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Building Resilience in Children Affected by HIV/AIDS
Sr Silke-Andrea Mallmann CPS
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Catholic AIDS Action, Namibia
Maskew Miller Longman Forest Drive, Pinelands, Cape Town Associated companies, branches and representatives throughout Africa and the world. © Maskew Miller Longman and Catholic Aids Action, Namibia All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. First edition by Catholic Aids Action Namibia Second edition by Longman Namibia 2003 ISBN 99916 1 274 2 Materials developed by Sr Silke-Andrea Mallmann Edited by Michelle Saffer Cover design and artwork by Karlie Hadingham Typesetting by DTP Impressions Reproduction by Printed by For further information contact: Maskew Miller Longman PO Box 396 Cape Town 8000 SOUTH AFRICA Phone: +27-21-531-7750 Fax: +27-21-532-2302 email: email@example.com Catholic AIDS Action PO Box 11525 Windhoek NAMIBIA Phone: +264-61-27-6350 FaxL +264-61-27-6364 email:firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.caa.org.na
4. 3.Contents Preface A note from the author Acknowledgements 1. . Resilience in Orphans and Vulnerable Children What makes children vulnerable? How does a child become resilient? What do children need to cope with adversity? External resources fostering resilience Inner resources fostering resilience How to develop resilience in children The importance of the family The importance of school Experiential learning The benefits of experiential learning Children affected by HIV/AIDS The sickness of a parent Caring for a sick parent The economic impact of a sick parent The stigma of HIV/AIDS Dealing with the death of a parent Preparation for the death of a parent Being infected themselves Dealing with HIV and school Telling others about an HIV/AIDS status Losing a parent Different aspects of mourning Factors that affect the mourning process The death of the parent The relationship with the deceased parent The availability of a surviving parent or caregiver The structure of the extended family Rituals surrounding the parent’s death Support from the community Peers and friends The age and developmental stage of the child Preparing children for the death of a parent Normal versus severe reactions What are severe reactions? vii viii ix 1 2 3 3 3 4 5 6 6 7 8 9 9 10 11 11 12 14 15 15 15 17 18 18 18 18 19 19 20 20 21 21 39 39 40 2.
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.
. 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.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. Games Games that foster trust Games for group cohesiveness and social skills Games fostering self-esteem. 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.
8. Children’s rights Background to international children’s rights Types of children’s rights Have these rights been upheld? Obligations of 191 countries What you can do 141 141 142 142 143 144 145 147 Glossary Bibliography .
lost hope. and their losses. physical abuse. Attend a training course offered by Catholic AIDS Action or another organisation which supports the contents of this book. and a lost future that affects their entire community. And effort. our future? According to the best data we have. we have all been moved by news reports of children suffering from severe neglect. And knowledge. They belong to all of us. in 2001 Namibia. who will be our continent’s leaders. And they are our collective responsibility.Preface Who can say that he or she hasn’t ever seen children begging along our city streets. And as a nation. heading towards a life of dislocation and crime? Surely. that number is expected to triple. their personal losses result in lost opportunity. Caring for our continent’s orphans and vulnerable children takes time. The plight of these children will be the single largest impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on this nation. Too often. Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Child Welfare Republic of Namibia vii . Secondly. The plight is similar in other African countries. There is nothing that any of them did to justify their sorrow. and recommends it to our fellow Ministries and to all people of goodwill everywhere. 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. our conscience. and ultimately. That is what this manual is about. their hardship. Thus. Above all. And yet. the entire country. and the publication of this revised edition in partnership with Maskew Miller Longman. 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. this manual is meant to be applied within our own families and in our communities. May God bless you in your work of caring for others. Within a generation. had over 82 000 orphans. 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. Study it. Refer back to it as often as you can. we suffer with them. Read it. One thing we know for sure: Orphans and vulnerable children don’t deserve their fate. for example. most of them suffer a lot. or rape. (Ms) Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah Minister.
A note from the author Dear parents. It is neither a recipe for success nor a book of rules. caregivers and teachers to understand children who are nursing a diseased parent or who have lost a parent. Instead. caregivers and teachers. Silke-Andrea Mallmann CPS Mariannhill. But the children we care for are our future and it is our task to walk beside them into that future. our families. Children need strong advocates to make their voices heard and to fight for their future. We can develop a vision of the possibilities that lie beyond the reality that faces us. theories. our communities and our society often make us feel powerless. 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. We can be committed both to the child and to the rights of that child. but also in understanding and friendship. but we have experienced teachers on our side – the children themselves! Sometimes children know best what they need. we take them into our homes and we share our lives with them. we are faced with an increasing number of children who have already lost or are going to lose their parents. This handbook is aimed at helping parents. their skills. A book cannot answer all our questions. Working with children affected by HIV/AIDS requires courage and creativity. Our compassion can be expressed not only in care. It offers ideas for discussions that can be held on a one-to-one basis in the child’s home or with a group of children in the classroom. we have to work with them. This handbook is aimed at people who live and work with children affected by HIV/AIDS. pay attention to their ideas and learn from their coping strategies. As caregivers. We teach them in our classrooms. 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. Often we feel unsure about how to help them deal with the loss of a parent. We may need enormous reserves of commitment and compassion. we recognise their resources. The impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic challenges us to approach childcare and education differently. June 2002 viii . this handbook consists of a collection of ideas. In order to assist them. tasks and exercises that should help us to understand the behaviour and feelings of children affected by HIV/AIDS. The dimension of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and its consequences for our children. their strengths and their endurance. When we listen to them.
Sport and Culture. We are very grateful to the representatives from these organisations who shared their ideas and support. We offer our sincere thanks to our donors. From the moment she contacted Catholic AIDS Action we knew we were on the right track. the Legal Assistance Centre. Thankfully. While writing this handbook she drew on her experiences working with refugee children and children affected by HIV/AIDS. UNICEF. the Ministry of Health and Social Services. But as demand for this handbook increased and the table of contents grew accordingly. We offer her our deepest thanks and our admiration. The person who must get the lion’s share of the credit for this handbook is Sr Silke Mallmann. we needed additional support. Finally. is intended to supplement and reinforce various training programmes on Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Namibia and other African countries. and the Namibian government for their ongoing work in Namibia with orphans and vulnerable children. Family Health International and CAFO (Church Alliance for Orphans). We believe that God sent Sr Silke to us. the National OVC (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) Steering Committee. Bristol Myers Squibb and the Catholic Medical Mission Board of the United States. FHI/USAID continues to assist us in training community leaders and volunteers in psycho-social support. 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. USAID. Initial support for this publication came from a training grant received from NANTU and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation. in cooperation with Philippi Namibia and Masiye Camps (Regional PsychoSocial Institute) in Bulawayo. Sr Silke is based at St Mary’s Hospital at Mariannhill in South Africa. Philippi Namibia. For that we thank the Secure the Future Foundation. ix . we are deeply indebted to Family Health International. Zimbabwe.Acknowledgements This handbook. as well as in our provision of direct care to orphans and vulnerable children. Expressions of interest from other partners and countries led to the development of this revised edition with Maskew Miller Longman as our publishing partners. the Ford Foundation. NANTU (Namibian National Teachers’ Union). Among the many organisations that were involved and consulted for the development of the original Namibia edition are: Catholic AIDS Action. the Ministry of Basic Education. originally developed in Namibia. the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Child Welfare.
“Caring for ourselves in order to care for others”. suggestions and background material. Petronella CoetzeeMasabane of the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) and I reviewed the manuscript prior to its publication. and Stefan Germain. 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. the rest of us would have given up long ago. Claudia Tjikuua. Francis van Rooi. Sr Dr Raphaela Händler. The games and methods used in this book have partly been taken from already existing games and adapted for this book. Finally. Sports and Culture. based at our national office. We also drew inspiration and support from Kurt Madörin at Terre des Hommes in Tanzania and Liz Towell at SINOSIZO in South Africa.Some other individuals deserve special mention. our guidance counsellors and our inspiration. Caroline Thomas. PhD National Co-ordinator Catholic AIDS Action Windhoek NAMIBIA July 2002 x . Lucy Y Steinitz. Mary Collins and Evy George of the Ministry of Basic Education. Part of the games have been acquired during various workshops and youth camps and part of the material has originally been produced by the Katholischen Jungschar Oesterreich. The picture story exercise on page 60 has been developed by Dr Gisela Perren-Klinger. has been the administrative coordinator for this project. It is to them that this book is dedicated. as did Susanchen Dippenaar. we thank the children and their caregivers: they are our teachers. Karen Landmann gave us the idea for this handbook when she wrote a chapter on children’s issues for one of our publications called. Without her commitment and efficiency. Rose de Buysscher. Sara Bowsky and Paul Pope (from Family Health International/USAID). as well as for the field-based workshops. Marianne Olivier of Philippi Namibia rearranged some of her own training and curriculum-development in order to accommodate us.
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 are not little adults. Children need a lot of security. This then results in both parents getting sick and eventually dying. This caregiver may be someone in the family or a teacher. This means that. how “grown up” the child is. Such indicators differ from one culture or society to another and from one country to another. Many children have known someone in their family or community who has died of AIDS. nurturing environment. whether the child is able to look after himself or herself or whether the child seems to need looking after. They need guidance as they grow and mature emotionally. Children need to know where they belong and they need close adults with whom they can form an attachment. Our ideas of childhood are often based on how old the child is. spiritually. semen or vaginal secretions. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS yet. physically and intellectually.1 There is more than one definition of a child. The caregiver may also be a person in the community who protects them and allows them to develop in a safe. AIDS is a disease caused by a virus called HIV that is spread by the exchange of body fluids like blood. he or she will develop AIDS sooner or later. Children’s needs and interests are different from adults’ needs and interests. 1 . AIDS orphans are often confronted with the disease and death of both parents. unlike orphans who have lost a parent due to an accident or a non-infectious disease like cancer. These adults may be their parents or a close caregiver. More and more children in Africa are becoming orphans because their parents have died of AIDS. love and emotional support. Once a person is infected with HIV.
who have no access to schools or adequate medical care. What makes children vulnerable? There are many things that can make children more vulnerable. they become more vulnerable. as HIV/AIDS affects more and more families. Children living in poverty are vulnerable. droughts or floods. Children who are not involved in taking decisions that affect their own lives are vulnerable. discriminated against or exposed to violence makes children vulnerable. It is clear that orphaned children are highly at risk of exploitation and increasing impoverishment. whereas others are overwhelmed. 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. However. Some children are taken in by their extended families but. Resilient children are generally better able to cope with life’s adversities. domestic violence. If children are not able to grow up in a caring environment. Researchers have defined resilience as the human capacity to face. 2 . Households headed by children have become common in many parts of Africa. children are often found to be either living on their own or looking after younger brothers and sisters and elderly grandparents. Children held in detention are vulnerable. Studies have shown that girls in our society tend to be more vulnerable than boys. Children without a family or a home are vulnerable. are vulnerable. some children seem to cope quite well. Children who are isolated or withdrawn. Children who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS are especially vulnerable. Children lacking education and skills are vulnerable. Being exploited. war. Babies and young children are more vulnerable than older children. Vulnerable children are those children who are easily hurt or harmed. Children whose rights are not upheld are vulnerable. famine. even though children all over the world face illness.It is usually parents. A child’s ability to cope seems to have much to do with resilience. poverty. abused. families and communities that provide for the well-being and development of children.
financial stability.How does a child become resilient? As caregivers to orphans and vulnerable children. manage and give meaning to a traumatic event. You can imagine how feelings of grief. Most children will develop all three capabilities before reaching the age of 15. 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. clothing and medical services. such as dealing with the illness and death of their parents. this is a question that we might ask ourselves. education. shelter. Orphaned children need to have access to external resources to strengthen his or her resilience. and the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS could overwhelm a child. The development of these three capabilities needs to be encouraged. and the capability to give deeper meaning to an adverse event. the death of a parent). loneliness and guilt. But inner resources are just as important to the orphaned child. The development of these capabilities is greatly influenced by the child’s external and inner resources. 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. Inner resources help a child to understand. Inner resources refer to the child’s inner strength and ability to deal with a crisis. 3 . and close links to his or her cultural community. a close relationship with the remaining family members. and being responsible for their own lives and the lives of their brothers and sisters. enough food. External resources fostering resilience External resources that help build resilience include: a close and secure relationship with a caregiver.
A resilient child can usually recall positive relationships. Resilient children draw strength from their inner resources. Resilient children are creative and use their imagination. in the community and have a sense of their own culture. as the child’s needs change. or may identify with a certain cultural. Resilient children understand how they fit into a family. Resilient children are able to understand their own emotions and can express them in words or actions. Some children (particularly older children) will develop some sort of political or cultural ideology. This support may change from time to time. a small group of friends. or irritated). “I am angry (or sad. A sense of belonging Resilient children know where they belong. the school class. Resilient children have a strong spiritual or ideological belief system. moments of kindness. Resilient children are self-confident and also confident of the support of peers and caregivers. whether in the present or in the past. This belief system may include faith in any kind of transcendent being.” A good autobiographical memory The autobiographical memory is the memory in which we save personal memories about our lives and our life histories. A value and belief system Resilient children have a vision of moral order and a sense of justice. as well as personal achievements from the past.Inner resources fostering resilience A wide range of emotions A resilient child is usually comfortable with a wide variety of emotions. This is usually influenced by the child’s upbringing and culture. Resilient children know what is right and what is wrong. a resilient child can say. political or religious leader. For example. As caregivers we can promote the development of inner resources. several Gods or faith in the power of the ancestors. Such children are grounded at home. They sense what is unacceptable behaviour. it may not be provided by the same person over an extended period of time but may change. They are able to use materials in their environment to ensure their 4 . whether one God. the community or the church. innovation and curiosity Resilient children are curious and eager to learn. Interest in others A resilient child feels the need to help others. role models (for example parents and teachers). The child has a feeling for the needs of others and is able to help. Resilient children are able to look for and find emotional support from other people. Creativity.
but resilience has to be developed. nurturing environment in which the child’s needs are met. Resilience prepares children for hardships and suffering that they may face in the future – not only when they are young. cultural rituals. religious rituals and festivals. A resilient child will say. There are various ways in which we can help the children in our care to develop resilience: Provide a safe. Spend time with the children. By showing children how to express feelings and ideas and how to solve problems and conflicts. By answering questions and showing them new and interesting things. we encourage children to discover their own initiative. We all make mistakes.survival. It is important for children to feel secure at home and to feel that they belong at home. Self-confidence Resilient children have a sense of humour and are confident of their own abilities. Resilient children are able to imagine a future and this gives them something to live for and a goal to work towards. and show an interest in them and in what they do. we encourage them to become increasingly responsible for what they do and say. All children are born with the potential to be resilient. Support them as they deal with negative thoughts.” How to develop resilience in children Resilience should be encouraged and developed in all children. feelings and behaviour. “I have!”and “I am. We also help them to understand other people’s feelings and to respect the needs of others. Involve the children in day-to-day activities as well as family rituals. creativity and interests. but also when they are adults. It is important to play with them. Teach the children family routines. Play is very important for children’s development. just like other skills and capacities. Teach the children how to communicate with other people. Allow the children to make mistakes. Encourage them to correct what they did wrong. education and welfare services. 5 . think and feel. listen to them instead of talking about them. This includes access to health care. It helps a child if the caregiver provides clear routines for the day and expects the child to stick to the routine. resourcefulness and identity. “I can!”. We need to promote resilience in the children we care for. We learn by our mistakes! Help children to recognise and understand their mistakes.
writing and arithmetic. Elderly relatives or siblings may raise children. more and more time is spent at school in the company of friends and teachers. rules and norms. Family members can say to each other. They also look at the whole child and focus on cognitive development (that is. Most families are bound together by trust. school is the most important factor in a child’s life. or homes in which there is no parent. this development is threatening. the acquiring of knowledge and skills) while at the same time emphasising the social and emotional development of the child. Families have common roots and ancestors. Trust the children. As a child grows up. Schools do not only teach children about reading. In homes like these there is often not enough emphasis (if any) on the social and emotional development of the child. The importance of school After the family. The family provides the child with a sense of belonging and an identity. 6 . solidarity and support for one another. 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. In this situation. Healthy family relationships are the best environment for a child to develop resilience. It is very important to develop the social and emotional development of students: many children come from single-parent homes. the development of resilience takes place primarily in the classroom and in the community. Families provide the basic framework for a child’s development and have an enormous impact on a child’s resilience. Others see it as a challenge.Acknowledge the children for what they are. Pray with the children. “Do you remember when…?” Families have a similar system of values. For some teachers. not only for what they do. The importance of the family The family is the first environment in which a child experiences love and affection and makes discoveries. Families usually share cultures and religions. They have shared life experiences. Most children make their first social contacts and experience unconditional love in the family.
