8 years and older Number of players: 4 or more children. The game becomes more difficult if more children participate.) As soon as the ball is in the air. the other pairs try to catch the ball on their towels. The child at the front of the row is the head of the snake and the last child is the tail. The aim of the game is for the head of the snake to grab the piece of cloth at the end of the tail. you could use bigger towels. Working in pairs. Towel catch The aim of this game is to encourage group co-operation and co-ordination.Depending on the number of children. in two lines or in circles. A ball is placed on one of the towels. working in pairs Materials required: One towel and one ball per pair of children Duration: Varies Chase the tail The aim of this game is to encourage group co-ordination and group cohesiveness. Once the children get better at this. holding on to each other’s shoulders. The children stand in a row. the game can be played with children standing in a triangle. one behind the other. A piece of cloth is stuck into the belt or the trousers of the child at the end of the row. 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 . children hold opposite ends of a towel.
If the head manages to grab the cloth. Two children take opposites ends of a rope and pull it taut about 30 cm from the ground. This means that the head can only run as fast as the whole snake allows.the head of the snake chases the tail. Discuss these questions with the children • When you were the tail. You should interrupt the game – the aim of the game is for the children to stay connected to one another. The group leader tells the children standing next to the rope that they must climb over the rope as a group. but they must imagine that the rope has an electric current and no one should touch it. The group leader asks the two children holding the rope to lift it so that it is approximately hip height. what things did you have to be aware of? • When you were the head. all the other children hold on tightly to the child in front of him or her. This is quite easy and children usually manage without much difficulty. 2nd exercise: Raising the rope Now the exercise becomes more complicated. 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. 1st exercise: The children must get over the rope as a group holding one another’s hands. This game is an ideal way to observe skills and strengths and leads nicely into the games for self-esteem and self-confidence. If this game gets too wild. the head becomes the tail and the next child in the row takes over as the head. the children will let go of one another and they may stumble or fall. 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 . The head and the tail must pay attention to the rest of the group while running and chasing each other. and to encourage self-esteem. Now the group must get over (not under) the rope without touching it. All other children stand on one side of the rope. to reinforce conflict resolution and decision-making skills.
Some children will still not find this particularly difficult. For example. They will also realise that the stronger children must assist the less agile children. the numbers one to eight if there are eight children in the group). Usually. they may not use chairs to stand on. 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. 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. (Nothing else may be used to help them. Each group stands in a circle and the circles must stay the same size. The rope should be high enough that the children can just manage without any accidents. or does it need other skills like thinking. It is crucial to discuss the game with the children after they have finished. do you have other skills and strengths that are valuable? • What are these skills and strengths? Games for fostering self-esteem. But they only win the game if everyone gets over the rope – including the less agile children! Tell the children to develop a strategy to get everyone over the rope. older Number of players: 5 or more children Materials required: None Duration: Varies 96 . communicating and decision-making as well? • If you are “strong”. Divide the class into equal groups of five to eight (or more) children. all the number ones throw the ball to each child in the group. Child number one in each group stands in the middle of the circle. who immediately throws it back to number one in the middle. If some children do not manage at all.) 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. children climb over the rope by lifting each other over it or climbing onto each other’s backs. Each group will need a ball. make it a little easier for them by lowering the rope. Each child in the circle gets a number (for example. On your command. The groups play against each other. does it mean that you are generally strong or do you have weaker points as well? • If you belonged to the less agile group.
When number one has thrown the ball to each of the group members, number two runs to the middle of the circle and starts throwing the ball to each group member in turn. The game goes on until each child has had a turn in the middle of the circle. The first group to finish is the winner.
The aim of this game is to enhance group co-operation and self-esteem. Twin soccer is played like normal soccer except the players are tied together in pairs. (The rules can be simplified if the children are young.) Divide the class into two teams. Ask the children to stand in pairs and to tie the left leg of one child to the right leg of his or her classmate. Twin soccer should be played on soft ground because many pairs will take a tumble! Twin soccer is a competitive game with a strong emphasis on teamwork. The pairs really have to work together to be able to run and kick the ball.
Age group: 5 years and older Number of players: an even number – at least 12 Materials required: A ball and a lot of short ropes (cloths will work too) Duration: Varies
Games fostering self-esteem and self-confidence
My five best points
The aim of this game is to enhance self-esteem and self-confidence, to encourage participants to take responsibility for one another, to encourage selfevaluation and public speaking, and to foster tolerance. To start with, discuss the fact that each of us has things we can do well (like running, climbing or reading), good attitudes (like being gentle or honest) and good feelings (like feeling brave, or feeling caring) as well as things that we can’t do as well. For this exercise we are going to focus on our strong points. Each child must think about his or her five best points – what he or she is good at. When each child has identified five strong points, Age group: 10 years and older Number of players: No limit Materials required: Paper and pens/pencils to write with Duration: 30-45 min, depending on how many children participate
each child must think of times when they demonstrated these strong points. The children should write down the five strong points and the times that they demonstrated these strong points. For example: I am brave. I was very brave when I had to take the taxi to town on my own for the first time. I am helpful. I was helpful when I prepared and collected more firewood than we needed. I am good at reading. The group leader wrote this in my school report. When everyone is ready, the group leader asks children to read what they have written. Before they start, agree with the group that no one should talk while a child is reading and we do not make any comments about what each child says about him or herself.
Discuss these questions with the children After everyone has had a turn to present his or her five best points, ask: • How did you feel about the exercise? • Do we need to be shy about our good points?
When the children start to work, move around the group and make sure that all children write down five points. Children with a very low self-esteem may find this difficult.You could help by giving little hints like,“I have seen in class that you seem to be a very good listener. Can you remember a time when you listened very well?”After a while, the children will become less hesitant and will start to enjoy thinking positively about themselves. Boosting self-esteem and showing that there is more to life than school performance is particularly valuable in a school environment where the emphasis may be put on academic achievement only.