The teacher’s job may change so that the teacher is encouraging the child’s resilience and not just to pass the exams. a counsellor. 7 . someone who is interested in their lives. They are encouraged to find different ways to solve problems – this teaches initiative and creativity. Student-centred education means that the interests of each child are the main point of focus. Working individually or in small groups. A student-centred approach Experiential learning is based on a student-centred approach. For many children. It looks at the child’s personality as well as the child’s needs and skills. but one who will also make learning fun. They need a teacher who will help them to set realistic goals.Children growing up without parents look for extra things in their teachers. The teacher’s role changes from being simply an instructor to being an instructor. They need a teacher who will help in times of crisis. they set their own learning pace. school is an oasis of normality in a harsh world. a home-care volunteer. Experiential learning combines intellectual learning (thinking skills). Each child explores questions that are relevant and meaningful to him or her. communication and respect for one another. but they also need someone they can trust. an adviser and a first-aid person – all rolled into one. learning as quickly or as slowly as they wish. They need a lot of instruction. Discovering answers for themselves makes the children feel more competent. Experiential learning A teaching method that can be used in the classroom (and elsewhere) to teach resilience is the method of experiential learning. They need a teacher who will help them to develop self-esteem and self-confidence. Other people in the community can also assist with this process. emotional learning (feelings) and social learning (learning about relationships). Children are encouraged to find answers to their own questions and problems. A neighbour. Their discoveries are discussed in groups – this draws group members closer together and promotes trust. a church representative or a member of the extended family may also play a critical role.
as caregivers and teachers. they get to know their strengths and weaknesses. They also discover what interests them. They learn to solve problems independently and they realise that they can solve problems on their own. Resilient children are better equipped to bounce back. Experiential learning is a teaching method that encourages resilience because it teaches the students knowledge and skills at the same time. to gain control and to give meaning to the events that take place in their lives. Being very resilient or having a strong sense of identity does not mean that a child is invulnerable. can support children during these times. but being resilient makes them more able to cope with these events. They have the ability to understand. to adjust to change and then to move on. In the next section we will identify events that are especially stressful to children and discuss how we.The benefits of experiential learning As children discover that they control their own learning process. 8 . Children can still be very vulnerable to stressful events in their lives.
They worry about having the disease and they worry about what will happen to them and to their families. Much of this chapter also applies to children who are faced with other severe or life-threatening illnesses in their immediate families. It is also very worrying for a child if a member of the family is ill or has HIV/AIDS. It makes the child feel overwhelmed and hopeless. It deals with the negative effect that such experiences may have on a child’s development.Children don’t need to be ill or to have HIV/AIDS themselves to be affected by it. The effect of cumulative stressors on an orphan can be devastating if the child can’t access his or her inner resources and doesn’t receive support from the outside. One of the big decisions to be made is whether or not to tell other people that they have HIV/AIDS. the parent may show less interest in the child. children will be faced with problems long before death occurs. People with HIV/AIDS may undergo dramatic mood swings because they are under a lot of pressure. 9 . Problems that seem to pile up one on top of another are known as “cumulative stressors”. The sickness of a parent In a family affected by HIV/AIDS. When a parent realises (or thinks) that he or she has HIV/AIDS. One problem leads to another and this creates an enormous burden that is difficult for a child to understand. This chapter deals with the most common experiences that orphans affected by HIV/AIDS face.
the child will definitely notice that something is different and may react to this with fear and anxiety. most importantly. life changes for a child that lives with his or her parents. older children help to care for their sick parents and to raise their siblings. or at school as teachers. start missing school and eventually drop out of school completely. they worry about going to school and they are afraid of finding their parent dead when they come home. but younger children may be very upset by the changes in routine. With the extra responsibilities. These are very realistic fears and they should be taken seriously. the more aware he or she will be about what lies ahead. Often it is culturally and traditionally more 10 . When a mother or a father gets sick. Older children understand that these changes are because the parent is sick. As caregivers. take care of other children in the family. children have to prepare food. Boys can be caring and responsible caregivers but studies have shown that girls seem to feel more comfortable with this role. Children of all ages may begin to feel neglected and angry. we need to discuss these fears either at home as parents. The normal rhythm and structure of family life changes (even for a little while) because the sick parent can’t do the jobs around the house that he or she normally does. The real pressure begins for a child when he or she realises that the parent is often sick. Children of parents infected with HIV/AIDS have reported that they worry about their sick parents. Caring for a sick parent In many families. Other family members have to help. there is little time left for schoolwork or play. Older children will have to accept more responsibility.Although the child may not know what is wrong with the parent or why the parent seems so moody. no matter what is wrong with them. Children who already understand the relationship between disease and death might start to worry that the parent may die. The older the child is. Most children are unhappy when one of their parents is ill. Often children are afraid that there will be no one to take care of them. nurse the sick parent. Besides taking over household chores like fetching water and herding animals. It is not surprising that children who are preoccupied with such fears can’t concentrate in the classroom. Many children fall behind in their work. This is very demanding. do the washing and. They begin to worry about their own future as well.
Boys sometimes feel ashamed and become confused about their role and gender identity. They were often the last to receive food and/or to have their school fees paid. They weren’t allowed to play with other 11 . They risk being infected themselves because they don’t know what precautions to take when nursing people with HIV/AIDS. 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. Research in Africa by the British organisation Save the Children showed the seriousness of the effects. Many children suffer from malnutrition. In addition to the daily housework. Sometimes the teasing led to physical bullying. The economic impact of a sick parent When parents become too weak to fulfil their daily tasks. nursing a patient also includes getting up during the night. the family’s income may decrease drastically. It is often left to older children to earn money and to provide food. Orphans were discriminated against by members of their extended families after the death of their parents. Poor housing. Many children turn to prostitution to earn money and child labour is not uncommon.acceptable for girls to accept this responsibility. 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. Nursing a bedridden patient is heavy work – even for an adult. Some orphans were isolated from the other family members because it was believed that they were infectious and would transmit HIV/AIDS. Some schools won’t accept children who can’t pay the school fees or buy the right uniforms and books. Losing a job means losing an income as well. It can be exhausting for a child. The stigma of HIV/AIDS Children are severely affected by the stigma of this disease. Many children feel overwhelmed by the huge responsibility. They nurse their parents without having been taught what to do. lack of access to health services and a lack of education are common in families affected by HIV/AIDS. They were expected to work harder than other children in the family. Children are hungry at school and they can’t concentrate properly. poor health. Orphans of school-going age and children with infected parents reported that other children teased them and called them names. This is a crisis – especially in singleincome homes. which affects their own health.
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. and institutions that are willing to stand up to support these children and fight for their rights. They said that it was hard to support their children who were being teased when they were being gossiped about as well. Older children and adolescents said that gossip about people’s HIV/AIDS status by members of the community was common. They hear adults talking about death and see them going to funerals. Children between the ages of five and eight may not be able to distinguish between their fantasy world and the real world. 12 .children. In households with televisions they probably see death daily on television and they also hear about it on the radio. 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. Many children said that they would rather stay at home than go to school. children and adults draw back from their friends and other social contacts. Dealing with the death of a parent Most children see dead birds or dead animals at the side of the road. Some children make up stories about their parents and family. It is a sad fact that people still think of “AIDS orphans”differently from children who have been orphaned because their parents died of other diseases or were killed in car accidents. Some children 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. In order to protect the secret. Forced secrecy can be a great burden on children because they have to control what they say. Older children make up stories about their parents because they feel ashamed and because they don’t want to be different from their friends. Infected parents felt the same way. The children themselves cannot change this. It is quite normal for children to refer to people or animals dying as they play. Children may start living in this fantasy world in order to cope with what is actually happening at home. Some families keep the HIV-status of a family member secret. This will eventually erase the stigma that is attached to HIV/AIDS. religious groups and organisations. Nevertheless. Many adolescents felt hurt by the gossip and felt that their sense of self-worth was affected. How the death of a parent is understood is strongly influenced by the child’s age. level of understanding and his or her view of the parent. They need committed adults. what they do and how they express what they feel.
If children have to be separated for financial or practical reasons. while at the same time wanting to be left alone. older children should be asked which relative they would like to stay with. 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. Ideally. making funeral arrangements and organising transport to bring the corpse home from the hospital. 13 . Because of the social and financial effect of the death of a parent. children sometimes act angrily or aggressively towards the substitute caregiver. We will concentrate on the emotional and psychological impact of death on children and their understanding of death in Chapter 3 of this book. In many cases. it is very important that these reasons be discussed with older children. During these times the child may become clinging and cry. The caregiver may expect the child to be grateful. the grief seems to fade away and may even be forgotten until something triggers the memory of their deceased parent again. A child may be caught between resenting the substitute caregiver while at the same time being dependent on him or her. 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. The children are thus forced to deal with separation from brothers and sisters as well. A child may have phases of severe sadness and depression. After a while. but children grieve differently. Often the family’s last money is used to pay for the costs of the funeral and food for the guests. Adults move through clear stages when dealing with death. Family savings are often divided among family members without taking the needs of the children into consideration. Confused by these conflicting feelings.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. Children don’t grieve constantly: instead their grief is periodic and seems to come and go. Children of an orphaned family are often divided between several family members. the deceased parent dies without a will and without making plans for the children.
It sometimes seems that children feel nothing about the death of their parent. But this preparation is very important. 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. 14 . Without such preparation. This preparation for the death of a parent strengthens the child’s ability to cope. They don’t want to think or talk about their parents and prefer to live in their own fantasy world. It also gives the child and the parent quality time to say all the things that they need to share. Parents who prepare for their own deaths by arranging with relatives to take care of their children. it is almost as if they are numb. Some children try to avoid dealing with the death of their parents. Looking back one day. afraid and sometimes have outbursts of anger. This makes the grieving process more complicated and may cause severe nightmares. but it softens the blow a little. The child may be overwhelmed by the sudden loss and may react with shock and confusion.Preparation for the death of a parent Children who have been prepared for the death of their parent (either by the parent or by other caregivers) generally cope better with the death because they understand what is happening. the death of a parent can be extremely traumatic for a child. They have problems concentrating. Preparing a child for the death of a parent is very painful for everyone concerned. It helps the child and the parent to accept what is going to happen. The death of the parent will still be traumatic. by drawing up a will to provide for their children and by talking to their children about death. go a long way towards helping their children accept their deaths and preparing for the future of their children. aggression or severe depression. It will take longer for the child to understand what has happened. Other children tell of sudden pictures of the deceased parent flashing through their minds. hyperactivity or outbursts of anger. They feel helpless.
They may suffer from the aches and pains of opportunistic infections. (Opportunistic infections are diseases you get when you have HIV. this is a difficult decision to make. Children who are infected with HIV and are suffering from AIDS will start thinking about their own death. the disease or death of a parent and their own infection. 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 . Teaching methods should be adapted to the learner’s needs. they may be teased because they get tired quickly. Telling others about an HIV/AIDS status Many parents and caregivers decide not to reveal the HIV-status of their children. Schools need to provide for their special needs (like medication that needs to be given in class. Even though their friends may not know that they have HIV. Even when they are at school. policies and plans should be drawn up so that infected children can fit in at school. Dealing with HIV and school Infected children may miss a lot of school and will eventually fall behind their classmates. diarrhoea and vomiting. Infected children need special support. longer rest periods and catching up with work that has been missed when they were absent). shingles and herpes infections. It is important for the child to keep up with the rest of the class. They want to prevent their children from being teased or shunned by other children but this also prevents the child from receiving the best possible care and support. They may realise that they are sick more often than other children. for example TB. 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. although many of them will not express it verbally. they will have less strength and energy than their friends and may not always be able to take part in games and activities.Being infected themselves Some children have to deal with another crisis: their own infection with HIV/AIDS. They should not be discriminated against at school and they should go to school for as long as their health and strength permits. In order to assist a child without being overprotective. Either way.) Children infected with HIV as a result of abuse have to cope with the trauma of the abuse. oral and genital thrush. Children who have been infected via mother-to-child transmission (through birth or breastfeeding) often don’t know that they are infected.
a different skin colour or speaks a different language. In order to develop resilience in children. We will study this in Chapter 3. we need to understand how children react in difficult situations. Working against discrimination needs to become part of school activities. 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 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. 16 . It is important for children and adults to learn to respect one another. The HIV/AIDS pandemic challenges children and adults alike to learn respect and tolerance. which does not help children affected by HIV/AIDS either.HIV/AIDS pandemic. to get along with one another and to work as a team. These values have to be taught both at home and at school.
the young child needs a lot of reassurance and patience. that grandmother. 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. coping responses. caregivers and teachers we have to help the child find a response that is best for him or her. At this stage. it is natural for a child to experience feelings of bereavement like sadness. depression or anger. “Grieving”is the word used to describe the thoughts and feelings that we have when someone has died. While some reactions are healthy responses that show that the child is adapting. Please note. Their reactions are all normal reactions. “Mourning”involves accepting the death. In this situation. When a parent dies. others are less appropriate. We know that adults mourn the death of a loved one but some people who work closely with children believe the mourning process is too complicated for a small child to go through in the same way as an older child or an adult.3 It is important to understand how children view death and how the death of a loved one affects a child in order to help children who have been orphaned. the child can think about or imagine the person even though they cannot be seen. 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. the child can recall the image of the deceased person from memory. 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. By this stage. Even a baby will feel the absence of a primary caregiver or the change in faces or routines. however. All are normal. In Chapter 4 we will study how children react to the loss of a parent. As parents. but generally we say that a child can truly mourn the loss of a loved one by the age of three or four. making the death part of our memories and moving on to a new life.