Games to recognise and understand feelings
Feelings are important. They are signals that tell us how we feel at any particular moment. For a child to know how he or she is feeling, the child has to be consciously in touch with his or her feelings. Only feelings that are known to us can be consciously experienced and verbally expressed. Children need to know their feelings in order to understand them and to express them. Part of understanding feelings is knowing how to interpret the signals that our bodies give to us. Children who understand their own feelings can understand how other people feel too. Both adults and children often find it difficult to find words to describe their feelings. It is important to be able to describe feelings in order to learn how to deal with them. Children need to learn to understand and express their feelings from when they are very young. 98
“If you’re happy and you know it…”
The aim of this game is to get to know one’s own feelings and to be able to express them. This is a famous song in English and is sung to the tune of “She’ll be coming round the mountain.” You may need to adapt it to the child’s mother tongue. If you are not familiar with it, be courageous enough to invent a tune of your own! Children love the repetition of the song.Young children are eager to learn new tasks and repeating an already-known task boosts their selfesteem and gives them self-confidence. While singing the song, the child learns about different feelings and various ways of expressing feelings. The song consists of four lines that are easy for children to remember. The activities described in the song are performed by all the children (everyone claps, everyone shouts, everyone stamps their feet). If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands (clap, clap), If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands (clap, clap), If you’re happy and you know it, and you really want to show it, If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands (clap, clap). Once the children know the song, you can start to change the words. For example: If you’re excited and you know it, start to jump (everyone jumps) Or: If you’re angry and you know it, stamp your feet (stamp, stamp) Or: If you’re sad and you know it, start to cry (boo hoo) 99
Age group: 4 years and older Number of players: Any number Materials required: None Duration: Short
The other children will have to explain when they felt sad/happy/jealous.“The last time I felt jealous was when. The child who catches the ball has to act out the feeling with his or her whole body. 100 Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: Any number Materials required: A ball Duration: Short .” • Some children find it difficult to act out a feeling. With children that have become used to the game. As the group leader you may notice that the more often you play this game. It may help to say.” • Sometimes children cannot get in touch with their feelings immediately.. jealous – any kind of feeling). “Show me what you do when you are. because this teaches the children a variety of responses.. angry. This is a very simple game. 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. One child has a ball (or anything you can throw and catch without getting hurt).... Can you remember how it felt? Try to put yourself back into that situation.”(or happy. The aim of this game is to get to know one’s feelings and how feelings can be expressed. If children find this difficult you could change the sentence to. but it helps children to learn a variety of names for their feelings as well as ways to express their feelings. but different people express other feelings differently. It is important to find several activities for the same feeling.Soon the children will want to add their own verses and activities.“Show me how you look when you feel sad.” Older children will soon realise that there are some feelings that people express more or less in the same way. Show me how you look when you feel. They should say. The child passes the ball to another child calling. The children could also count how often the ball is passed until none of the children can think of any new feelings. All the children stand in a circle. the more the children become accustomed to expressing their feelings and giving their feelings names. to encourage motor co-ordination. you could introduce a new rule: no feeling may be mentioned more than once..“Think about the last time you felt jealous.
” With older children (eight years old and older). satisfied. a child looking excited on her birthday. Ask each child to choose one feeling and then to draw a big face showing that 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. Cut the word out of the list and stick it onto the face.) Each child must demonstrate the feeling to the class using only facial expressions or body language. Hang the faces around the classroom. a woman looking angry after someone bumped her car. Ask the children to describe what they see in each picture. you should whisper the name of the feeling to them. They should make sentences like. etc. This enhances their self-expression and writing skills. Let each child choose a card and read the feeling silently to himself or herself. for example a soccer player looking happy after scoring a goal. Cut out pictures that show people expressing feelings. “The soccer player is happy because he scored a goal. Discuss the situations that cause certain feelings in the children. (If the child can’t read. Make a list of the feelings a person can have. This list may get very long! Display the list in the classroom. The other children in the class must guess what the feeling is. Show the pictures to the children and ask them what the people in the pictures are feeling.Picture games The aim of these games is to get to know one’s own feelings and to be able to express them. Ask them to describe something that made them angry (or scared. excited. Write the names of feelings on little cards. 101 Age group: 4 years and older Number of players: Any number Materials required: paper or card to be cut into cards Duration: Varies . or a person looking sad saying goodbye to a friend. you can take this activity a step further by asking the child to write a short story about the event happening in the picture. 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.
7. ask the child how he or she thinks this person would respond. Praise the child for making up such an interesting story. Write this on a separate bubble and let the child paste it to the picture. 8. 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. 1. If there is another figure in the picture. Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 4-5 Materials required: Pictures showing people interacting in various situations. Hand a bubble to the child and ask him or her to place it on one of the figures in the picture. Is the child in the picture happy. Exercise for children younger than 9 years old Use a speech bubble as shown on this page. Now ask the child to imagine that the picture could come alive like a movie or a TV programme. Ask the child to describe what he or she can see in the picture. 6. Let the child choose a picture (or show a picture to the child). sad. Ask the child what the figure in the picture is saying. “Imagine that the angry child in the picture is a real child. Say to the child. Ask the child how he or she thinks the people in the picture feel. When working with a group of children. summarise it. What would happen next? Let the child tell the story. Use bubbles as illustrated below and on the next page. Collect pictures from newspapers or magazines. After the child has finished telling the story. emphasising the feelings in the story and tell it back to the child. 2. jealous or angry? When working with younger children you may have to suggest some feelings! 4. 5. 3. Ask the child what the people in the picture are doing.Pictures and bubbles The aim of this game is to get to know one’s feelings and how feelings can be expressed. each of the children chooses a picture.
revenge. (Of course you could use wooden cubes if they are available. Feeling dice To make it more interesting for the children you could make “feeling dice”with them. If a child describes a story that contains negative feelings (or expressions of helplessness. The group leader could discuss teasing in class and establish a class rule. After asking what the children see in the picture. aggression.) Make a copy of the illustration and give one to each child in the class.Picture and bubbles for children 9 years old and older The exercise is similar to the one for younger children. Feeling dice are made out of cardboard or paper. hate. betrayal. 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. fold it along the dotted lines and glue it 103 . Use the rescue star – she could perhaps try to talk to the group leader about her problem. 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. shame or disgust) you could introduce a new symbol: a “help” bubble or a “rescue” star. For example. The children should cut out the illustration. sadness. Write the comments in the appropriate bubbles and paste them onto the picture. what they are thinking and what they are saying or doing. anger. A feeling bubble (how do you think the figures in the pictures are feeling?) could be square. The child could use the rescue star to identify a possible solution to the situation in the picture. ask them to describe how the people are feeling. thoughts and deeds and so it is important to give them different shaped bubbles to use. guilt. but older children are able to differentiate between feelings.
ask the children to draw a face displaying a different feeling on each panel.together in the form of a cube. For example. Explain that they are going to play games with their dice. Each honest answer will get a point. After the children have finished making their dice ask them to get into small groups or pairs. It may be easier for you as the group leader to prepare written cards containing questions like: • “Where in your body do you feel it when you are very ______?” • “What do you do when you are very ______?” • “What should you not do when you are very _______?” • “How do other people feel when you are very ______?” • “How do you express that you are feeling very _______? How does your face look? How does your body look?” • “How do you know that another person feels very ______?” 104 .Younger children may need some help with this. Before gluing the cube together.“Describe what happened when you were last very ______”. Questions will refer to feelings – what causes feelings and how we express them. The goal of the game is to answer the questions as honestly as possible.
Cut the head off your cardboard figure. scraps of material Duration: Short 3. koki pens or colouring pencils. Glue the rest of the (headless) figure onto the outline that you traced on the second piece of cardboard. a sharp knife. Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 1 and the person who guides the process Materials required: Two thick pieces of card. On one piece of card draw the outline of a simple figure. Both dice are thrown and two different faces come up (for example. the figure should drop out. You now have the cardboard figure. With older children who can already reflect more deeply. Ask the other children if they can think of similar situations. you could play the game with two dice. a second child should ask the questions which the first child must answer. sellotape. 5. trace the outline of the figure onto the second piece of cardboard. Answers like “I don’t know.” will not be accepted.) If it lands on an angry face.One child should then throw the die (Note: We use one “die”. After answering the question honestly. scraps of wool. Each time a child answers a question honestly. 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 . Cut along the outline of the figure with a sharp knife without cutting into the figure. a piece of cardboard with a hole in the shape of a figure and another piece of cardboard. he or she gets a point. angry and excited). 2. 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. 4. Dressing the doll Teaching a younger child to identify emotions Preparations 1. This game encourages children to speak about their feelings and the way they express their feelings. Ask the question. Lay the two pieces of cardboard on top of each other and with a pencil. When you have finished. it is the next child’s turn. Take two thick pieces of card of the same size (approximately 25 cm x 20 cm).
The figure should fit into the hole when the two sides are closed. 6. slipping the material inside and flipping it closed again. 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). Use the head to trace some more heads and cut them out. Take some scraps of material and cut squares approximately 15 cm x 15 cm. Flip the card open. Ask the child to choose a face that shows how the child felt at any particular moment. they will open from the centre like cupboard doors to show the mirror inside.open and closed like a book. The fabric shows through the cut out shape. When working with younger children. scissors. 2. 10. 7. 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. strong sellotape and a mirror (preferably square) Duration: Varies . for example during his father’s funeral or when her mother died. slide one or two pieces of material inside the card and then close it again. 8. 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. Draw different expressions (or feelings) on each head. Glue the mirror onto the A4 cardboard. Choose a head that represents how the child feels and put it in the head hole. Take the card that you have made and glue some wool around the head-hole to look like hair. 3. Ask the child to open the window and describe what he or she sees in the mirror. These squares will be the “clothing”. 11. you could ask the child to dress the figure in the card by flipping it open. If the top pieces of card are stuck correctly. The child has the mirror window closed in front of him or her. 9. The figure in the card can be changed as often as the child wishes. Do the same with the other piece of card. but stick it along the right-hand side.
teeth. Ask the child to close the window. ask the child whether the reflection in the mirror looks happy. ears. the child will see him/herself from different angles. eyebrows. Say that this is easier to do if he or she thinks of a sad (happy/angry/jealous) situation. As soon as the child’s face changes. discuss it with the child. mouth. If the child puts his or her nose close to the mirrors and moves the two mirrors towards his or her face. Then ask him or her to make a sad (happy/angry/jealous) face. Have a close look and describe what you see. For a mirror book you will need two pieces of cardboard of the same size and two mirrors of the same size. After the description..” Try to get the child to give you as detailed a description as possible.The conversation may go like this: “It’s me!” “Yes. After completing the exercise. the collar of your shirt. Emphasise that it is important to feel the feelings in our bodies and that our bodies give us signs about how we feel. 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. join them to one another with the join in the middle like a book. content. The mirror book The mirror book is a development of the mirror window. hair. Glue the mirrors onto the cardboard and using sellotape. angry.. Then ask the child to change the picture – let the child experiment with making funny faces. Older children may describe what happens to their faces when their emotions change. it’s you. etc. 107 .Yes. sad. Discuss these questions with the children Feeling chart Feelings are not only experienced in our minds but manifest themselves in the whole body. ask the child to open the mirror and check for him/herself. nose.
Say. When my body gives me signs that I am very angry (impatient/jealous/etc) and I can feel it in _______ (part of the body). If you only have one pack of playing cards. Let the children work together in groups of three to five.Ask the child to colour in (or draw a circle around) the part of the body in which he or she feels anger. 1. I_______ (activity the child did) to make me feel better. 2.“Where in your body do you feel it when you are really angry?”Or.“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. The last time my body gave me a sign that I was very upset. 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 . It helped me a lot/helped me a bit/didn’t help me at all. Games to deal with aggression and frustration House of cards This games examines how children deal with frustration. I _______ (activity the child did) to make me feel better when I felt _______ (feeling).You may want to make notes about how the children react. It is also a way to assist a child in finding adequate and helpful ways to deal with negative feelings. I can do _______ (activities) to make me feel better. Ask the child to complete the sentences below. have one group of children demonstrate the game to the rest of the class. 3. which makes us think about the way we deal with our feelings.
end the exercise and discuss it with the class. alarm clock or cellphone (mobile phone) with an alarm Duration: Until everyone is exhausted! 109 . which must be squashed into a paper ball. Don’t forget to ask the children to collect the paper balls and throw them away after you have finished playing. 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. On your command. Each team immediately tosses the balls that land on their side of the field back to the other side. The winning team – when time’s up – is the team with the fewest balls on their side of the field. Get rid of it! This game is good for letting off steam. set the alarm clock for four to eight minutes. • Ask the class for ideas about what they can do when they get frustrated. Age group: 4 years and older Number of players: 4 or more children Materials required: Old newspaper. 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. Divide the children into two teams and allocate each team to one half of a field with a line down the middle. all children throw their paper balls into the opposite half of the field. Watch the children for signs of frustration.one layer on top of another as illustrated in the diagram. Give the children ten minutes to try. wristwatch. Depending on the age of the children. 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. Each player is given one sheet of newspaper.
Lion and hunter This game is good for letting off steam. Alternatively. Make sure that the ground is soft and that there are no obstacles to trip over or sharp stones to hurt the children. it encourages concentration and quick reactions. The hunter must try to get the ball. the child holding the newspaper tries to hit the knees of the child whose name was called out. • The rest of the children are the impala. but the ball leaves the field more often and he or she has to fetch it. The game ends when all the impala have been caught. 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 child whose name was called out Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 7 or more children – the more. Immediately. The lion must try to get the piece of cloth. First mark the boundaries of a field within which the players must stay. the group leader calls out the name of one of the children sitting in the circle. One child stands in the middle of the circle holding a rolled-up newspaper. The impala try to hide in the field. To start the game. The hunter has the advantage of the ball being faster. Either the lion’s team or the hunter’s team will win. • Who is going to be the hunter. The hunter and the lion both chase the impala. The lion has the advantage that the cloth stays where it falls. The children choose: Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 7 or more children Materials required: A ball and a piece of cloth Duration: Until everyone has been caught • Who is going to be the lion. either trying to hit them with the piece of cloth (the lion) or “shoot”them with the ball (the hunter). All the children sit in a circle. Hit me if you can This game is a good ice-breaker when children are getting to know one another. then the side with the most impala already caught is the winning team. depending on who caught him or her. the better Materials required: One rolled-up newspaper – see “Observations” below Duration: Short 110 . but the lion has to get closer to the impala to catch them. the game ends if the hunter hits the lion or the lion hits the hunter. depending on the side that has the most impala.
anger and how to express negative emotions. it is important that only a newspaper is used and not a stick. Observations Because children may hit very hard with the newspaper. Make sure that neither child is interrupted by anybody.) 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. This child then stands in the circle with the newspaper and the other child joins the children in the circle. Ask each of the “opponents” to describe briefly what happened. explaining that their game is the only time that they may hit one another. It helps aggressive children deal with their aggressive behaviour. the faster and more fun the game becomes. Don’t take sides. the children who were fighting will be very tense. rage. anger. The faster the children react. The game continues until one child doesn’t react quickly enough and is hit on the knees. etc.may only “rescue”him or herself by quickly calling out the name of another child in the circle. The rest of the class may also be upset and may have taken sides. The child holding the newspaper immediately tries to hit the second child on the knees. The atmosphere could be very unpleasant and it would be useless trying to teach. Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: The whole class Materials required: None Duration: Varies 111 . In an environment where hitting or beating children is common (although not allowed) it may be necessary to discuss the game with the children. It may be valuable to use this game as a starting game for a group discussion about aggression. 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. If there has been a fight in the classroom or during break.