The death of the parent Death always comes as a shock. The child has to find a new place for the deceased person in his or her emotional life and in his or her memory. It may be that the child thinks of his mother or father in a certain place (like heaven). Death due to a terminal illness often allows the parent and the child to spend some quality time together. 1. Unfortunately. The child feels the pain of loss. 18 . Factors that affect the mourning process Various factors influence the child’s mourning process and how the child eventually copes with the death. 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. 2. The child accepts that the person has really died and will never come back. This was discussed in Chapter 2. The child can imagine the parent watching over them. The child needs to be able to adapt to these changes and to adjust to an environment in which the deceased parent is missing. The parent can plan for the child’s future by drawing up a will and arranging a substitute caregiver for the child. An unexpected death is even more shocking and is more difficult for the child to accept. the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS means that a parent’s death due to the disease is often shrouded in secrecy and disapproval. 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 death of a parent causes many changes in the child’s world. 3. The relationship with the deceased parent The mourning process is definitely influenced by the closeness of the relationship between the child and the parent before the parent’s death. This is important because it keeps the connection with the deceased person.Different aspects of mourning There are different aspects of mourning that a child needs to work though. speaking to them and protecting them.
as well as later on. the same history and generally have similar values and beliefs. domestic violence. The help of other family members. The availability of a surviving parent or caregiver It is important for the child to have either a surviving parent or a substitute caregiver who will remain consistent as the child goes through the mourning process. it is easier for the child to find meaning and to regain control. Very often the surviving parent is dealing with his or her own grief. A family divided by conflict or with problems like alcohol dependency. 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. A dysfunctional family structure may thus have a negative effect on the coping process and encourage poorly adapted behaviour. The emotional impact of the death of a grandmother will probably be greater when the grandmother raised the child. teachers and spiritual leaders is very important. 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. severe poverty and an absence of strong values and beliefs can be an additional stressor for the mourning child. They can support both the child and the mourning parent – this reduces the stress for the child. which prevents him or her from providing the support that the children need. Members of a family share the same roots.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). neighbours. If the child is supported by the rhythm of a normal routine. 19 . The structure of the extended family A loving extended family that provides security and care can offer an orphaned child a sense of identity and a sense of belonging. This familiarity provides warmth and protection.
and not to feel excluded from the rest of the family. The family’s religious and traditional belief system provides meaning for the death. This applies to the HIV/AIDS pandemic as well. Even though some children will not understand everything that happens at a funeral (or another ritual). democratic leadership is an ideal environment in which to nurture resilience in children affected by HIV/AIDS. Rituals provide an opportunity to honour and remember the life of the person who has died. Only if there is a strong sense of community will no one point fingers at or isolate people affected by HIV/AIDS. even in a limited way. The mourners understand that they are not alone in their grief. The people who attend the ritual comfort the people who are mourning. communities like these gather their resources and try to support those who are affected or infected by the disease. Taking part in these rituals has a healing and consoling effect on both children and adults. For this reason. Rituals acknowledge that something terrible has happened. Support from the community The importance of community support is easy to overlook. in fact the opposite is true. it is important for children to take part. At the same time. This sense of meaning promotes understanding. that someone has died. Communities play a special role in providing supportive structures like schools. In many societies. 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. home-based care groups and religious groups. Each of these groups provides valuable support. the impact of disasters is shared rather than experienced alone. A community with a strong sense of unity and sound. control and resilience. Instead. health services. Although some adults think that they are protecting children from sadness by excluding them (keeping them away) from funerals and other family rituals.Rituals surrounding the parent’s death Family beliefs and rituals are very important when a person dies. 20 . rituals can include an awareness of a future life – both for the deceased and also for those people who mourn. women’s groups. Communities have their own resources and traditional ways of coping with adversity.
Although infants can’t understand what has happened. Remember that each child will react differently according to his or her personality and access to external support.Peers and friends Peers (children of the same age) and friends provide children with vital support in times of grief and mourning. The mother can understand and anticipate her child’s needs even before the child can speak. They may cry more and be difficult to pacify. gives meaning to death and is able to access inner and external resources while mourning. mother and child have an especially strong bond. how to interact in social relationships and how to express feelings of comfort and discomfort. In addition. 21 . Before deciding how to help a child as he or she mourns. a sense of security. 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. They have no concept of death. Children from birth to two years old Infants and toddlers are very dependent on their mothers and fathers for love and affection. Peers have an intuitive understanding of each other. children up to the age of two cannot understand what has happened. Usually. Toddlers may also seem to forget skills they have learnt and go back to behaving like a younger child. The child’s understanding of death When a parent dies. For this reason they may display changes in sleeping and eating patterns. They understand without having to think. food. Toddlers may show signs of irritability or anger. they miss the parent’s voice and smell and they miss the comfort and security the parent provided. we need to understand how the child understands death at that particular stage of development. They miss the way the parent touched them. protection. It is often easier for children to share their grief with peers than with adults. they still miss the parent. bodily contact. peers often maintain a sense of playfulness and they may help the child temporarily to forget what has happened and help them to rest and relax. This is called “regression”. The developmental stage affects how a child sees death. The child learns to communicate with his or her parents. comfort and identity.
but in the same breath he will say that she might come back. They are learning about objects and people but they still can’t understand concepts like life. • The substitute caregiver should provide lots of bodily contact. they understand that the person is no longer there but they think the person will return. They may cry. cling to other relatives or refuse to be touched at all. • The child’s routine should stay the same. As they are primarily concerned with their own needs the grief response at this developmental stage is usually brief. 22 . The infant or toddler will adapt more quickly when there are no major changes in routine. It is important that this caregiver should stay the same. with his or her brothers and sisters. Children grieve very intensely at this age. Between periods of grieving the child seems to forget about what happened. death or friendship. • The child’s environment should stay the same. Children from two to four years of age Children at this stage of development are mainly concerned with themselves and their own needs. At this age. The child’s understanding of death Children at this stage of development do not understand that death means that someone is dead forever. What can be done to support an infant or toddler after the death of a parent? • The substitute caregiver should be close and consistent. Some children experience death as abandonment – they think that the deceased person didn’t want them any more. A child who develops a close. The infant or toddler preferably should be kept in the same home environment.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. a child may say that his mother has died. affectionate relationship with the substitute caregiver will cope more easily with the changes in his or her life. Ideally the caregiver should be an adult and not an older sibling who still is a child herself. but repeats itself frequently. • The child should not be separated from his or her brothers and sisters. throw tantrums.
Listen to what the child says and try to understand what the child is feeling. Signs of distress and regression are common. • The substitute caregiver should spend time with the child. • When talking to the child. • The child should not be separated from his or her brothers and sisters. Seeing surviving adults sad and crying may be confusing and upsetting for children of this age because they don’t understand what is happening. • The substitute caregiver should provide lots of affection and bodily contact. Look at pictures of the deceased parent together. Some children may start wetting their beds. • The child’s routine should stay the same. Ideally the child should stay with his brothers and sisters and other close family members. either refusing to go to sleep or waking in the night and being unable to go back to sleep. • Encourage the child to play with other children and to explore his or her own world. 23 . Some children display sleeping disorders.Children in this age group are more aware of changes in the way they are cared for. Eating habits may change. The consistency of daily routine and a familiar environment give the child a feeling of structure and security. • Pray with the child. 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. Repeat things and answer questions. showing an interest in the child. a consistent substitute caregiver is very important. Use the same words each time you explain. If the child is separated from the remaining family members. • Share positive memories and stories about the deceased with the child. 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. playing with the child and having fun together. • The child’s environment should stay the same. They sense that their safety and security are threatened and they are frightened by the absence of the parent. he or she is very likely to see this as abandonment. The child needs to be talked to in language that he or she can understand. people should use honest language that the child can understand. How you can help the child Once again.
like fairies. sorrow and concern for others. A child develops a strong sense of right and wrong during this phase of development. Children this age know whether they are girls or boys. Being able to speak means that they can talk about their thoughts and feelings. The resulting changes in family relationships may bewilder a pre-school child. Children believe that they have control over what happens in their lives and it helps them to cope with new fears and worries. The child’s emotional range now includes feelings of guilt. showing anger towards the dead person as well as towards the surviving adults. God is very real to children during this phase of development. Children become very creative and explorative at this age. The fantasy world and the real world are sometimes blurred around the edges and a little confused. They see that family members also have different jobs to do. The child develops a conscience and the concepts of morals and values become more sophisticated. Children love being told stories at this age. and they understand about belonging to a family and having friends. fear and guilt). They gain a sense of autonomy. ghosts or Father Christmas. Some children may start to think that they can do magic things or change things that happen in “real” life. with support. children are able to work through their grief. They play games with other children and experience conflict with siblings and friends. punishment. With the help of adults. children learn how to pray. shame. Their imaginations develop and they believe in things that older children and adults know are not real. They start to see a difference between the things that girls do and the things that boys do. The child’s understanding of death The concept that death is for ever is still difficult for children during this developmental phase. However. Some children react aggressively. This is sometimes called the phase of magical thinking. They develop a feeling for who they are (they know their own name. surname and where they live).Children from four to seven years old During this phase children start to explore the world outside their immediate environment. They develop a peer group. An orphaned child longs for the parent. 24 . 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. Adults have a very influential role in children’s spiritual development because depending on how God is described to a child by the caregiver. They love rhymes and songs. shows signs of sadness and grief and may cling to substitute caregivers.
children with a spiritual and cultural belief system are more resilient. It is important to reassure the child that the substitute caregiver won’t die. Children at this age are looking for the “how”and the “why”.”Or. the child starts to understand abstract concepts like moving from one form of existence to another (“becoming an angel”. Death should be openly discussed and not described with words like. That’s when she died.“ This is complicated by the belief that if they are “good”enough. These may be difficult questions for the surviving parent (or the caregiver). ancestors or reincarnation according to the family’s culture and religion. “Mommy has gone to sleep”will cause the child to expect Mommy to wake up again. She told me to stop fighting with my sister. for example) helps the child to understand what has happened. They may also show great interest in the process of dying. 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. Understanding what has happened increases the child’s ability to cope. Before explaining to a child where the parent has gone. children may ask the same questions many times. but I carried on. Children are also interested in what will happen to the parent after he or she has been buried.In order to come to terms with the concept of death. then perhaps the deceased parent will return. They will want to know how and why a person died. It is crucially important for the caregiver to explain why the parent died in a way that the child can understand. But remember that the child is in a developmental phase during which the imagination is very vivid and reality and fantasy overlap. For adults. “she’s resting”or “we’ve lost Mommy”because at this stage of development the child will take you literally. Allowing children to take part in religious and traditional rituals after death (like attending the funeral. It is not unusual to hear. it is important for the adult to be sure of what he or she himself believes. “your mommy has gone to sleep”. As explained in Chapter 1. Spiritual. It is the caregiver’s task to explain concepts of heaven. “It’s my fault. religious and cultural beliefs are critically important for the well-being of the child. Saying. The child needs to understand that it was not his or 25 . each time anxiety or fear is triggered. The repetitive questioning about the parent’s death may be because the child is afraid that the substitute caregiver may die too. but it is important to answer them as honestly as possible. they may think that their parent fell sick and died because of something that they themselves did. It is up to the caregiver to strengthen the child’s belief system. This will be the cause of some concern. During this phase.You may need to reassure the child over and over again. Because they can’t think logically yet. I was cross with her and I hoped she would die. these fears seem irrational. “going to be with Jesus”). They find it easier to give a deeper meaning to the loss. “It’s my fault my mother died.
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. This is often caused by a sense of abandonment and the (realistic) fear that there is no one to look after him or her. “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. Sometimes children giggle. This helps children to maintain their sense of identity and their sense of belonging. Provide the child with lots of physical affection. This may take a long time to understand because it is not easy for the child to grasp the concept of death and disease. How you can help the child In addition to providing a daily routine. 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.her actions that made the parent die. 26 . Help the child to have positive memories of the deceased parent. Some children may refuse to go outside or use a toilet in the dark. and to have some of the belongings of the deceased parent to keep. start wetting the bed at night or having nightmares and sleeping problems. Children in this age group feel very vulnerable and helpless. joke and show off after the loss of a parent. to see pictures of the deceased parent. But such understanding and meaning are critical for the coping and grieving process. This can be very upsetting for the surviving family members who will then scold or punish the children. This is very frightening. At this developmental stage it becomes very important for the child to understand what has happened. The child may still show signs of regression. The more the child is able to understand and the more the child can maintain “contact”with the deceased parent. 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. They may refuse to sleep alone in a bed or insist that the lights are kept on during the night. the better the child will be able to cope. Children generally like to hear stories about the deceased parent. • Offer comfort and encouragement. Talking about the parent who died helps to keep the child’s memory alive. 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.
• Explain religious rituals (like the funeral) to the child and encourage the child to take part. Where this includes attending a playgroup or pre-primary school. If you are a member of the family. A teacher who is supportive. showing an interest in the child. Teachers are very important to children during this phase of their lives. • As the caregiver. Try to keep the child’s environment the same or similar. Use the same words each time you explain. visit the grave and have moments of remembrance. Explain to the child how disease can affect our bodies. • Pray with the child. Children start attending school during this phase and they are eager to learn. Explain how people feel when they are sick. • Talk to the child. • If possible. the child should not be separated from his or her brothers and sisters. tell the child stories about things that the deceased parent did when he or she was the child’s own age. but children who do not manage the new challenges of school start to feel disappointed and inferior. this should continue. They need a lot of acknowledgement. Use honest language that the child can understand. Learning new skills boosts their self-esteem. The teacher is the one to guide the child through the learning process. The teacher may spend more time with a child each day than the parent. you should spend time with the child. Listen to what the child says and try to understand what the child is feeling. encouraging 27 . Encourage the child to play with other children and to explore his or her environment. Look at pictures of the deceased parent together. • Share positive memories and stories about the deceased with the child. 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. Children start to think logically. Don’t avoid talking about disease and death. constructive criticism and praise from their parents and teachers. playing with the child and having fun together.• The caregiver should maintain the child’s normal routine. looking for meaning in the events in their lives but their thought patterns are still very concrete and operational (directed at solving immediate problems).
Some children may nonetheless feel unsure about what behaviour is expected from them. children in this age group are able to understand logical explanations for the death of the parent. 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. helplessness. This makes the child feel vulnerable. Ask whether the child only wants to help or whether there is another reason for working so hard. It should be understood that both responses are attempts by the child to come to terms with what has happened. Typical grief will include sadness. Some children may copy adults’ behaviour. depression. The child’s understanding of death At this stage of development. trust the teacher and feel able to confide in the teacher when a problem arises. Children in this age group have more specific questions about death and require more detailed information than younger children. Some children may still feel responsible for the parent’s death. The child may see an alternative role model in the teacher. Although friends may change more often than in later stages of development. Sadness and a sense of powerlessness seem to be the strongest feelings. But unlike younger children. anger. They may talk to the deceased parent or claim to have had mysterious encounters with the parent. It is important that the child does not burden 28 . Children are now able to understand the physical separation from the parent who has died. believing that their bad behaviour or unkind thoughts caused the death or disease. even though they can relate to their own grief and to the grief of other family members. it will be necessary to discuss the behaviour with the child. deep emotional pain and longing for their parent. School is also where the child learns to socialise with a wider social circle. If it seems that this behaviour is becoming compulsive.and who responds to the natural curiosity of the child will be able to build a good relationship with the child. The child now has the ability to mourn and to recognise mourning in other people. Some children may submerge themselves in household activities or in looking after their siblings in order to compensate for guilty feelings. the child may either try to suppress all feelings or may go to the opposite extreme and have outbursts of anger or sadness. They may develop a fantasy relationship with the deceased parent in an attempt to keep him/her alive. In response to this sense of vulnerability and helplessness. The child will see that even adults are distressed by death and the child has a basic understanding that death is beyond our control. friendships and group activities are important opportunities for children to learn how to deal with conflict and to contribute as team members.