No one may disobey the rules. • Tell the children that you are in charge of an imaginary remote control. Tell them that you will have to rewind the scene (like you rewind a tape). moving very. The whole scene will first be played in slow motion (like an action replay on television. Start them in slow motion. 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.Tell them to come to the front and play the fight in the classroom.) This imagined control allows you to control what is happening. Test it on the whole class: ask them to move their arms around.“Stop!”Everyone should freeze. press your imaginary button and call. When they are back in their starting position. Everything has to be said by gestures and actions. Press your imaginary button and call. When the two opponents reach the end of the scene.“Fast!” Everyone should speed up. It might still be full of anger and rage. Arrange the starting scene with the two opponents. • There is no talking. slow them down with your remote control the movements can be extremely slow. but allow the scene to unfold at normal speed. press “play”and start the two players off again. Don’t allow any real fighting to start. When you press the rewind button they will have to walk backwards and do all the movements backwards. Establish some rules first.”Stay in total control of the scene. Ask the class for ideas (keep the players frozen). (Make sure that the children understand what a remote control is. • No one is allowed to touch the other person.“Start. When you see the players speeding up.“freeze”them and ask them how they feel in that situation.“Slow!”Everyone should slow down. Each movement has to stop a few centimetres short of the other child. Ask if they can think of another way to solve their conflict and avoid a fight.You can even stop the scene. Press your imaginary button and call. very slowly). 112 . leaving the two opponents standing there “frozen”. This will have to happen very quickly because tapes rewind very quickly! This usually looks very funny and makes everyone laugh.
The two listeners join their groups again and two other children are chosen to stand behind the lines and listen.When they reach the end of the scene. When you give a sign. about 15 metres apart. Both groups are shouting at the same time. 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. The screaming game This is a game that helps to relieve tension. If there are still negative feelings. both groups start shouting their sentence from the child from their group who is standing behind the opposite group. The teacher stands between the two lines. 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. 113 Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: The whole class Materials required: None Duration: Varies . let the ex-opponents sit down. Discuss the non-violent problem-solving. If the child misunderstood the sentence. talk about what can be done to solve the problem. so it will be difficult for the children behind the lines to understand their sentences. 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. ask them how they feel. 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. After you have finished. the other group gets a point. One child from each group stands behind the opposite group. One person from each group tells the teacher the sentence that the group has chosen. Each group creates a five-word sentence (younger children need only think of one word). Ask the class what happened. Each group stands in a line. right in the middle. If the child understood the sentence correctly. As soon as one of the two children thinks they have understood the sentence. his or her group gets a point.
you do not wish to see anybody move.You may instead want to blindfold the children. well done. 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. Tell them that you do not expect them to do anything but to keep very quiet. saying. this would be even better. OK.“You’re the fish!”into the ear of one of the children. Then tell the children to open their eyes and sit up. All the children close their eyes and move around the room.You may want to add a breathing exercise at this stage. “Fish!”until they meet a child who keeps quiet. Tell the children to sit down. Just rest your head on your hands. If necessary. tell them that you want them to lie quite still. Try to keep your feet still. Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: The whole class Materials required: None Duration: Varies Some children will find this difficult and will keep fidgeting. (It is easier to use a school hall or a fenced playground where there is no furniture in the way. Time out If the whole class is restless. Quietly but firmly. This means that this child must stay silent. All the other children move around and when they bump into each other they say.” If you can play some quiet music. I want you to be very quiet now.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.) Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: The whole class Materials required: None Duration: Varies The teacher whispers. address them by name. let the whole class take time out. 114 .“Sara. The game ends when every child is silent. It helps children to relax. Ask them to close their eyes and just lie silently until you tell them to sit up. Ask the children to clear their desks and make sure that each child has enough space for himself or herself.
open a bottle. to work with other people and to co-operate in a group while retaining their unique individuality. crayons. or place an arm around the waist or shoulder of their partners so that they each have one free hand to use. 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. They need to learn to respect other people’s thoughts and feelings. autonomy and awareness Children have to learn how to function in groups. sellotape. 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 . they need to learn to be assertive enough to express their own feelings. They hold one hand. Together. 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. Siamese twins The children work in pairs. tie a shoelace.Games for help-seeking. Add interest by having the children hold one another’s ears or feet instead of holding hands. The following exercises help children to respect other people. they must complete various tasks: carry a bucket. a short piece of rope or some material. wishes and thoughts.
Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 2 or more children. 116 . The children should hold their other hands behind their backs. at a distance of approximately 10 cm. like a house or a car. Have two children stand beside one another and then tie their adjacent hands together. like a mirror image. 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. Both children should hold the same pen. Encourage them to discuss the questions below. Their hands should not touch. Suggest something straightforward to start with.Siamese twins for older children Use the sellotape to stick the paper to the wall or the floor. palms facing each other. The children will need to concentrate and anticipate what their partner is going to do next. working in pairs Materials required: None Duration: Varies The children stand facing each other. • 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. One child starts to move his or her hands and the other should try to copy the movements. Now ask them to use the joined hands to draw a picture of something. let them report back on how they felt. They hold their hands in front of them. Make sure that both children express their opinions.
They must discover how best to follow in different directions and to accommodate their partners. but one child remains alone. Once again. Observe what changes when both hands are moved. As soon as a child has been winked at.Let the children try this for some time. their hands may not touch. both facing the middle of the circle. Children should stand in a triangle. The winking is done as secretly as possible. Let the children try this exercise for a while. he or she must try to run to the person who winked. Standing one behind the other. The partner at the back throws his or her arms around the partner in front to prevent the child from getting away. 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? . On your signal. 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. since the partners standing in the outer circle must try to keep the partner standing in front. before taking a rest to discuss the questions below. the children start to move their hands. The children standing at the back hold their hands behind their backs. 117 Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 9 or more children. What happens when both children start to take the lead? What happens if no one takes the initiative? Take a break and discuss these points with the children. once again approximately 10 cm apart. Step 2 Form groups of three. each one holding his or her hands out towards the other children in the group. the pairs form a circle. Discuss these questions with the children • How was working in threes different from working in pairs? • If it was more difficult. 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 new flea has ten jumps to use and the game begins again. If the flea catcher correctly identifies the flea. The fleas squat on the ground and make chirping sounds. 1 observer Materials required: A cloth to use as a blindfold. the flea may not jump any more. If a partner has been stolen away. The camera closes his or her eyes and the photographer leads the “blind”camera around until he or she finds an interesting subject.The children at the back may not follow if their partner runs to the winker. Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 5 or more children. working in pairs Materials required: None Duration: Short 118 . but if a flea uses up all of its ten jumps. 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. Games to see how feelings appear physically Catching fleas One child plays the flea catcher and all the others are fleas. Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 2 or more children. The flea catcher is blindfolded and tries to catch the fleas. Each flea may jump ten times. The children agree who will be the camera and who will be the photographer. it is then the turn of the partner left behind to wink in order to steal another child. When the flea hunter catches a flea or touches a flea by accident. The observer must make sure that the blindfolded flea catcher doesn’t hurt him or herself or leave the premises. they swop roles and the flea becomes the flea catcher. accurate perception and visual focusing. The fleas are allowed to jump away. the flea catcher has to identify the flea by gently touching his or her face. Each child must be very attentive and maintain eye contact with the child who has no partner.
In the beginning you may want to allow both children to keep their eyes open and watch what is happening. This version can only be played with children who are fluent readers. To make it more difficult. One child uses an index finger or a twig to gently “write”a letter on the palm of the other child’s hand. the camera and the photographer sit down and the child who played the camera describes. one letter after another. 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. Without moving his or her head. awareness of bodily feelings. the child who is writing may decide to write a whole word. what he or she saw. The second child has to feel what the first child has written. opens its eyes. the shutter closes (the camera’s eyes close) and the camera is led to a new subject. The same process is repeated. Age group: Children who can read Number of players: 2 Materials required: None Duration: Short 119 . The child pretending to be the camera must try to produce inner pictures of what he or she sees.The photographer adjusts the camera and. The receiving child must concentrate and combine the letters in his or her head to form a word. After taking pictures of three to five subjects. with the help of the inner pictures. the camera looks closely at the subject. 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. by pulling on the ear of the camera.) • 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. Then the two children swop roles and the game is repeated. After a few moments. trying to observe as much as possible.
so that everybody is gently massaging the child in front of him or her while having his or her own shoulders massaged as well. you draw a shape with your index finger on the back of the last child in the line. a circle or a triangle with smaller children. The children line up and form a circle. The other children follow suit. No one may talk. The child must concentrate. The children should concentrate on their bodies. It helps the children to follow this game if you participate as group leader.”while gently massaging the shoulders of the child in front of him or her. The shape could be a square. 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. How much information was lost along the way? Age group: 5 years and older Number of players: 4 or more children Materials required: None Duration: Short Weather report The aim of this game is to encourage concentration. The group leader starts the game by saying. letters or numbers with bigger children. As group leader. (The group leader is part of the circle as well. This helps to prevent the secret message from being revealed before reaching its goal. so that each child faces the back of the child in front of him or her. The game goes on until it reaches the front of the line. The children stand in a long line. awareness of bodily feelings. 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 .“And now we all feel the sun rising and shining gently on our backs.Secret messages The aim of this game is to encourage concentration. awareness of bodily feelings and relaxation.) Each child places his or her hands on the shoulders of the child in front of him or her.
) “And suddenly the rain grows softer.) Group leader: “And the rain grew harder and harder. 121 .) “And rain!”(Tap. 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.) “And softer.) Comments When playing this game.” (Massage the child’s back gently.”(Pause.“Suddenly big clouds appear in the sky.” (Tapping gently on the shoulders of the child in front of you.) “And still harder!”(Tapping hard and fast.”(tap with fingertips only).”(Making whooshing sounds and stroking firmly left to right.) “And more thunder!”(Another clap.” (Tapping harder and faster.”(Tapping firmly with all fingers.) All children follow suit. and back again. Children who don’t want to participate should not be forced to do so. Other children will love the game since it allows them to relax and be active and focused at the same time.) “And more and more. quietly.”(Tap more gently.) “And then a strong wind blows.) “And slowly. Some children may feel uncomfortable since the game requires a lot of bodily contact. It blows the clouds away.) “And more lightning!”(Draw another line.) “And a loud roar of thunder!”(Gently clap with both hands on the child’s back. the sun comes out. touch should be restricted to the shoulders and the upper part of the back.”(Stroke the shoulders of the child in front of you very strongly.Then the group leader continues.“and suddenly it stops.
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.
The stories can be shared later on with the whole group and can be used as a basis for a group discussion. they should invent a story about a child facing a situation that relates to the headline. it helps find ways to engage in the topic without the discussion becoming too personal.Journalist’s report Older children may resent focusing on conflict situations that have to do with their own lives. Invite the adolescents to choose one of the headlines that interests them most and ask them to compile the story. Have several headlines prepared and spread them out so that everyone can see them. 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. 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 . One method worth trying is the journalist’s report. Ask the adolescents to imagine that they are newspaper reporters and that they have to compile a report on one of the headlines. Collect headlines from newspapers referring to difficult situations. The next step is to distribute the original article that was attached to the headline. Ask them to compare their story with the original article. like “School fees for AIDS Orphans”.
Hi! I am Nangula! I am 8 years old. That’s for you to paste or draw a picture of yourself. others are short. Here you see a picture of me. This is what I look like. but we are all different. I go to school in Katutura. Next to my picture you’ll find an empty box. Some children are big and others are small. 126 . others have long hair. Some children are tall. Some children have dark skin. Each of one of us is special. my sister Maggie and my brothers Benjamin and Harry. some children are light in complexion. I live in Katutura in Windhoek with my granny. There are 35 children in my class. We all look different. After drawing your picture. I’m wearing my favourite shirt. Some children have short hair.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. We are all in one class. I am in Grade 3. how about writing a short story about yourself? Don’t forget to say what’s special about you.
I am good at climbing trees. And I am good at playing soccer. Rebecca can do some things better than either of us. Rebecca and Freddy can help me and I can help Freddy and Rebecca. I even can invent dances on my own. Sometimes it’s good to know you’re not the best. I am good at reading! And I can ride a bicycle. I am also good at making up stories. I can count and subtract. I’m the fastest runner in my school.Worksheet 2 The aim of this game is to build self-esteem by acknowledging skills and capabilities (“I can…”) Here you see me with some of my friends. Together. Freddy can do some things better than I can. I am proud to be a member of the school soccer team! I know how to knit. Here you can write what you are good at: I can do some things better than Freddy. 127 . 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. Some things I can do better than Freddy. I am proud of the things I can do! I am good at Maths. I am good at dancing. But some things Rebecca is best at. but we each have different strengths and skills. People like to listen to my stories! I am a good runner. Not only do we look different.