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. This causes some children to become increasingly concerned about their own health and well-being. Children also want to know where the deceased parent has gone. 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. Some children fear that another close relative or caregiver (or even they themselves) may die too. The child might re-enact scenes of death and dying during play.himself or herself with feelings of guilt and self-blame. become hyperactive and attentionseeking or withdraw completely. If the pains don’t subside after a few weeks. The sadness alone may be overwhelming. They keep the connection with the parent by dreaming about him or her. draw pictures of the deceased parent. 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. They are also anxious about how other people may react when they hear that their parent has died. 29 . Sometimes children will start to behave like the deceased parent. it is advisable that the child be reassessed by a medical professional and perhaps referred for professional psychological treatment. They need to find ways to relate to the parent after the parent has died. They will worry what will happen to them if they should die. Children worry about how the parent’s death will affect their own lives. 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. by keeping an object that belonged to the parent or by speaking to the parent. even non life-threatening diseases like flu and the common cold may frighten the child. This interest is confused and has a strong element of fear. Since the child has learned that death can be caused by disease. How you can help the child Schoolteachers may notice a change in the child after the death of a parent. The child must be made to understand that disease and death are not in any way related to the child’s behaviour. All physical ailments should ideally be medically investigated. This is because children need to fit the deceased parent into a mental and emotional world. 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.
Try not to exclude children from rituals. It is good to have a supportive adult with the child during the ritual. • Make sure that the child goes to school. 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. writing or even drawing pictures) and to answer questions that the child does not dare to ask at home. Teach the child basic life skills.School provides an important daily routine and structure in the child’s life. Providing clear and honest answers helps the child to gain understanding and control. The responses of the teacher and the school are critical to the child’s well-being. Performing a ritual gives those who mourn a chance to remember the person who has died and to honour him or her. at least over parts of his or her life. • Provide the child with lots of affection. Acknowledge the child’s abilities and skills – boost his or her self-esteem and selfconfidence. in this case that someone has died. Rituals acknowledge that something terrible has happened. If the child is unprepared and does not understand what is happening. 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. 30 . like a choir or a sports team). Rituals are healing and consoling for children and adults. some rituals may be as upsetting as the death itself. Offer comfort and encouragement. This is crucially important. At a time when there is a crisis at home. the child needs the stability of a secure place in the peer group. Taking part in religious (or traditional) rituals also encourages the grieving and healing process. It gives the mourners a sense of comfort and support as they see that they are not alone in their grief. This structure helps the child to regain control. but they also reinforce that there is a future for the person who has died and for those who mourn. The child knows what is expected at school and this provides security. Excluding the child from the ritual means that you deny the child an opportunity to begin the long walk to hope and healing. What can be done to support a child aged seven to nine after the death of a parent? • Explain religious rituals (like the funeral) to the child and encourage the child to take part. Rituals emphasise moving towards the future and so they are crucial in promoting resilience and coping. giving support and explanations when needed. The teacher needs to help the child to express his or her feelings (through talking. increasing the child’s fear and confusion. • Encourage the child to be part of a group (for example at religious institutions or community level. but do prepare the child for what he or she is going to see.
• The substitute caregiver should spend time with the child. Don’t avoid talking about disease and death. showing an interest in the child. 31 . Abstract concepts like heaven are clear. Encourage the child to play with other children. 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. Listen to the child’s replies. Explain to the child how disease can affect our bodies. If you are a member of the family. • Death and disease are subjects that should be discussed at school. • Talk to the child. • Pray with the child and teach the child how to pray. Talk honestly about how people feel when they die – be honest and use language that the child can understand. Children could make a “memory corner” in the classroom. playing with the child and having fun together. Explain how people feel when they are sick. the child should not be separated from his or her brothers and sisters. • If possible. Tell the stories or read the books and then talk about them with the child. • Share happy memories and stories about the deceased parent. It is important that children are helped to regain control over their lives. understanding the finality of death often leaves the child feeling powerless and helpless. Although the child may still occasionally use magical thinking (as explained in the section dealing with children aged four to seven). Use the same words each time. Look at pictures of the parent with the child and visit the grave. the child generally knows the difference between fantasy and reality. However.• Keep the child’s environment the same or similar. 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. Teachers can use the concepts for creative writing. • Try to find stories about death. tell the child stories about things that the deceased parent did when he or she was the child’s own age. 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).
How you can help the child It is very important that children at this developmental phase attend rituals like funerals and prayer services. These thoughts may include happy plans. anger. Offer alternatives. By putting thoughts on paper. anger or regression. As a caregiver (or a teacher) it is important to focus on the reason for any changes in behaviour (like increased sadness. Externalising the anxiety. 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. Others may look for a reason why the parent died. The ritual gives deeper meaning to what has happened and in this way encourages resilience. it is normal for the child to miss the parent for a long time. these children need religious or cultural rituals to help them cope. feeling betrayed by fate. fear of mortality may be a realistic worry. In the same way that a child in the previous developmental stage tries to regain control over his or her life. God or their ancestors. Even when a child has come to terms with the parent’s death.Children in this age group go through a similar mourning process to the mourning process of an adult.You could say for example. rather than on the details of the behaviour. Knowing where the body was buried gives them a sense of control. You will need patience and compassion. but prevent destructive actions. feelings of abandonment. loneliness or helplessness). Such children need meaning to be given to the death of their parent. This may lead to anxiety that shows itself through sleep disturbance. It is not OK for you to break things in the classroom. 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. “It is OK for you to be angry and I understand that. Set rules that allow feelings to surface. From time to time there may be outbreaks of distress. fear. Some children may be able to show these fears by drawing pictures of what scares them most about death and disease. It is important to allow the grief to come and go. This helps the child to gain control. guilt. the child is able to look at them from a distance 32 . It is important that the child be given time to grieve – grieving is a natural process and it should not be rushed or prevented. Some children may. 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. 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. poor school performance and disrupted social relationships. as well as visit the grave after the funeral. but for some children. however. By now the child can understand the concept of time and can think about the future.
If they are on paper. Disease and death are topics that concern most people. they may know of other people who have died. they are definitely not emotionally ready to have sexual relationships. children must understand how it is transmitted. play. Other people argue that this is an invitation to experiment with sexual intercourse. Sexuality is a topic that should be addressed. 33 . Protecting themselves against HIV/AIDS. But they may find it difficult to discuss the topic with the remaining parent or a substitute caregiver. aspects of human rights and human responsibilities. Children of this age are able to understand that HIV/AIDS is transmitted by the exchange of bodily fluids like blood. faeces and genital excretions. 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. Sexuality is more than just a physical act. the child has control and can confront it without being overwhelmed. For this reason. Discussions should include feelings. drawing or writing. Some people believe that distributing condoms amongst nine to 12-year-old children prevents the transmission of HIV/AIDS in teenagers. traditional and personal values. but addressing sexuality in class should not be limited to the biological or physical aspect of sexual intercourse. Talking in class about death. community members and peers are valuable resources for a child during this time. especially through sexual intercourse. Many children in this age group know about condoms because they are constantly exposed to advertisements for condoms. 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. Many children may have lost relatives to HIV/AIDS. Although some children in this age group may be physically able to experiment with sexual intercourse. Children at this developmental stage need to express their feelings – whether in speech. Some children prefer to discuss their feelings with their friends or with an outsider like a teacher or a community volunteer. Sharing thoughts in the classroom situation.– like an observer or a bystander. Sharing thoughts with an outsider. Due to the tremendous spread of the disease. disease and death should be included in the school curriculum and discussed in the group situation in class. feelings related to death and ways to cope with death and loss allows children to share their different experiences and learn from each other. Teachers. Children need to be taught how to care for diseased people without infecting themselves. Although the private conversations between the teacher (or another community member) and child are helpful and important. Those who don’t want to contribute to the discussion will learn by observing and listening. the child can also change things or rub out the parts that are too frightening. but because the fear is now outside the child (on the paper).
• Make sure that the child goes to school. • Spend time with the child.Discussing HIV/AIDS and sexuality in a superficial way (and giving a step-by-step discussion of what it is rather than what the consequences are) may be more comfortable for the teacher. the child should not be separated from his or her brothers and sisters. Teach the child basic life skills. Look at pictures of the deceased parent together. tell the child stories about things that the deceased parent did when he or she was the child’s own age. • If possible. Discuss caring for HIV/AIDS patients. like a choir or a sports team). • Death and disease are subjects that should be discussed at school. but it is woefully inadequate and does not cover the topic in a suitable way. • Offer comfort and encouragement. 34 . Encourage the child to spend time with other children. Encourage the child to be part of a group (for example at religious organisations or community level. Listen to what the child says and try to understand what the child is feeling. • Share positive memories and stories about the deceased with the child. 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. Encourage the child to express his or her feelings and concerns. showing an interest in the child and having fun together. Have moments of remembrance. 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. use honest language that the child can understand. • When talking to the child. Discuss HIV/AIDS transmission and prevention. If you are a member of the family. • The substitute caregiver should be close and consistent. • Hand over small responsibilities and tasks to the child.
They are fully aware of the consequences of death. “It won’t happen to me. extremely angry or totally withdrawn. or sniff glue. talking about death and loss and actively mourning. Still. 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. Disease and death are very threatening to them. 35 .Adolescents: children from 13 to 18 years old The developmental task of an adolescent is to establish a concept of self. They know it is transmitted by unprotected sexual intercourse. adolescents take risks because they seem to be convinced that they can’t be harmed. many adolescents (partly due to peer pressure) engage in very early sexual relationships. Developing an identity involves developing a body image. Adolescents tend to be very egocentric (focused on themselves and their own problems) and they may pity themselves when a parent dies. “It’s the first time. It is common for teenagers to react with denial. They apply the consequences of the parent’s death to their own lives and think.”is the adolescent’s reaction. There are various forms of risk-taking behaviour. Many adolescents tragically believe that it won’t happen to them or that they won’t be infected because. start to smoke. delayed reactions and the suppression of feelings. “I have to leave school “ or.Yet when confronted with vulnerability. A teenager’s struggle from childhood to adulthood can be seen in his or her reaction to death. “I have to be responsible for my siblings”– this may be threatening to them. a gender role and a distinct personality. Adolescents have ambivalent attitudes towards their bodies. others may appear undisturbed. Another form of risk-taking behaviour is demonstrated by the adolescent’s attitude towards HIV/AIDS. To imagine that their own life could also end causes confusion and disbelief and so the thought is quickly rejected. Some adolescents start to experiment with alcohol. In their imaginary cocoon of security. Most adolescents know the facts about HIV/AIDS. Although they are scared that their own bodies may be hurt. what their purpose in life is and where they belong. They are preoccupied with changes in their body and afraid that their bodies may be harmed. deep fears and insecurities are evoked. Their cognitive (intellectual) understanding of death is that of an adult. with drugs. The adolescent’s understanding of death Adolescents recognise death as final and irreversible. pain and death.” The transition from childhood to adulthood. They have to work out who they are. Adolescents are insecure about themselves. Very often they do not protect themselves. But while some adolescents cope on the emotional level by expressing appropriate emotions. adolescents take risks that can be life threatening. They know that it leads to a terminal disease.
Group acceptance is often achieved through group conformity. Not fitting into either group can have a great impact on the adolescent’s sense of self-worth. While much has been done for younger children. They fear discrimination.Given their preoccupation with their bodies. The influence of a peer group. Loneliness. especially when they are heads of households or caregivers. behaving the same way and wearing similar clothes. A peer group is essential for an adolescent. It is important not to differ in any way from the group. Since the peer group provides most of the support during this developmental stage. Loneliness at a time when support is needed weighs heavily on many teenagers. betrayed by relatives (which sometimes includes the deceased parent) and lonely. It is difficult for many teenagers to find a role in their society. Although many teenagers do this with great commitment and compassion. this means that the adolescent is cut off from his or her support group. As adults we sometimes assume that younger children need more support and help 36 . The reality of the HIV/AIDS pandemic is that many adolescents have to become caregivers at home. Because adolescents strive for independence. the adolescent also feels alone. An adolescent wants to belong to a group of peers and their acceptance is important. It makes them vulnerable to abuse. they are not part of the school-going teenage group either because of the burden of responsibility that they bear. the guidance and direction of adults is often rejected. it is not surprising that this struggle often emerges in the form of physical aches and pains. are rapidly becoming an invisible group. For this reason many adolescents feel hopeless and see no opportunities in the future. it takes a lot of their time and isolates them from their peer group. meaning that teenagers who belong to the same group show that they are part of the group by having the same interests. their future hopes and dreams are often shattered. In addition to accepting enormous responsibility. especially girls. Not yet adult men and women. parenting their younger siblings. Because many adolescents have to leave school in order to look after their siblings and to earn a living. Adolescent orphans. Adolescents fear isolation from their peer group. self-confidence and developing identity. 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. adolescents are often left out. How you can help the adolescent It is evident from public statements and publications that adolescents receive less recognition than younger orphans.
It is true that adolescents have more life experience and cognitive (thinking) skills than younger children. The adolescent needs help to see that things will improve in the long run. It is important that there should be other positive role models (like teachers. comments and behaviour of the adolescent. Provide substitute caregivers (for example. Thus. Focusing on the needs of the younger child should not prevent us as caregivers from keeping the adolescent in mind as well. but in most cases (especially in child-headed households) the adolescent orphan is left with lot of responsibility. while at the same time working through a very difficult developmental stage. and to respond by offering emotional understanding and support. Acknowledge that adolescents face a difficult situation. • When trying to assist adolescents. Offer help. We think that adolescent orphans will manage to get along on their own. adolescents need to be told clearly what the acceptable limits of behaviour are. This means that the adolescent orphan has to cope with the loss of a parent. • Adolescents strive for independence. but let the adolescent be involved in decision-making processes. having to leave school affects the adolescent’s self-confidence and his or her orientation towards the future. For example. the situation of the adolescent orphan calls for as much attention as the situation of the younger child. ask them what they think they need in order to cope better. that he or she still has a future. Together. 37 . Often adolescents will refuse to take advice from parents or caregivers but will look for their own role models. What can be done to support an adolescent after the death of a parent? • Ensure that the adolescent continues to attend school. be there as a safety net. community members or community leaders) with whom the adolescent can identify. and that there is still hope.than their older brothers and sisters. Don’t impose what you think they need. your community might have home-based carers) to assist the adolescent with family responsibilities and to free the adolescent to continue studying or training. but at the same time they need support. We need to pay attention to the questions. as well as with the responsibility of providing for a family. At the same time. They also need to understand what is expected from them in terms of responsibilities. this can be very stressful.
• Make sure that the adolescent has time to be with his or her peers. Set a framework in which the adolescent makes decisions. 38 . set clear rules. do not separate siblings. • As a caregiver. be clear about what is expected of the adolescent.• Adolescents have to understand the concepts of “rights” and “responsibilities”. If their behaviour becomes selfdestructive. • If possible. but be clear about the limits. Although an adolescent has more independence and freedom. discuss the consequences of such behaviour. he or she also has more responsibilities. especially when a parent has died and the adolescent has been left in charge of siblings. Encourage the adolescent to be part of a peer group (at religious organisation or community level) like a choir or a sports team. • The transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDS and caring for people with the disease should be discussed in class and in community settings. • When an adolescent engages in risk-taking behaviour.
but not all of the time) until they are well into adulthood. Severe illness and the death of a parent are not normal events in a child’s life. Normal versus severe reactions Many children have lost their parents due to HIV/AIDS. as caregivers we need to identify when normal reactions turn into severe changes in behaviour that need professional attention. who feel helpless and out of control and who can’t give deeper meaning to what is happening. When they receive support from the other parent. They must also believe that they can manage and they must be able to give deeper meaning to the event. Children who experience death may continue to grieve and mourn periodically (that is. grief or anger from a child are normal reactions to an abnormal event. It is the children who can’t understand what is happening. Nevertheless. some of the time. Remember that even though children may show signs of stress and grief. who feel increasingly 39 . helplessness. The events that lead to a child becoming an orphan are very traumatic.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. which is often the case. The situation is even more difficult if more than one parent (or other close relative) dies. Reactions of distress. As caregivers we can help a child deal with these normal reactions and feelings. orphaned children cope even better. 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. the substitute caregiver and the members of the community. 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. they are able to cope as long as they can understand what is happening.