He is full of ideas. respectful. but also very curious and inventive. Not only on the outside but also inside. What kind of person are you? Which things would you use to describe yourself? You can pick them from the list below. curious. We call this “personality”. I love to invent things. active. I am very friendly. She is fun to be with.Worksheet 3 Even if we are a team and we are good at different things. friendly. clever. faithful. understanding. musical. a good friend. quiet. She is very thoughtful. energetic. brave. intelligent. I am a ______________ person. thoughtful. full of ideas. we are still different from one another. responsible. strong. Each one of us has a different personality. sporty 128 . humorous. sensitive. But you can also add others we haven’t thought of before. creative. honest. He is a good friend and a very helpful person. fun. This makes us special. Each one of us thinks. And I try to be very honest. For example: I am a very creative person. gentle. My friend Freddy is a very energetic person. My friend Rebecca is a gentle and quiet person. hardworking. loving. feels and acts differently. knowledgeable. I am also a_____________person. a good listener. kind. helpful.
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. 129 . has a puppy. The sewing machine is important because Granny uses it to make clothes that she sells at the market to earn money. Nangula doesn’t like the puppy.Worksheet 4 “I have…” I have many things to be happy about. so that nothing can happen to it. but it is more important to have people whom we love and trust. has a sewing machine. This makes her feel better. Nangula has a list of people she likes and a list of people who help her. Nangula has Rebecca – she tells Rebecca all her secrets. but the puppy is very important to Harry. Nangula keeps this photograph hidden beneath her mattress. Nangula has something else that is very important to her. I have a sister and two brothers. and who help us. Nangula loves her schoolbooks because she loves to read and write. Nangula’s granny. The photograph of her mother is very important to Nangula. She has Maggie – Maggie shares her clothes with Nangula. Each time she misses her mum. She knows that they are expensive. Nangula’s brother. but more importantly. like a certificate showing how well they did at school. Some people have things they are proud of. Other people have things that are very important to them and that they need to survive. Harry can’t think of a better friend than his puppy. Nangula has her schoolbooks. Do you have special things that are important to you? It is important to have special things in our lives. Nangula looks at the picture.You won’t guess what it is! It is a photograph of her mother. I have my good friend Rebecca. I have a house to live in. I have a bed to sleep in. Harry. for example. And she has Freddy – he protects her and helps her with her homework.
Nangula has Mrs Kakona – she is her teacher and she helps Nangula when she has problems at school. And there is Mr Blom who owns the bookshop and allows Nangula to look at the books in his shop. Ms Shikongo comes to visit the family and helps Granny to collect her pension money. She is Rebecca’s mum. 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 . Mrs Smith asks Nangula why she looks so sad. even though she is Rebecca’s mum. She listens to her. she can go and visit Rebecca’s mum. And Nangula has Ms Shikongo who is the social worker. There is the nurse at the clinic who helps Nangula when she has to collect Granny’s medicine. And there is Mrs Smith. And Nangula has Granny.She has her brother Harry – he likes to hug her. Rebecca’s mum always sees when Nangula is sad. She tells Nangula stories about her own mum. She likes Nangula very much. Mrs Smith is a very good friend. Sometimes when Nangula misses her own mum.
delinquent or antisocial behaviour and physical sickness. Complicated grief Complicated grief refers to grief and mourning reactions that can’t be expressed. How do you know when a reaction is extreme? These are the characteristics of severe or extreme reactions. 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. If you think that the child’s reaction is severe. It may become chronic (extremely severe) and lead to behaviour changes. This is known as “prolonged emotional numbing” because the whole grieving process freezes and the child is unable to experience feelings. he or she may not be able to experience the pain and the emotional response to the death – almost as if his or her feelings have been frozen. The reaction lasts for a long time and does not change in its intensity. 131 . Although the child may accept that the parent has died.7 Some children may experience extreme reactions to grief. In other children. The child’s behaviour changes dramatically. These are signs that the child needs specialised help. the child will probably need more specialised help than caregivers and teachers can offer. The reaction is very intense. The child does not seem to have inner resources or protective mechanisms. severe depression. Pay particular attention to the following extreme reactions: complicated grief.
132 . Delinquent or anti-social behaviour Delinquent or anti-social behaviour varies from child to child. The child seems to withdraw from all activities. can’t concentrate and can’t relax. Children affected by this withdraw from others and become isolated. The child says over and over again that he or she wants to be where the deceased parent is. Remember that for some children this is the only way that they can earn some money. deliberately causing hurt to his or her own body. 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. 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. If you see a child in your care doing one or more of the following things. Missing a lot of school. destroying objects that were formerly precious to him or her. Disturbing intrusive memories When unhappy memories crash into a child’s mind too often. The child feels tired all day long. The child may refuse to eat and lose a lot of weight. Breaking into houses and stealing. Staying out all night. Behaving sexually promiscuously (“sleeping around”) or engaging in prostitution (having sex for money). wants to stay in bed all day but finds it difficult to sleep at night. Engaging in risk-taking behaviour and impulsive behaviour (refer to Chapter 4). or staying away from home for several days in a row. pulling out his or her own hair. The child may show self-destructive and auto-aggressive behaviour like cutting himself or herself. the fear becomes so irrational (lacking in reason) and so great that it leads to irrational anxiety and recurring panic attacks. may talk a lot about wanting to die and has suicidal thoughts (thinks about killing himself or herself).Severe depression A child suffering from severe depression feels sad all the time and cries a lot. the child can’t cope with the memories. With some children. it would be wise to seek specialised help.
become subject to abuse or neglect. If psychosomatic illnesses carry on for a long time. Physical complaints As explained earlier in this book. A child is physically neglected when he or she is not properly looked after: the child doesn’t receive food. Neglect can be educational.Showing signs of substance abuse – this could be alcohol. drugs. you need to speak to the child and explain that you have noticed he or she is going through a difficult time. A child who is neglected in this way does not go to school or is not taught the basics of reading and writing. Girls are especially at risk. Neglect can be physical. psychosomatic aches and pains are physical complaints for which a doctor can find no medical reason. being unable to sleep and slurred speech. This is more likely in situations in which a child’s caregiver is overwhelmed and the child’s needs do not receive enough attention. your help may be refused. The resulting lack of education makes it more difficult for them to improve their situation in life. What is neglect? Neglect means that the child’s basic needs are not properly cared for. It is important for you to make the child realise that you are not criticising his or her behaviour. you need to take the child to a childcare specialist (psychologist) so that the child can get professional help. fighting for survival with little chance of going to school. Sometimes the child will not tell you that he or she is being abused or neglected. but boys may also be abused or neglected. If the child feels that you are being critical. but you may notice some of the signs or symptoms that have been described in this chapter. especially those who are vulnerable. 133 . 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. Signs of substance abuse include restlessness. Child abuse and neglect Sometimes children. gluesniffing or smoking. shelter or medical care. What can you do to help? If you know of a child who is experiencing these severe problems. Many neglected and abandoned children end up as “street children”. even within the limits of what the household can afford.
nurturing home environment or may be exposed to violence at home. Circumstances sometimes make it difficult for children to attend school – they may live far away from the nearest school. or their parents. A child who is emotionally neglected does not enjoy a caring. but the children are neglected as a result of the situation at home. Being exposed to violence also hurts a child’s normal emotional development. or they may have to help at home because a parent is too sick to look after the family. 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.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. It is often clear that parents do not intentionally neglect their children. Neglect is a difficult form of abuse to recognise. 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. mouth or on the legs Swollen belly Diarrhoea Vomiting Pus in the child’s ears Runny nose Sore. Signs of children in need of care Signs of malnutrition Reddish-looking. irritated-looking eyes Behavioural signs: Withdrawal Sadness Crying Increased anxiety Aggressive or delinquent behaviour 134 .
hitting. even if the person who hurt the child tells you.Clinging Trying to please everyone Using abusive language and swear words. Whether the person meant to hurt the child is not important. anus or vagina as well as inserting objects into the child’s mouth. This ranges from small bruises to broken bones or even death. indecent exposure (another person revealing his or her sexual body parts to a child). burning. but also anywhere on the body) 135 . throwing.” 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. beating. biting. choking or stabbing. anus or vagina). Such injuries are considered abuse. 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. shaking. What physical signs may idicate sexual abuse? Bruises (especially in the genital areas and on the thighs.“I didn’t mean to hurt him (or her). penetration (inserting the penis into the child’s mouth. vocabulary that is not appropriate for the child’s age What is physical abuse? Physical abuse is when the child’s body is hurt.
is abusive. some of them become promiscuous (have sexual intercourse with many people) because they believe that their bodies are for others to use. If a child is criticised all the time.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. food or clothing. or the child’s sense of selfworth (the child’s feeling that he or she is a valuable person who deserves to be loved and to be happy). or refuses to support or guide the child. These rewards may include money. 136 . As abused children move towards young adulthood. What is emotional abuse? Emotional abuse covers many different behaviours. usually with other children (usually with younger children) A sudden increase in gifts or money Absenteeism from school Decreased school performance Secretive behaviour Sexually abused children may act or speak in a way that shows that they have sexual knowledge that is unusual for children of their age. repeatedly threatened or pushed away. needing to wash him or herself over and over Attention-seeking behaviour Frequent drawing or acting-out of sexual scenes Playing sexual games (fondling). but we can say that any repeated behaviour that harms a child’s emotional development. If a “caregiver” always refuses to be loving and affectionate. Abused children learn that sexual behaviour is a good way to get attention and rewards. 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.
Remember that children often know the people that abuse them. If a child refuses to stay alone with a certain person. Children have the right to be valued and supported. like a teacher or a priest. 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.you could say that the child is emotionally abused. Children are safest from abuse and neglect if they are raised in environments that value and support children. do not force him or her to do so. They are vulnerable to adults who promise to help them but who request sexual acts in exchange for the help. After being abused. Children who are orphaned often lack the means to support themselves and their families. Children are at higher risk of abuse and neglect if their caregivers: abuse alcohol or drugs are isolated from their families or communities find it difficult to control their anger or their stress don’t seem to take any interest in caring for their children seem to have serious financial or personal problems. 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. Children affected by HIV and AIDS are even more vulnerable. It is critically important that child abuse cases are reported. 137 . Being a victim of child abuse has severe long-term consequences and can still have an impact on the person as an adult. Such people are commonly known as “sugar daddies”. What can we do to prevent abuse? Make sure that each child has his or her own place to sleep. Child abuse is a very serious offence and perpetrators need to be reported and dealt with appropriately.
the listener. Good secrets are OK to keep. a child needs to understand the difference between a present given to him or her because they are loved and a present that is given in exchange for something that the child must do in return. The issue of “sugar daddies”must be discussed with children.“I am listening to you. listen to what the child has to say and treat the information seriously. Gifts and support may be very tempting for a child. Get to know your child’s friends and your child’s teachers. Teach your child about feelings: which feelings are OK and which feelings are not OK. It is an important time for children to learn to be confident and assertive. In the same way. Childhood is a very important learning time for children. Ask the child what he or she did at school and after school. Talking to children about abuse In this chapter we have looked at very basic definitions of child abuse and neglect. Can we talk about it in half an hour (choose a time that suits you both). not help him or her. We should talk about this. Bear in mind that the child will only reveal as much information as she or he feels that you. Try to avoid making judgmental comments or 138 . One of these rights is the right to feel safe. Bad secrets need to be told to someone who can help. Talk about safe places where children can find help and support from people who will not hurt them. they don’t have rights. 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. Most children are very trusting. Take time to listen. If a child tells you that he or she has been abused. Helping children to live through such difficult experiences and encouraging their resilience often demands more than ordinary caregivers are able to offer. Sometimes children think that because they are “just”children. If you are busy doing something that cannot wait. say to the child. Show an interest in what your child is doing. but you need to talk about the emotional and physical consequences for the child and the reason why men like these offer their help. Another is the right to say “No!”when someone touches him or her in a way that makes the child feel uncomfortable. Talk with your child about things that happen in his or her life. are comfortable with. Children must be made to understand that men like this want to harm the child.Make time for your child. Children need to understand that rights are things that they are allowed to do and no one may stop them from doing them. Teach your child that his or her body belongs to him or her alone. It is important for children to learn the difference between good secrets and bad secrets.
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. but you may notice that their behaviour or reactions change (as discussed earlier). Although the child understands that the perpetrator did something terrible. Accepting that a child has been abused is not always easy for the person that the child talks to. pay close attention. what that person did was wrong. It is important for the child to understand that although the person may be likeable. Once again. The perpetrator thus tries to transfer the responsibility for the abuse on to the child. but there is a risk and you need to investigate it carefully. you need to say that it is the fault of the perpetrator and that the child has no reason to feel guilty or ashamed. Recognising these signs doesn’t necessarily mean that the child has been abused. Abuse is always the fault of the perpetrator. Important points to remember The child may not want to talk about the abuse. dirty and guilty to talk about it. Tell the child that you don’t blame him or her. It may be that you know the person who is abusing the child. They may not know how to describe body parts and bodily fluids and they may use images or pet names to describe 139 . he or she still likes the person and does not want to lose him or her. It may become necessary to discuss this with the child. It is important for the child to feel accepted and respected in whatever he or she tells you. This makes it difficult for you to know what to do. If you notice such changes. This is quite normal and may be for different reasons: The perpetrator (the abuser) may have threatened the child. The child may want to protect the perpetrator – this often happens when the child has been abused by a family member. 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.strongly emotional remarks even though you may find it difficult. Very often children do not have the vocabulary to describe what happened to them. What to do when you suspect child abuse It is very seldom that children tell someone whom they trust that they have been abused. 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 is best to find specialist help for the child. saying that something terrible will happen if the child talks 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.