Without help. 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. When it becomes obvious that a child’s reactions are severe. death. This is discussed in more detail in Chapter 7 of this book. 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.overwhelmed and unable to cope as they as they struggle to survive. The child’s behaviour may change and his or her reactions to new situations may be inappropriate (the child’s reaction may seem wrong). If a child lacks resilience. helplessness. As caregivers. instead of slowly fading away. Preventing severe reactions in a child Ask yourself these questions. fear and isolation become stronger. 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. This will be discussed in more detail in Chapter 6. each of us has an important role to play. Reactions that profoundly alter the general behaviour of the child. it is our job to STOP problems from developing and to help the child to cope. What are severe reactions? Very intense reactions. Reactions that last for a long time. the child may require more specialised help than ordinary caregivers and teachers can give. their feelings of depression. their feelings of stress and grief may become more extreme or “severe”. 40 . 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. 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). Being unable to cope with the sickness and death of the parent may lead to severe reactions instead of normal reactions. stigmatisation.
Trust your child. Although it may be very painful. Children often imagine the worst. Plan things for your child and share them with him or her. Offer your child Opportunities to help you. But children watch adults constantly and they notice when something is wrong. you can STOP and: Share your thoughts and ideas with your child and listen to your child’s ideas. children should be told about the likely death of a parent. Draw up a will.You can pray with your child and pray for your child. 41 . Making a memory box is discussed on the next page.The STOP system for parents As a parent. It is easier for a child to adapt to change when the change was expected. Learning the truth causes terrible pain. Choose a substitute caregiver for your child. If children don’t know the truth. they worry. Helping you with small jobs will make your child feel less helpless and enhance the feeling that he or she can cope. Many parents want to give their children something to keep. This is better than the death coming as a complete shock because the child was not prepared for it. 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. They want to protect their children. Talk to each other. thoughts and values. Having items that keep the memory of the deceased parent alive is critical. Many parents are afraid of raising this topic. Prepare your child. Organise arrangements to provide for your child’s financial and emotional stability. Collect some of your special belongings to be given to your child as a token of remembrance after you have died. Teach your child to be independent. Make sure that all your official documents (your ID card. but at the same time it makes the death easier to understand when it happens.
photographs. but it could be updated with precious items as time goes by. recorded tapes with messages. Sealed envelopes. In some families. These letters are also kept in the box. 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. A memory box project would be worthwhile integrating into the normal school curriculum. When parents and children work on memory boxes together. These items may be special messages for each child. a will and the parent’s ID card). They can go back to the box and read a letter over and over again. even if the child is too young to do much more than decorate the box. if you prefer) helps children come to terms with the loss of a loved one. a diary. the children write messages to the sick parent and put them into the box for the parent to read later. They can look at the photographs and think about the message that was left behind. not just children affected by HIV/AIDS. even if no one in the family is sick. 42 . letters or a special passage from a spiritual text. the memory box becomes a precious tool for communication. Knowing about the family history helps a child to identify with his or her roots. Helping to put the memory box together strengthens a child’s resilience. Creating a memory box can be an important step for the adult on the way to accepting his or her death. A memory box (or a memory book. Important documents or tokens of sentimental value could be kept in it. Making a memory box is a wonderful idea for all parents and children. Creating a memory box is an ideal opportunity to prepare children for the death of a parent. It shows the children that their parent loved them very much and cared enough to leave something precious and valuable for the child. are kept unopened until after the death. which contain letters to be read after the parent’s death. it creates opportunities to express feelings and to talk about death and dying in a caring environment. The box can be just a shoe box or a cereal box – what is important is what goes inside it. In this way. 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. important documents that the children will need (like birth certificates.
Security and Solidarity (mutual understanding). Structure (a normal day-to-day routine). or what may be appropriate to your beliefs). Children who see their parent praying will start to pray. Prayer time is quality time. both for the diseased parent as well as for the child. 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. A feeling of safety and security comes 43 . We can tell God in prayer about what happened during the day. Being able to talk about their feelings makes it easier to come to terms with them.Pray with your child and pray for your child You may want to pray with your child. 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. He is always there and He will always take care of us. Teach your child about the divine being (God or Allah. 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. God always listens. Children who have faith. Teach your child that God is a loving God. We can tell God about things that worry us. Tell your child that we can ask for anything in a prayer. The structure and rhythm of normal day-today life gives a child security. Faith in a transcendent being is not difficult for most children until they become adolescents. Prayer cannot be taught in one lesson Children learn how to pray like they learn how to walk. Older children may blame God for the death of a parent. but faith will make them feel less helpless. have hope. you can apply the STOP system as well. They learn to trust in God in the same way that they learned to trust their parents. Teach your child to pray. Safety. Structure and normality are very important for a child’s well-being after an upsetting event. Children who are able to pray and who have strong religious faith. generally cope better with life’s adversities. knowing that they can depend on God – He will help them to cope. Prayer time is quality time Praying with your child is a good way to be close to your child. that every person comes from God and returns to God when they die. The STOP system for caregivers As a caregiver taking over the responsibility after the death of a parent.
Security. The information that you give must be honest. Smaller children may feel more comfortable re-enacting what happened in play. Provide opportunities for growth and development. the child knows what is expected of him or her and can see that life goes on. Structure. The STOP system for teachers Schooling. Children need tenderness – care and understanding – but at the same time they need directions. Let children (especially the older children) help make decisions that affect their own lives. especially when their lives seem to be falling apart. Doing things together will bring you and the child closer together. “my 44 . it is important that the child still goes to school and is treated the same way as all the other children. Show the same affection. Teach them things that you are interested in yourself. by drawing pictures or by writing in a diary. true and shared in a way that the child is able to understand. which coffin to choose. Truth. Talk. Tenderness. Remember that children need information to understand what has happened. Involve the children when you discuss their future. make sure the child attends school and teach him or her life-skills at home. Involve the children in the preparations for the funeral. Treat the child like your own child. concern and interest as you would show to your own child. School is also a place of special belonging – children talk about “my school”. Don’t try to hide your own feelings. Ask them where they would like to live. Be open and honest with the child. or how to decorate the graveside). Seeing adults hiding their feelings worries children even more. Opportunities for growth and development. School is where children mix with their peers. This may be by talking. Teach. Involve older children in the choices you make for the funeral (for example. School does not only provide knowledge and education. Openness.when a child knows what tomorrow will bring. care. Parenting and Participation. uniforms or books. Children need to express how they feel. things that fascinated you as child and games that you used to play. Even if the child can’t afford school fees. Even though something terrible has happened.
It feels normal and in making the child feel normal. writing and acting). School allows a child to fulfil another role. Talk. Schools need to be sensitive to this and perhaps offer substitute play opportunities. children are still children. Chapter 6 looks at different games that can be played. The teacher will need to play an important role in helping the children to cope with life’s challenges – not only teaching information that will help the child to pass exams but also providing emotional support and teaching the child life-skills. Using these games as teaching aids would be a low-key way of encouraging the development of resilience in children. Although circumstances may force children to take on adult responsibilities. Together they can share their feelings and discuss life. Classroom activities will also change. This is a great responsibility. There are games and activities that specifically encourage children’s inner resources and coping skills. the home-world is in crisis and turmoil. At home the child has the role of a son or a daughter but at school the child is a student. The role of the teacher will change as the number of children coming from families disrupted by the AIDS pandemic increases. Spending time with peers allows a child to be a child. music. Participation in Peer group activities. When a child is orphaned. 45 . but it offers a very rewarding challenge. the child feels in control. Children who have lost a parent or have experienced other major life crises need to say how they feel and what they think. Peer group support. they often have to accept new responsibilities at home and there is little time to play. Teaching and Training. This is particularly true of child-headed households. It is also perhaps the only place where the child is allowed to behave like a child. It emphasises another part of his or her identity. This is when the school world becomes a safe haven. Organised play as an Opportunity for children to express themselves. Play is an important part of a child’s development. At least at school the child knows where he or she belongs and what is expected of him or her. As teachers.class”and “my teacher”. His or her identity as a son or a daughter is confused because his or her parent has died. When children are orphaned or a parent is sick. Going to school after the death of a parent is very important because it gives the child a sense of security. Children express their thoughts and feelings through play and personal expression (like art. we will have to be good listeners so that we encourage children to express their feelings. Expressing one’s feelings is the first step to healing.
Peer groups provide a sense of belonging and identity. If. then we acknowledge their strengths.Children of a similar age see life differently from how adults see life. 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. This is wrong. It is easy for us to overlook the fact that they are actually coping. We need to bear this in mind with regard to the situation of orphans and other so-called “vulnerable”(but resilient) children. We must never forget the strength. 46 . we must ask them what we can do to assist them. we feel pity and compassion and so we distribute goods. whether in our homes or in our classrooms. They need our support and assistance. the effort they make and the strength they display. As parents. If we look at them as victims. If we look at them as survivors. their skills and their expertise. Peers support each other and help each other to grow. 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. But if we look at them as survivors who have managed to cope. offer support and pat their heads. then that is how you will react to them. will affect the way we treat them. Many children prefer to share their problems with a friend rather than with an adult. The attitudes of caregivers and teachers The attitudes of caregivers and teachers play a role in encouraging normal responses in children. you label children “victims of war”or a “lost generation of youth”. and the manner in which we see these children. We often overlook their initiative and creativity. help and support their families. caregivers and teachers. helpless and unable to survive. Seeing them only as victims suggests that they are dependant. resilience and ability to cope of children affected by HIV/AIDS. If they are treated as though they have a psychological disease then they are more likely to need psychological help. for example. Children often feel that they relate better to their peers than they relate to adults. do their schoolwork and at the same time grow as individuals. but these children are in fact survivors! Think for a moment about how much they achieve. their creativity and their needs. The way we look at the children in our care. Then will we be providing the best possible assistance and we will be encouraging them to cope better and to become more resilient. and not everyone has access to this or can afford it. They carry an enormous workload. Our assistance will then build on their coping skills.
When other people come to the house. Nangula has never met her father.5 There are several specific reactions that caregivers come across when caring for orphaned children. Nangula and her siblings are living with their 70-year-old grandmother. Nangula does not play with other children but tries to stay near her grandmother all the time. Clinging Nangula is four years old. bed-wetting. feelings of helplessness and body pains. At night she sleeps in her grandmother’s bed. Her mother died two months ago. Nangula clings to her grandmother. nightmares. Each time Nangula is separated from her grandmother she starts to cry and scream. 47 . aggression. auto-aggression (hurting themselves). 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. intrusive memories (sometimes called “flashbacks”). hyperactivity. There are several suggestions to deal with the different kinds of reactions. These include clinging behaviour. night terrors. very frightened. sleeping difficulties. magic thinking. Nangula is very anxious and she cries easily. You will need to decide which one works best for you and for the child.
If there is enough space. “I will be back after you have had your afternoon sleep. 48 .”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. 2. Tell her where you are going and when you will be back. When you have to leave her alone. Praise her for her independence every time she sleeps in her own bed. Nangula thinks that if she is separated from her grandmother. Explain to her that she is big enough to sleep in her own bed. 3.Explaining her behaviour Nangula clings to her grandmother because she fears that her grandmother will leave her. her grandmother will never return. start putting her to sleep in her own bed as well. When you get back. Nangula should sleep in her own bed or on her own mattress. After Nangula gets used to waking up in her own bed. Tell her that you will always come back. In the beginning you may let Nangula fall asleep in your bed and then carry her to her own bed. although she may cry and scream. Make her bed next to your own bed. Allow her to sleep with a favourite toy (or something else that gives her comfort). “I will be back after you have eaten your lunch”or. like her mother “left”her. Try not to be away from her for a long time and keep telling her that you will not leave her for ever. 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. You could say. Nangula does not understand that separation can be temporary (for a short time). so you should link the time with something that she can relate to. prepare her for this. praise her for being so strong and brave. don’t force her to stay with them. and do not leave them alone with Nangula. Nangula is too young to understand the concept of time. What can you do to help? 1. right next to her. If she wakes up during the night. Try to find out why Nangula does not want the grandmother (or you) to leave. you can reassure her and tell her that you are there. Let Nangula be clinging for a while. Make sure you are back when you promised – don’t let her wait for you because this will make her more clinging and afraid.
Ask Nangula to tell you what is hidden under the cloth. Make Nangula give you directions while you search for the object. let her sleep with an older sister. Remove the cloth and look at all the objects again. When putting Nangula to sleep.) Here are some examples: Hide-and-seek with an object Play hide-and-seek with Nangula. Ordinary hide-and-seek Teach Nangula how to play ordinary hide-and-seek.”or “You’re close. it still exists. using an object. Tell her to hide while you close your eyes and count to ten. When you find her. “Look far away. but let yourself be found by Nangula! Make sure the area in which you play is safe so that Nangula can’t hurt herself. Put some objects that Nangula knows (like a spoon. 4. leave a light on. 1. Cover the things with a cloth. Try playing games with Nangula. There are two ways of doing this. Either you can hide the object (like a handkerchief or a spoon) and let Nangula look for it while you help her by saying. even further. If the source of light is a candle or an open fire. Then swop over: while Nangula closes her eyes you must hide. She has to learn to internalise objects and people so that she will feel secure even when they are not around. (All of these games are much more fun if brothers and sisters or friends play too. make sure it’s far away from Nangula’s bed. Don’t put her to sleep in the same bed as her brothers. Ask her to look at all the things and to memorise them. Agree on these before you start playing. like fridges and cars. have a ritual (a routine) that is followed every evening. 49 . This teaches her that although something can’t be seen. Then go and look for her. telling her a short story or talking about the best moment of her day. Count how many objects she remembered correctly. a paper-clip) in front of her.If there is no space for Nangula to sleep in her own bed. If she is afraid of going to sleep in the dark. These games may be of help to her. This may involve praying together. a stone. Memory games Which things can you remember? This game teaches Nangula to internalise objects and improves her memory. Agree that some places are not good hiding places. She needs to learn that objects and people can disappear and return again. give her a big hug. very close!”or you let Nangula hide the object and you must look for it. a piece of wool.
there may be too much noise in the house. she may be hungry. She makes excuses to stay awake and finally falls asleep anywhere in the house. She and her other siblings live together. Both her parents have died. If she is hungry and you have food in the house. Give Nangula old magazines and help her to cut out pictures of different people. give her something small to eat or a drink of warm milk or water. she may be afraid that her sister (her caregiver) will disappear or die as her parents did. who is 17 years old. for example: she may not be tired enough to go to sleep.You could also increase the number of objects you show her. 3.2. Ask her to close her eyes. remove the cloth and ask her which object is missing. but while Nangula’s eyes are closed. Don’t give her cooldrinks or fizzy drinks (like Coke) to drink. At night. Explaining her behaviour There could be different reasons for Rebekkah refusing to go to bed. or something might have upset her during the night. What can you do to help? 1. remove the cloth and ask Nangula which picture is missing. Sleeping difficulties and nightmares Rebekkah is five years old. When Nangula has played this game a few times it will get boring. she may not want to be separated from close family members. remove one object and put it behind your back.You will need to find new objects. Rebekkah refuses to go to bed. Remove one picture and hide it behind your back. she may be afraid of the dark. she may be afraid of having bad dreams. Place the pictures in front of her. Her eldest sister. Cover all the pictures with a piece of cloth. Ask her to look at all the pictures and memorise them. Tell Nangula to open her eyes. looks after them all. Tell Nangula to open her eyes. 50 . Now do the same again. Find out the real reason why Rebekkah does not want to go to sleep.