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. This greatly increases the chances of the child being infected by HIV. This sort of situation needs you as the caregiver to be very sensitive when talking to the child. Many children like this are weighed down by the responsibility of looking after brothers and sisters. The social worker will provide ongoing support throughout the investigation and the trial proceedings. Sometimes it helps if you ask the child to draw a picture of what happened. We need to listen very carefully and to find out precisely what the child is referring to. What should you do if a child has been raped? Take the following steps immediately: Contact the police. Child abuse and HIV/AIDS As if abuse wasn’t hard enough to deal with. (PEP is an anti-retroviral medicine. Trained police. It is important to act quickly. don’t allow the child to wash. Some countries have women or child protection units. but go to the police immediately. Being able to earn money to look after their brothers and sisters may give them a feeling of control and achievement. If a child is HIV negative. 140 . the AIDS pandemic adds to the dangers of child abuse and neglect. Find out whether a social worker will be available. Sometimes children like this don’t understand why their mother or father has died. If the rape has just taken place. 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. A social worker will follow up the case and arrange for the child to be taken for a medical examination. hospitals or support groups can provide more information about this.them.) This medicine helps to stop the HIV from entering blood cells if it is taken correctly. preferably someone who has been trained to deal with rape. The child may be able to think of no other way to earn money. Don’t try to take matters into your own hands.
just like other human beings: their rights are not an option or a favour. it becomes the same as law in that country. those governments must make sure that the rights mentioned in the convention are upheld in their countries. This makes children more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. community leaders and teachers to know about children’s rights. caregivers. It describes a new vision of children who now have legally binding rights. Because it was so broadly based. One hundred and ninety-one governments have signed the treaty. educators. The convention defines children as people under the age of 18. it reflects the main legal systems of the world.) Constitution which defines children’s rights in that country. Once a government agrees to support a convention by signing it. lawyers. This is often referred to as a “Bill of Rights”for children. Background to international children’s rights In 1989. the United Nations (UN) drew up a treaty called the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In other words. health specialists. human rights advocates. 141 .8 Children have rights. Each country has its own laws and (in many cases. The only African member of the UN which did not sign the treaty was Somalia as it had no recognised government. and provide guidance on how it can be used in conjunction with the laws of individual countries by local community leaders. The document was drawn up over a 10-year period and was negotiated by governments. social workers. Thus it is very important for children. educators and volunteers to advocate accordingly for the rights of children in their own areas. non-governmental organisations. In this chapter we will discuss this Convention. Most countries in Africa are also signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. child development experts and religious leaders from all over the world. It also recognises the importance of tradition and cultural values for the protection and harmonious development of the child. but they are often not aware of their rights. It says that children are neither the property of their parents nor are they helpless objects of charity. They have rights.
social and political rights of children. the grown-ups.” A plan of action was adopted. protecting against abuse. Types of children’s rights The rights can be grouped into four categories: Survival rights which include adequate living standards and essential health care.”) Protection rights which safeguard children against harm and address the needs of children in especially difficult circumstances – for example those children who are abused. neglected or exploited – as well as children with special needs. 142 .“A World Fit for Children”.“One in three of you has suffered from malnutrition before you turned five years old. There are four priorities for children in the coming decade: promoting healthy lives. (“A child’s life must not only be saved. at which the nations of the world committed themselves to a series of goals to improve the situation of children and young people. Almost one in five of you is not attending school … We. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said much work had been accomplished but much still remained to do. such as the right of children to be heard on matters affecting their own lives. Unfortunately. Participation rights which relate to self-determination. all the time. Have these rights been upheld? In 2002 the UN held a special international conference on children. and the right to play an active role in society.What it does is provide the framework for the protection and promotion of basic human right for all children. economic. The rights focus on the child’s rights to live. It covers the civil. play and cultural activities. providing quality education. it must be worth living. Among its pledges were to protect children and their families from “the devastating impact”of HIV/AIDS. combating HIV/AIDS. must reverse this list of failures. the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Children. grow and enjoy good mental and physical health. he said. adults had failed children deplorably. children without families and children with disabilities. Developmental rights which include the rights to education. Opening the General Assembly. exploitation and violence. One in four of you has not been immunised against any disease.
adoption. There must be enough staff and suitable staff. These cases must be investigated. 143 .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. cultural and linguistic background.Your country should have ways of identifying and reporting children who have been maltreated. They need to be protected from mental or physical violence. injury or abuse (including sexual abuse). Each of us has the duty to act when we suspect that a child may be in need of care or protection. When decisions are made about the child’s future. These views should be listened to. suitable institutions or kafalah of Islamic law. temporarily or permanently. Children have a right to enjoy their own culture. with due weight being given in accordance with the age and maturity of the child. religious. It also means that children have to be given the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting him or her. Those involved must assure the child. followed up and taken to court where appropriate. These children should be entitled to special State protection and assistance. Protect and report children in need. Children with one or more parent with HIV/AIDS face having to live without their natural parents. particularly in the areas of safety and health. It is not unlikely that children affected by HIV/AIDS may have other bodies make decisions about their lives. maltreatment or exploitation. whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions. Care for children without parents. Even if children are in the care of an adult. Listen to children. It also means that institutions. who is capable of forming his or her own views. This could be in the form of foster families. the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration. The convention states: “In all actions concerning children. that he or she has the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting him or her. neglect. services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children have to conform with certain standards. courts of law. they are bound to uphold the principles of the treaty. thought should be given to placing the child in the same ethnic. administrative authorities or legislative bodies. they still need to be protected. Even if they don’t. to practise their own religion and use their own language. What are some of the principles which must be upheld? Put children first.” This is of particular importance in the case of children who have suffered the loss of one or more parents. Supervision has to be competent.
Besides finding out about legislation. such as in Namibia. When children are affected by the trauma of having ill and dying parents. the National Programme of Action is designed to achieve co-ordination of governmental and non-governmental plans in favour of children. No child shall be economically exploited. Ethiopia. schools and community groups to create grass-roots support for children’s rights. Children’s rights may be enshrined in the constitution. Often children with sick parents or who are orphaned find themselves trying to earn a living. leisure and play. Promoting the Convention on the Rights of the Child and making its provisions widely known are essential steps to realising children’s rights. Mozambique has an Agenda for Action. you can look at the Unicef (United Nations Children’s Fund) website http://www. 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. interferes with their education or harms them in any way. the convention states that primary education should be compulsory and free to all. The stigma of HIV/AIDS means children with infected parents or who are infected themselves are frequently subject to discriminatory treatment. a review of the Child Care Act in South Africa or the passage of the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act of 1998 in Tanzania. Madagascar has established the Independent Commission on Human Rights and South Africa has established the Child Rights Committee. No child should be discriminated against. What you can do People who know their rights are better able to claim them.org/crc.unicef. a statutory body of the South African Human Rights Commission. Rwanda has created the National Assembly for Child Rights. They have a right to protection from any work which is hazardous. identifying goals to be achieved for children’s rights. spiritually or socially. The State is obliged to take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of drop-out rates. mentally. Children have a right to rest. you can boost awareness in your community. working with churches. sometimes schooling can suffer.Right to education. South Africa and in the draft constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It could be separate legislation such as the ratification in Mozambique of the landmine-ban convention. Even if children can no longer afford school. 144 . whether physically. Or it could be plans of action. If you have a computer. Uganda has developed subnational plans to guide actions at municipal level to improve the situation of children. Find out what legislation exists in your country. In South Africa. or if they have HIV/AIDS themselves.
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