Sometimes the frightening thing in the dream is based on an imagined fear rather than something that has actually happened. Don’t give in when Rebekkah begs you to let her stay up. Make sure that she has a quiet corner to sleep in. Explaining his behaviour Many children have nightmares. 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. This routine provides security and comfort to the child. stay firm. Since his mother died he has been living with the neighbours. Tell her that her older sisters will soon be coming to bed as well. If she starts crying. 51 . A child needs more sleep than an adolescent or an adult and should go to bed at the same time every day. the nightmares are probably worse because his mother died and he had to move in with the neighbours.2. Although this may sound mean (and although her crying may upset the other people in the house). Children’s nightmares are usually related to something the child is afraid of or to something frightening that the child has experienced. Nightmares Manuel is 6 years old. Tell her that you will make sure that she is safe while she is asleep. In Manuel’s case. Often Manuel wakes up in the middle of the night and cries. but then leave her alone in her bed. comfort her briefly. This may involve praying together. but do be firm and insist that she goes to sleep. But it is important to be patient and calm. leave a light on. telling her a short story or talking about the best moment of her day. If she is afraid of going to sleep in the dark. have a ritual (a routine) that is followed every evening. make sure it’s far away from Rebekkah’s bed. Don’t let her watch television before going to bed. She may cry until she falls asleep but don’t let her get up. She will soon learn to calm down and fall asleep when it is her bedtime. When putting Rebekkah to sleep. Wash her with warm water or give her a warm bath before tucking her in. If the source of light is a candle or an open fire. Don’t shout at Rebekkah or threaten her. 3. Having a child in your family that refuses to go to sleep every night can be stressful for the caregiver. Sometimes he dreams that the house is on fire. He dreams that someone has died. Turn the radio and television down. Try to make her comfortable in her bed and promise her that you will be there when she wakes up.
2. Find out what scares him in the dream and ask him what scares him when he is awake. In Manuel’s case. Although much of what he dreamt may be symbolic. Take his dream seriously. Manuel will be facing the fears. For example. Manuel may have seen a big fire and heard adults talking about the danger of fires burning settlements down. 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. remind Manuel of the dream and talk to him about it. After the death of his mother and losing his own home. This will slowly reduce the frequency of the nightmares and after a while they will stop. Only then ask him what he dreamt about and let him describe the dream in detail. dreaming about the house being on fire may actually be symbolic of Manuel’s fear of losing all his belongings. During the day. If he is fully awake. the underlying fear is real. By talking about them. 52 . When Manuel wakes up during the night. he might be trying unconsciously to understand the death of his mother and to work through his own fears. or putting them down on paper during the day. Some children dream the same nightmare over and over again. 3. In older children this can be a sign that there is something serious upsetting the child. the room and an object that he likes – reassure him that he is at home in his bed.What can you do to help? 1. Ask him to draw you pictures about these frightening events. Don’t allow Manuel to watch a lot of television – especially at night. make him look at his bed. including his security. Tell him that you are with him and that he is safe. Watching television increases the likelihood that violent or frightening pictures will be triggered while Manuel is sleeping. Tell him that it was only a bad dream. While we sleep. Talk to him about the things that he finds frightening. What else can you do to help? 1. 2. warmth and shelter. comfort him and calm him down. our brains work through memories and incorporate them into our understanding of life.
During the night she wakes up screaming with her body shaking. When a child has a night terror. What can you do to help at home? During a night terror. When the child does wake up.Night terrors Ndapewa is 5 years old. 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 . Explaining her behaviour Night terrors are very common in children. The child falls asleep again quickly. When her grandmother tries to hold her and comfort her. When the child does wake up. sit next to the child and watch – don’t wake the child up. he or she remembers nothing of the event and is not afraid. has problems concentrating or is hyperactive in order to stay awake. the child doesn’t wake up completely. is constantly yawning. The teacher may see that the child falls asleep in class. Ndapewa pushes the grandmother away. make her comfortable again and let her fall asleep again immediately. What can you do to help at school? There is not much that a teacher can do to assist sleeping problems in children. but the teacher may realise a child is having sleeping problems before the parent or the caregiver does. She does not recognise anybody. help her to relax.
mostly due to emotional reasons like fear. a friend being run down by a car or a schoolteacher hitting a child (or Moosa himself). His cousins and his brothers laugh at him so he tries to hide the sheets behind the house. the bed-wetting could be a reaction to frightening events that the child has witnessed or experienced. Bed-wetting Moosa is seven years old. 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. 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. children do not have a place of their own but sleep in different places every night. He wakes up in the night and finds his bed wet. 54 . It causes a lot of additional emotional suffering. He misses his mother and wishes his father would come back. insecurity and helplessness. It is also important for the child to go to sleep at the same time every night. a divorce or the unexpected birth of a baby. especially those headed by children. like the death of a parent. It is important for a child to have his or her own place to sleep (even if it is shared with a sibling). a parent moving away from the home. Moosa’s mother had to go to work in town and she only comes home to the farm four times a year. He is embarrassed and he cries. bed-wetting is caused by a medical problem. For some children. Bed-wetting always shows that a child is under a lot of emotional pressure.In some households. Explaining his behaviour Bed-wetting is a very serious problem for many children. the child should be taken to a clinic to see whether the child has a bladder problem. If it continues for a few days. Moosa. Moosa doesn’t want to go to school anymore. his brothers and sisters have been living with his grandmother and seven other cousins since his father died. insecurity and feeling unwanted or abandoned. If there is no medical reason. the bed-wetting is related to fear. After the death of his father. Bed-wetting can also result from changes in the family. Many children who have experienced stressful events start to wet their beds again during the night. like a father beating up (or screaming at) the mother. Moosa feels threatened that something has upset his normal family structure. He feels insecure. Moosa has started wetting his bed for the first time since he was two and a half years old. At school the children also laugh at him. In each case. The bigger boys call him “baby” and won’t allow him to play with them.
Bedtime routines always help children and adults to relax and prepare for sleep. If Moosa decides to tell you about things that scare him. listen carefully and encourage him. have extra linen nearby. Make sure that he goes to the toilet before he goes to bed at night. Explain that he is safe and that you will take care of him. Before you go to bed yourself. Make sure that he is wide awake. When Moosa wakes up during the night. Talk to Moosa in private. 4. wake Moosa up and send him to the toilet.What can you do to help? 1. 6. blame or punish Moosa. “You are such a big help to me!”or. 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. 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. I can understand that this is very upsetting/scary/worrying for you…”At the same time. Do not scold. 3. 2. Tell him that you know that he does not wet the bed deliberately.) If possible. Give him clean sheets and clean clothes and make sure that he doesn’t smell of urine when he goes to school. Make sure Moosa isn’t exposed to a lot of upsetting events. make sure that you explain the conversation to Moosa later on. When adults in your home talk about violent events in the community. If possible. “Yes. Don’t let Moosa drink too much in the evening. “You are so good at maths/soccer…”. Encourage him by addressing his strengths and say things like. Moosa needs a lot of encouragement and positive assurance to build up his self-image and self-confidence. He doesn’t wet his bed on purpose. have a bucket nearby for him to use. Have a quiet time with him before he falls asleep and chat about the good things that happened during the day. Say things like. tell him how well he is doing despite his problems. Make a point of noticing his skills and give him positive feedback as often as possible. Don’t let him watch a lot of television. leave a light burning so that he can see. 5. If he is afraid to go to the outhouse in the dark. Try to find out what is upsetting him. (You might need to cut down the side of a plastic bin bag and place it beneath his sheet to protect the mattress. Teach him to get up during the night and use the bucket when he feels he needs to go to the toilet. comfort him calmly and change his linen.
After he manages one dry night in a week. Example of a bed-wetting chart 9.7. Don’t allow the other children to laugh at Moosa. she started crying and shaking. After a night when Moosa did not wet his bed. She was taken to hospital with acute encephalitis and she died three days later. She finds it difficult to concentrate. Have Moosa help you to draw up a calendar to monitor the dry and wet nights. She told her teacher that she suddenly remembered her mother being taken away to the hospital. Intrusive memories (flashbacks) Aletta is 8 years old. after an ambulance passed the school building. but for a few weeks she has been very absent-minded in class. Two months ago her mother suddenly became sick. In the beginning reward Moosa after he has one dry night in a week. Increase the number of nights until Moosa is dry every night. 56 . who is looking after them very well. She seems restless. 8. Aletta and her two brothers are now living with their aunt. She is falling behind her classmates. One day. praise him and acknowledge that his bed is dry. She won’t walk past her old house when she walks home from school. increase the number of nights that he must stay dry during the week in order to get a reward. Aletta still goes to school.
Intrusive memories are overwhelming and very vivid. 57 . Maintaining eye contact is reassuring for her and helps her to keep control. Having a flashback about her mother being taking into hospital left Aletta feeling as helpless. 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. afraid and sad as she felt when it really happened. her face might get flushed or she might start to shiver. objects or even people that they associate with the original event. The intensity of intrusive images varies from very mild to very strong. or even a smell that was present at the time of the original event can trigger the intrusive memory. 1. upsetting or traumatic event that suddenly pop up in your mind and can’t be controlled. What can you do to help? Aletta needs to express what is worrying her and it would help her to tell her story. Flashbacks are overwhelming and may be very frightening. her eyes will look blank and glassy. Intrusive memories are usually triggered by something that resembles the original event – in Aletta’s case the ambulance. They are not recalled willingly. speak her name in a firm voice and tell her that you are going to touch her. Intrusive memories are like nightmares that happen during the day. “Look at me!”and don’t allow her to lose eye contact with you. When Aletta experiences a very strong flashback her teacher may notice changes in her body: Aletta will breathe more quickly than usual. When Aletta is experiencing an acute flashback. but instead the memories intrude into our brains. This means that they flood our minds. also known as “flashbacks”. Hold her firmly by the shoulders. They may also try to avoid situations. say. describing the traumatic event may overwhelm Aletta and trigger another flashback. Telling her story would give her control over her memories and help her to come to terms with her strong feelings. However. tremble and get goosebumps. take the following steps immediately: Go to her.Explaining her behaviour Aletta is suffering from intrusive memories. a sound. Intrusive memories are memories of a painful. They are uncontrollable and they expose us to the stressful event that took place in the past. A sight. Make eye contact. We need to find a way to help Aletta describe the event without becoming overwhelmed. Some children try to prevent intrusive memories by refusing to think or talk about the traumatic event that took place.
gradually slowing down as she breathes out. (This is to slow down her breathing. Reassure Aletta that having flashbacks after a very upsetting event is normal. “Everything is OK. Let her rejoin the classroom activities. “I am with you. The pieces of memory don’t seem to fit together and they don’t fit into the child’s memory. 3. let her have something to drink or send her to wash her face. Flashbacks consist of fragmented pieces of memory that suddenly come up. Ask her what was so scary and upsetting.) Good!” Try to develop a steady rhythm in her breathing. saying things like this: “In. We have to be careful not to trigger a new flashback when we ask a child to tell his or her story. Good. but the child may be flooded with painful. (As she breathes in.”Or. In this way. (Wait a moment before saying “In” again. Hold your breath. This structure makes the memory less chaotic and uncontrollable. When a child can look at what is upsetting him or her. Direct her breathing all the time. Don’t ask how she feels about the event. Say things like. Don’t ask her why she reacted like that. By having more control. It happens because she is trying to come to terms with what happened. the child can give the event meaning and work out how to control it. It is important to find a way for the child to confront the upsetting event in a controlled way.) Stop. This makes them chaotic and uncontrolled. It is important to talk about the upsetting event. the traumatic event becomes easier to integrate in the memory and in the life context. Nothing is going to happen to you! You are safe!” If Aletta is breathing heavily. they have to arrange the memory pieces in the order that they really happened for the story to make sense. When someone describes something that happened to them.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. Asking Aletta to explore her feelings may trigger another flashback. but talk to her after school. Repeat your directions. Don’t ask for too much detail at this stage. 58 .Use short sentences when you talk to her. When Aletta has calmed down. Keep eye contact! 2. the child is in charge of the situation and of the memories that surface. Once integrated.) OK. try to slow her breathing down. unwanted feelings. telling a story helps to put pieces of memory into a meaningful structure. now breathe out slowly as if you’re blowing through a straw.You are in the classroom.
She may suggest playing with friends. If she is still suffering from flashbacks you may need to contact her caregiver and ask for Aletta to receive professional help. Say. Look at the picture again and ask Aletta what else the child in the picture could do herself to feel better. Breathing exercises are very helpful when helping children suffering from intrusive images and nightmares. talking to someone or playing with a baby cousin. Encourage her self-esteem – praise her for doing so well in such a difficult situation. It is important for Aletta to create her own picture story and to talk about her picture when she has finished drawing. Drawing pictures is an ideal way of looking objectively at an upsetting event in a controlled way without becoming overwhelmed. Talk to Aletta again after two or three weeks.4. How to deal with flashbacks or nightmares There are ways to encourage children to look at the content and structure of flashbacks or nightmares. Thank her for sharing her story with you. Agree that you will ask her to tell you how she is doing from time to time. upset or angry? Ask Aletta which of those activities she would like to try herself. 5. “Yes! You should do those things as often as you can!” Encourage activities involving sport and outdoor games. Tell Aletta that the activities she has chosen are great. Invite her to come and visit you whenever she has a problem. 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. These activities can be used for an entire youth group or the whole class. 7. 6. Find out how she is doing. 59 . Don’t tell Aletta what to do – let her come up with a solution that will suit her own needs. Teach her a breathing exercise. Also encourage activities to do with religion or culture. Passive activities (activities that do not involve interacting with other people) like watching television or sitting under a tree are less helpful. it is best not to single them out because they may experience this as stigmatising. As Aletta puts the upsetting event on paper she can control what goes into the picture and what is still too painful to show. not just with children whose parents or caregivers have died. Tell her you look forward to hearing how they are helping her.
d. Set aside some time to work through the following exercise with Aletta after school. Block 1: Ask Aletta to remember the last time that she felt happy and safe before the upsetting event took place. the death of her mother). 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. Divide a sheet of paper into nine equal squares. Talk about “the girl in the picture”– this allows Aletta to distance herself from her story. when her mother fell sick and had to go to hospital). e. ask Aletta to tell you the story of the people in the pictures. seven and eight to show what the people in the pictures did after the worst part was over (for example. c. When she has finished all the pictures. Move from picture to picture so that the parts of the story are told in order. she will be able to stay in control. This exercise could be critical to Aletta and she needs your undivided attention. the neighbours coming to visit and going to the funeral). ask her to draw a picture of the good moment in block 1. b. 3.) It is used to assist a child suffering from flashbacks by focusing on the content of the flashback and giving structure to the memories. This is a critical moment because Aletta will be confronted with painful memories but because she is talking and drawing the event. Drawing a picture prevents her from having another flashback. It will take some time and it is imperative that you are not disturbed. listen closely to what she says. The picture should be as accurate as possible. What was she doing then? When Aletta is able to remember it clearly. 1. Point to block five and ask Aletta to draw the worst part of her story (for example. Stay with Aletta as she draws. (It is easier if the child likes to draw. Have a few coloured pens so that Aletta can choose which colours she wants to use. Guide the story to 60 .The picture story exercise This exercise is suitable for children aged seven to ten. Ask Aletta to draw the first good moment she remembers after the upsetting event was over. Ask Aletta to draw pictures in blocks six. a. three and four to show what happened before the worst part (for example. Ask Aletta if she can draw a picture story or a comic about what happened to her. Jump to the opposite corner (block 9). 2. If she talks. Ask Aletta to draw pictures in blocks two.
“bad”. sad or disappointed. Point out all the good things that Aletta did during this difficult time. helping her aunt and attending school.end at the point at which the girl in the picture felt safe and calm again. (Remember to refer to “the child in the picture”. tell Aletta these feelings are quite normal when something like this has happened. guilty. by having a special memorial place or ritual. Discuss how the child in the picture can still have contact with her mother. Because it is a group method. ashamed or helpless. 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. 4. repeat her story to her. It also helps her to memorise the story in a meaningful form. it can be used in the classroom. angry. Tell her that you can understand this because every child wants a mother but say that there are some things that are impossible. help her to find a more precise word like sad. It is a normal response for younger children. satisfied. for example by talking to her. If Aletta says. joyful or content. 5. To show Aletta that you paid attention to her story. sad or happy feelings in her body. help her to find a more precise word like happy. by looking at her picture and by praying. Hearing her own story told by someone else also helps Aletta to distance herself from what happened. If Aletta replies. Ask Aletta how the people in the picture felt – especially the girl in the picture. This prevents the feelings from becoming overwhelming. Ask Aletta what she thinks the child in the picture needs to make her feel better.“good”.) Don’t be surprised if Aletta replies that the child needs her mother back. Praise her for this achievement. Tell her that it is normal for children to feel afraid when their mother is taken to hospital. Describing the feelings in her body helps her to look at those feelings in a controlled way. Tell her that it is normal for children to worry about their parents. Talk about what people do when they feel angry. 61 . Ask Aletta where she feels angry. packing the things they needed to take to their new homes. Tell her that it is normal for children to cry and to feel lonely and helpless. like looking after her brothers. When you have finished discussing everyone’s feelings.
Draw a picture of a day something good happened.“something that makes you very angry.) Draw anything you like.” 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. It is important not to start immediately with “problem topics”. give a new topic like “a great day at school”or. (Observe what the children draw. follow up with a resilience-based or resource-based topic. If you observed that death featured prominently in the pictures drawn on days nine and ten. (Observe what the children draw.) Draw a time when you felt very strong. If your “problem topic” keeps the children busy for a few days. Draw someone you love very much. After a few sessions the children may start to volunteer topics – make use of their proposals because they reveal what the children are concerned about. Draw a day when you were very sad. Ask if anyone would like to talk about his or her picture. Put the chairs in a circle and spread the pictures on the floor in the middle of the circle. allow the children to draw whatever they like. Draw a picture of a day something bad happened. Draw anything you like. If not.) Be flexible. 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. (Pictures of funerals or death may appear. Draw a picture of yourself doing something that you enjoyed very much. “a day you were terribly scared”or. Don’t force any of the children to discuss their picture. Take a few minutes after each drawing session to look at all the pictures with the children. Draw a picture of yourself after you achieved something that you feel very good 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.The teacher gives the class a specific topic and asks the children to draw a picture related to this topic. Start off with topics that foster resilience and inner resources in children. 62 .
self-knowledge and problem-solving skills. Tell the child that what you both write is absolutely confidential – promise that you will not tell anybody.Before the pictures are shown to the class. There is probably not much time after school to write in a diary. 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. Adolescents normally find it difficult to relate to a person who is not one of their peers. Tell them that spelling mistakes and bad handwriting don’t matter either! Communication books can be developed into diaries. This book then becomes part of a dialogue. It would be helpful to reserve twenty minutes during the school day for children to write in their diaries. Tell the children that these books are their personal property and that no one may read the book except the children themselves. Writing stories down on paper is another way of structuring memories and feelings. Once the children understand how the circle works. 63 . Most children like to take a few minutes once a day to think about themselves and to write their thoughts down on paper. The child may decorate the exercise book to make it special. Give each child an exercise book and a pen that may only be used for the communication book. Encourage the child to write about events that have taken place in his or her life. Never force a child to let you read his or her thoughts. suggest the rule that no one may laugh at a picture or tease another child about what he or she has drawn. other children will usually come forward as well. you will read the story the child has written and you will write a comment in the book. Putting thoughts and feelings down on paper promotes creative writing skills and encourages self-control. they will probably not need reminding about this. This is normal and part of the healing process. Children are usually hesitant to share their feelings with you as an authority figure in the beginning. 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. The memory book is a tool that is suitable for the classroom situation. “Memory” or “communication” books Older children and adolescents may not want to draw. Once the first child is brave enough to risk it and your response is warm and encouraging. 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). Have a file (or a large envelope) for each child to keep his or her pictures in. It is up to the child to decide whether or not to agree to this. It has been said that play is a means by which children handle and work on experiences and tackle difficult problems.
who was the mother that was crying. 3. who are used to role-playing. Give them enough time to work on their story. isn’t the mother anymore – she’s Rachel again!” 2. Imagining that he or she can control the event helps the child to cope and to gain control. who was the bad girl. Together they role-play the event over and over again. Explain again that each learner in the play was playing a role. Let them present their play to you and the rest of the class. This encourages their creative writing. “Sanette. The child may also involve his or her peers. is the real Sanette again!”and. Before the plays start. Find out why the child is not taking part in the activities. a doctor. And last but not least. Ask the children to get into groups and to think up a story that they will present to the class later on. 1. Children should be encouraged to play. Before they start. imagination. This is known as “repetitive play”. a caregiver. may be given themes to work with. Role-playing allows the child to take on different roles and to view the upsetting event from various angles. Take the children out of their roles by saying. a broom or a hat). problem solving. a netball coach and a Sunday School teacher – she has different roles to fulfil at different times). Role-playing can be encouraged in the classroom.Through play. A child that regularly chooses not to play with his peers or siblings should be encouraged to join in. group cohesion and self-confidence as well as verbal fluency in children. Children may also role-play their intrusive images as they try to understand them and to integrate them into their life concept. 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. explain to the children that a role is something you play. learn better. Older children. 64 .You could ask older children to put their role-plays into writing. talk to the children about what happened in the play. team spirit. Role-playing promotes creativity. “Rachel. Talk about the kind of roles that people play (for example. Provide some props that they might need for their story (like an apron. has problems concentrating. agree that no one may be laughed at unless the story is funny. Roleplaying also allows the child to fantasize about miracles and about superhero strength. Often the child repeats a scene over and over again until a solution is reached. This means that they must have enough time at school and at home for free play. children express their feelings and work through difficult negative experiences. If a story is serious. has problems falling asleep or demonstrates aggressive behaviour. a woman may be a mother. Children who play.
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
68 . Make the child apologise to the person who was hurt so that the old relationship can be re-established. firm and give clear instructions. Hitting or beating the child sends the message that violence is acceptable. It may be appropriate for the child to do something for this person so that they can see that the child is genuinely sorry. but you are punishing him for his wrong behaviour. 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). Instead of becoming aggressive. rules give them the feeling of security and control. calmness and self-confidence are critical when dealing with aggressive children. How can you deal with aggressive children? Aggressive adults who are role models for children promote aggressive behaviour in those children.important that we do not become aggressive ourselves. Never threaten punishment without fulfilling your threat. We need be self-assured and know that we are in control. The child needs clear guidelines about what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. The child needs to realise that disobeying the rules will have consequences. As with all children. Aggressive children need rules. but is a consequence of inadequate 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. The child needs to understand that punishment is not an act of revenge on the side of the caregiver. Sit with the child to draw up the rules. but instead stay calm. Authority. If other people were involved. honesty. or helping repair the damage caused by the aggression (if material objects were involved). Distinguish between the child and the behaviour The better the punishment is suited to the aggressive deed of the child. Although they may find it difficult to obey the rules. parents. helping at home. When dealing with aggressive children it is important to have confidence in our own skills and our ability to deal effectively with such children. This is sometimes difficult. make sure the child understands the effect of the aggressive behaviour on the other person. 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. caregivers and teachers need to be very clear about what they expect from the child. do not hit or beat an aggressive child. the better the chance that it will lead to a change in the child’s behaviour. 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.
destructive way. Explain why you are punishing him. frustrated or scared? Try to understand the reason for the behaviour. Say. At this stage of emotional upset it is your responsibility to provide the necessary control. Identify causes of the aggressive behaviour Aggressive or disruptive behaviour is often a reaction to frustration. The tension or emotional excitement produced by these feelings is not necessarily negative in itself. Discuss feelings with the child Aggressive children find it difficult to deal with negative emotions like anger. Being able to identify feelings is important for all children.“Stop screaming now.“Sit down here.”Keep your voice calm. What made him or her angry. frustration and helplessness because these feelings usually arise at times of crisis or conflict. Say.” It is important for the child to understand that you are in charge and that you are in control. Punishment should not be aimed at degrading the child or increasing his insecurity and frustration.Talk to the child about what he did. Understanding your own feelings helps you to find suitable behaviour. Understanding our feelings improves our coping skills. in the context of a family by relating to his or her parents and siblings and by observing the interaction between parents and other children. but unfortunately the tension expresses itself in a negative. fear or feeling threatened. Emotions and feelings need to be discussed in the classroom situation as well in order to support children in their learning process. these are easier to understand. for example. Ask the child to stop the unwanted behaviour. In order to promote this learning process. Be clear and firm about what you want. It is important for the child to understand why he or she feels angry or frustrated. We will sort it out. precise sentences. You will find some exercises on teaching children to identify emotions and their responses at the end of this section on aggression. but firm. A child first learns about feelings. Orphaned children need this skill even more because there is often no adult to provide emotional security and protection. 69 . constructive way. Often children find it difficult to identify emotions and they lack words to describe their feelings. Talk to the child about why he or she reacts aggressively. Aggressive children have to learn how to show their feelings in a positive. Punishment should happen in private and not in public. Because he is emotionally tense. teachers and caregivers should discuss the aggressive behaviour as well as the underlying feelings with the child. When the child has calmed down you can hand control back to the child. and expressing feelings. Choose the way you speak to an angry child If a child is in a rage use short.
In addition to feelings like sadness and frustration. Teach positive ways to express emotions 1. the move to his grandmother’s home and the lack of attention are all causes of tension. excited or frustrated. Ask him what he did and how he felt. Discuss actions Ebrahim could take when he is very angry. 3. 2. 70 . Agree with him that the next time he gets angry he will try one of these ideas first. attention and acknowledgement. What could you do instead of breaking his pencils?”Or.) Support the child as he or she describes his or her feelings and frustrations. Talk about how other people would see and judge his behaviour.“Now imagine the same situation again. Finding the cause for the aggressive behaviour can only happen if you talk to the child. Ask him to choose one or two ideas. but you still approve of the child as a person.(Remember that it may seem like a trivial thing to you. getting physical exercise. getting rid of the tension by talking to someone. Identifying the real cause for the aggressive behaviour can be difficult because there may be many. The others are shouting names at you. the death of his mother. Sometimes a small event might trigger an aggressive response. Look at the behavioural response Ask Ebrahim to look at his behaviour with you. These ideas may include walking way from the source of the frustration. What else could you do instead of throwing stones at them?” Write a list of all the ideas that Ebrahim comes up with. you do not agree with the way the child expressed his feelings.“Now think of the next time David takes something away from you without asking. Ebrahim’s aggressive acts can thus be attributed to attention-seeking behaviour and to a need for acceptance. Ebrahim needs to understand that you do not approve of his behaviour. Discuss the best ideas with Ebrahim. Say to Ebrahim. 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. Make it clear to the child that although you understand the child’s anger or frustration and you acknowledge the reason for his feelings. In Ebrahim’s case. or doing something that he is good at.You feel hurt. neglect and loneliness may be hidden underneath. abandonment. asking someone for help. more complicated feelings like betrayal.
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. children may hurt themselves deliberately. Children can learn to identify when they are getting really upset. When the child returns. to solve conflict and to identify emotions. to lessen frustration. This is a very effective way of allowing the child to take control. Look at the games in Chapter 6 for some ideas. to foster selfesteem. and when the child has calmed down. If auto-aggressive behaviour continues. Ask Ebrahim to draw you a picture of (or write down) what he is going to do the next time he gets angry. to foster group co-operation. deep breathing exercises) gives the child a way of preventing aggressive outbursts. no one may make funny remarks or laugh. all of which will help with aggressive behaviour.4. Auto-aggression Instead of turning tension into aggressive behaviour directed at other people or objects. Games to help aggressive children Wild games and sports activities (soccer. netball and hockey) are wonderful ways to relieve tension in children and to boost children’s self-esteem. Ask Ebrahim to come and tell you when he manages to control his anger or frustration. Severe auto-aggression with self-hurting is a sign that a child has serious problems. There are games to relieve tension. Auto-aggression means that the aggressive behaviour is directed against one’s own body. to calm children down. 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. Teaching the child to move away from the tense situation and do something that calms him or her down (for example. Teach the child to take “time out” Another aspect of learning to control feelings of rage is for the child to realise when he or she needs “time out”. No one may disturb the child there. 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. Praise him for his achievement. Small children may bump their heads against walls repeatedly. 71 . then he or she will return to the house (or the classroom). There are many games and exercises to help children relieve tension and cope with frustration and conflict. older children may cut themselves deliberately. The picture helps him to memorise the decision he has taken. some children turn the aggressive behaviour against themselves.
Her older sister is 13 years old and her younger brother is one and a half years old. singing or dancing. 2. Sara does not know her father. It is often caused by an “Attention Deficit Disorder” (known as ADD for short) that may be the result of a lack of oxygen 72 . Sara was sent to stay with her aunt who lives about an hour’s walk from home. Her work is becoming increasingly untidy. The baby has been sickly since birth. Hyperactivity Sara is nine years old. These are signs that the child is tense and under emotional pressure. She is not capable of sitting quietly with the family or sitting still in class without getting up and walking around. playing sport. She wanders around restlessly. Sara acts without thinking more often than before and in recent months has had some major conflicts with classmates. both with herself and with her friends. Minor signs of auto-aggression like nail biting need the attention of the caregiver and the teacher. Find out when the child bites his or her nails (or hurts himself or herself). Sara sees her mother and the baby occasionally over weekends when her aunt has the time to take her to visit. doing creative writing.A child or an adolescent who shows increased signs of auto-aggression urgently needs the attention of a specialist. Sara’s sister is taking care of her mother and the baby. Sometimes it is full of mistakes and at other times there are incomplete sentences or whole parts missing. Her aunt realises that Sara is finding it difficult to complete tasks. Sara still attends the same school. Explaining her behaviour Sara shows the signs of hyperactive behaviour. What can you do to help? 1. Is it when he or she feels uncomfortable? Is it when they are scared or nervous? Is it before exams? Talk to the child about the behaviour and try to find out what is causing it. She seems to be very impatient. The teacher has noticed that Sara (who always was a good student) is becoming restless and finds it difficult to concentrate in class. She is easily frustrated. Sara does not know what has made her mother sick. Find alternative ways to relieve stress like breathing exercises. She gets easily distracted and seems to have a shorter attention span. She is the middle child in the family. When her mother fell ill six months ago. Hyperactivity can have different causes.
This will reduce Sara’s feeling of helplessness. She could take little presents or food that she has prepared. Sara may be jealous of her sister and her brother who. and be feeling guilty and inadequate. She needs time to come to terms with her situation. She is probably afraid of what is happening to her mother. Her life situation was changed drastically without Sara being involved in the decisions. It is important for you. 4. 3. It would help Sara if she knew why she had been sent away. Sara’s hyperactive behaviour is the result of her separation from her mother and her siblings. On the other hand she might blame herself for having been sent away. During these visits Sara should spend as much quality time with her mother as possible. If this is not possible. the caregiver to: 1. She has not been sent away because she misbehaved. Ensure that Sara is not exposed to too much noise or too many visual images. What can you do to help at home? Sara needs a person she can trust and talk to. Her hyperactive behaviour reveals a high level of stress and emotional excitement. 2. frequent visiting times should be arranged. It may be possible to arrange for someone else in the community to help care for the mother and her three children. she needs to be prepared for the likely death of her mother. the knowledge will give Sara control because she will be able to understand. Explain to Sara that she has not been sent away because her mother does not love her. she may feel that she has been abandoned. A radio playing all the time or a television on all the time will increase her hyperactivity. Explain what is wrong with her mother. Then she could come to terms with her new situation and begin to cope.during birth. Sara needs quiet time. were allowed to stay at home. It will also make her feel that she is still involved with her family. Sara needs time with her mother. It may be better for Sara to return to her mother. unlike her. Encourage Sara to prepare for the visits. 73 . because she will also be doing something for her mother. 5. Because she was the only child sent away. Give Sara her own place to sleep and regular bed times. without other adults being present. Even if finding out is upsetting. but hyperactive behaviour can also be caused by an extremely shocking event or traumatic living conditions.
happy. 74 . How did that make her feel? Let her think about that for a few moments and then ask her to describe her feelings. 8. 1. Explain the new task to her and ask her to explain to you what she is supposed to do. you could introduce a chart on which you mark her good days to encourage her to keep up the effort. go through the same process again. 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 will realise that it helps her to concentrate. Reward Sara’s good behaviour by acknowledging her efforts. Let her begin. 7. do not allow Sara to 2. happy or successful again. Make sure that Sara has plenty of opportunities to take part in sport or other after-school (or community) activities. when she has a whole day of good behaviour. 3. praise her and allow her to take a short break (of three to five minutes) during which she may wander around and “help”you. If she has not understood.6. Sit down with her before she starts and ask her to remember a time when she did very well. As far as her schoolwork is concerned. What can you do to help at school? Sara will also need a lot of understanding and reassurance in the classroom. or successful. This also boosts her self-esteem. give Sara small tasks that do not need a long concentration span. Explain that you understand this is a very difficult situation for her. After she has completed a task successfully. try to make some time for her. In the beginning (if time allows) you may need to stay close to Sara. like taking a note to the principal’s office. explain it again and make sure she understands. Then give her some more work to do. and if possible. Encourage Sara to keep a diary in which to record her thoughts and feelings in words or pictures. While she is doing her work. Find a task for her to do. tell her that she will feel strong. Praise her for trying to work so hard under such difficult circumstances. Sara is a good example of a child that would benefit from the breathing exercise before she starts to work. Tell her that you believe she can do it again. Later on. As her teacher. She may say that she felt strong. Encourage her to feel the same again now. Do not allow her to disturb the other children.
but understands that it is to help her. Encourage her to spend time developing her skills. 7. An example of this is Ritalin (methylphenidate). 5. 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. Expect her to turn around and be distracted – even to walk around. encourage her to join in the games and exercises. but from an educational point of view these drugs may have a bad effect on the child’s coping capacity. It will also make it easier for you to keep an eye on her. but insist firmly that she sits down and carries on with her work. During the breaks. The medication is a stimulant that is meant to reduce the hyperactivity and impulsiveness in school-age children so as to improve their performance. Praise her when you realise she has managed to control herself. In Sara’s case. To make it easier for her to concentrate. Medication. the prescription of a stimulant like this would reduce her hyperactive behaviour but it would be an obstacle to the coping process. 6. During group activities make frequent eye contact with her. Discuss this with Sara so that she doesn’t see it as a punishment. Boost Sara’s self-esteem and self-confidence. Give her an opportunity to demonstrate her skills. Find out which are her favourite activities and talents (like running or singing). The drug suppresses all spontaneous behaviour and makes the child quiet and often a bit drowsy. Don’t allow her to disturb the teaching process or the group activities. and prevent her from distracting the other learners in the class. 75 . 4. Make sure she uses up a lot of energy running around in the playground. There is medical treatment available that reduces the activity of hyperactive children. Don’t scold her. In addition it has been shown that Ritalin can have severe side effects and may have a bad effect on the child’s development. turn her desk back again so that she is part of the group. This makes it easier for the caregiver and the teacher to deal with the hyperactive child. hyperactive children have a great need for physical activity. As with aggressive children. Keeping her at the front of the classroom will reduce the distractions for her. showing her that you know she is there. After Sara completes her work. The child finds it even more difficult to integrate the traumatic incidents that they have survived into their life concept.get up.
He doesn’t like leaving the house to go to school. He concentrates on his work. magical thinking originates from the child’s imagination. Children Petrus’s age think that their own actions have a direct impact on the events that take place in their lives.Stimulants should be given to children as a last resort. he said that if he didn’t rub his mistakes out properly. Positive magical thinking – even if it is unrealistic – can help a child to survive. It is important for caregivers and teachers to identify how the child gives meaning to an adverse event. Explaining his behaviour The example of Petrus is a typical example of a child who engages in magical thinking. They are not generally recommended. he didn’t talk much and he didn’t ask many questions. He was sick only for a few days. Negative magical thinking Three months ago. When his mother asked him why he had rubbed holes in his books. he started to cry. He attended the funeral and he visits the grave occasionally with his mother. compulsively erasing the mistake so that his exercise books are full of holes. In Petrus’s case. He has been withdrawn and quiet since the death of his father. 76 . 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. It is clear that magical thinking can have a positive or a negative impact. He was sad and withdrawn. which he does neatly and accurately. Petrus did not show signs of excessive grieving at the time. As described in Chapter 3. When he makes a mistake he seems frightened. six-year-old Petrus came home from school to be told by his mother that his father had died suddenly. he believes that making a mistake and being scolded in school had a direct impact on his father’s death. his mother would die too. Magical thinking (or “omen”) can help a child to cope with adverse events. after intense consultation with an experienced medical practitioner. When his mother asked him why he thought that. When his teacher confronted him about the holes in his books. Magical thinking helps children to gain control and meaning. 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. When he gets to school he is very shy. Without magical thinking this would be impossible.
if he wants bodily contact hold him close to you. 7. 3. 5. Reassure Petrus that you also love him very much and that you will always love him. The same happens when we pray. He needs reassurance and clarity about his father’s death. Tell him that you are very proud that he is doing well in school. Tell Petrus that you understand that he is still worried about his father’s death. Tell him that his father died because he was very sick. ask him to invent a story so that you can take a turn identifying the real and the unreal parts of the story. 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. Tell him that it shows how much he loved his father. 6. Play “Real and unreal games“ with Petrus. But emphasise strongly that he had nothing to do with his father’s death. 77 . Explain that it is normal for a boy to miss his father after he has died. Tell the story to Petrus and ask him to tell you what is real and what is unreal. Prayer can be like talking to a person. Try to find some books about children dealing with death and dying. Chaotic thoughts structure themselves and we feel calmed and comforted. After he has understood the concept of the game. Tell Petrus that his father loved him very much. our thoughts become more structured as we express them. When we talk to someone. Tell him that he will always love Petrus. While he is telling you. Explain to him that it is normal to make mistakes when we learn and that you love him even when he makes mistakes. Give Petrus an opportunity to ask questions about his father’s death and try to answer them honestly. 1. Read them to Petrus and discuss them with him. 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. 2. You can teach Petrus how to pray.What can you do to help at home? Let Petrus tell you the whole story in great detail. Ask him why he thinks that he could have caused his father’s death. you can mourn the loss of your partner with Petrus. If you are Petrus’s mother. 4. that he was proud of everything Petrus did. Ask Petrus if he wants to draw a picture for his father. even when he makes mistakes. Invent a story consisting of events that can really happen and events that can only happen in your imagination.
her mother fell ill and slowly grew worse. When Tutula was 13 years old. but she did not consult Tutula. She managed to generate some income by producing beadwork that her brothers sold on the streets when they walked home from school. In her spare time she worked in the garden to provide food. her mother was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. When her mother died six months ago. when she nursed her mother and when she arranged the 78 .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. What can you do to help at school? It is more effective to concentrate on children’s strengths and abilities rather than their mistakes. They often had to wait for a long time because other patients with adult relatives pushed in front of the queue. her mother told her about her HIV/AIDS status. Helplessness Tutula is 14 years old. She is glad that she can go to school and she is grateful to her uncle. Tutula accompanied her mother to the clinic regularly. 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. Because Tutula is the eldest of four children. Her brothers and her sister were always clean and well cared for. Tutula now lives with her uncle who pays for her education. She feels helpless again – just the way she felt at the clinic. Not many relatives attended the funeral. Tutula reports that she is glad her mother told her. Mistakes are nothing to be afraid of – a mistake is nothing more than a challenge to improve and do better. Tutula took over the responsibility of looking after her mother and her three siblings. Explain that everyone has to practise before we can do things without making mistakes. but she would rather stay with her brothers and her sister. When she was 11 years old. Tutula arranged a simple funeral. The social worker arranged for the children to be sent to different members of the extended family. Tutula feels confused. Tutula felt that she was being treated unfairly. 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.
funeral. despite all her efforts to maintain normality. The sense of helplessness makes people feel extremely vulnerable. It makes her angry. Tutula may have some concrete suggestions to make. Once again adults are taking decisions in her life without consulting her. She has to be reassured that everything she did to care for her siblings. She maintained control and the helplessness never made her feel inadequate. By coping she demonstrated strong organisational skills as well as a warm and nurturing personality. This sense of helplessness often makes people lose faith in themselves and makes them distrust their own skills and abilities. yet at the same time she knows that she should feel grateful because she is getting an education. 79 . Ask Tutula what would help her now. Explaining her behaviour The experience of total helplessness is a central experience for people going through trauma and loss. She has a strong bond with her family. but remember that because she is not yet an adult she needs more attention and guidance than an adult. Helplessness is closely related to traumatic events – such events make people feel that they have lost control over their lives and that they can’t manage. Discuss which suggestions may be possible and which are impossible. Because her contribution to the family was ignored. The separation of the siblings may well have been in the best interests of the family in the long run. her experiences at the clinic and with the social worker made her feel vulnerable because she was not treated as an adult. It is likely that she often felt helpless when she had to care for her mother and parent her siblings. she did well and that she did everything she could. Treat Tutula like an adult. Helplessness makes people feel overwhelmed by what is happening. In contrast. She has to learn to trust herself again and to trust other people too. and it triggers feelings like rage. Tutula feels desperate and very confused about her situation. Tutula needs someone to boost her self-esteem and her selfconfidence. What can you do to help? 1. Tutula coped. Suddenly all responsibility and control was taken away from her and she was left to face the disruption of her family. but Tutula’s involvement in the decision and her consent would have left her feeling less inadequate and guilty. based on mutual 2. inadequacy and shame. guilt. yet she somehow managed. Tutula needs a trusting relationship with an adult.
Ask her to look around the scene that she is imagining. Remind her about 2. The questions are to help her get in deeper contact with her feelings. Listen to what she tells you. Does she see the scene she is imagining in black and white. a piece of paper and a pin (or anything that can be used to scratch with). Ask Tutula how it feels when she is strong. Hand over some responsible tasks to Tutula that she will be able to manage and control. Start off with an imagination exercise. they have to rediscover their strengths and abilities. feet on the ground and eyes closed. 5. she is successful and she is managing difficult situations. 3. Ask the child to imagine a situation where she is in charge. or with a group of children together. When she has finished. 4. She feels self-confident. ask her to open her eyes.understanding and acceptance. 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. The following exercise can help children who feel insecure and inadequate to recognise their inner resources again. This will boost her self-esteem. 80 . 3. It builds coping skills and selfesteem and is suitable for children aged nine and older. Ask Tutula to sit straight. Ask her to remember times when she felt helpless. When she can really feel that feeling. 1. 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. Tutula should cover the whole sheet of paper with those colours. Encourage her to have frequent contact with her siblings. successful and in control. choose some wax crayons in the colours that symbolise this feeling and start colouring the piece of paper. Like Tutula. Reassure her that they are doing well. 5. ask what memories she had. Tutula has to recognise her own strength and her ability to cope. In the new relationship. 4. It can be done on a one-to-one basis. In future. include Tutula in decisions that affect her life. Each child needs wax crayons.
Ask her to colour vigorously over the first layer of colours with the colours of her negative feelings. Ask her what needs to change to allow her good qualities to come to the surface again. Take a sharp object (a pin or a sharp stick) and scratch these positive words onto the surface of her paper so that the positive colours beneath shine through. 7.) After she has finished. Prompt her to say.the way she feels at the moment: angry. If she says no. She doesn’t talk much. Sometimes we can’t see them because our problems seem to overshadow (or cover) everything. ask her what prevents them from coming up again. Ingrid is very quiet and shy. The house is crowded with other cousins who also live with the grandmother. inadequate or exposed. She is very sensitive and is afraid of leaving the house. 8. Physical complaints and body pains Ingrid is 11 years old. If she says yes. 9. ask her to choose colours that express her negative feelings. talk about how she felt while she coloured with the negative colours. After Tutula has finished. Ask Tutula to list the things she is able to do. Once again. Explore what it means to have hidden resources. Ask her if she can remember her strengths and successes that are hidden beneath her negative feelings. Prompt her to say. ask her when she will let them come up again. Prompt her to say. Look at her paper together and ask her if this is the way she feels at the moment. “I am…” Ask her to list the external resources that can help her. Note: Don’t do an imagination exercise for the negative feelings! 6. Once again. but she likes to watch the other children. Often 81 . “I can…” Ask Tutula to list the things she likes about herself. Ask her if she thinks they will come to the surface again. Since her mother died of TB six months ago she has been living with her grandmother. Help her give names to her feelings.“I have…” 10. let her describe the way she feels. 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.
she can’t go to school because of a sharp pain in her chest. 82 2. it is likely that the child is reacting to stress. draws a picture about it or writes it down. . This will also reduced the occurrence of the pain. Her grandmother took her to the doctor. They may behave like the deceased parent or they might have similar complaints. it usually suggests that the child’s body is reacting to emotional stress. the pain in her chest could be related to her mother’s death. send her to school just the same. 5. Once you have thoroughly investigated the cause of the pain and discussed it with her. In order to stay connected to their parents. 3. Ingrid must attend school. Create a warm and nurturing environment. some children identify with the illness suffered by the deceased parent. She says that all her bones ache. Suggest that if she talks about it. 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. she may find out what is bothering her and this will help her pain to go away. But don’t allow Ingrid to stay in this corner constantly – encourage her to join in the games of the other children and give her some jobs to do about the house. This type of sickness is called “psychosomatic”. 4. The doctor could find nothing wrong. Although she may complain about the pain in her chest. Make sure that Ingrid participates in physical games or sport. What can you do to help at home? 1. In Ingrid’s case. sad or insecure. Children often get pains in their stomachs or chests when something is bothering them. don’t dwell on it. Explaining her behaviour When a child is sick but the doctor can’t find anything wrong. Find out when the pain is stronger and when it fades away. but the pain will go away. Talk to Ingrid about her pain. 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. 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. Pay more attention to her on the days that she feels well. Insecurity and anxiety are also often expressed through body pains. Tell her that many children get aches and pains when they feel scared.
but don’t give her too much sympathy or attention. If the doctor diagnoses that the pain is stress-related. Teach Ingrid the breathing exercise and encourage her to practise it regularly. 83 . Ingrid could use the breathing exercise any time that the pain is very strong. reassure Ingrid when she complaints about pain. Contact the caregiver to make sure that a doctor has examined Ingrid. drink a glass of water and then carry on with her work. Take Ingrid for regular check-ups at the clinic. Allow her to take a short break. praise her for handling the pain so well. 2. What can you do to help at school? 1. just to make sure that you are still dealing with a psychosomatic complaint.6. 7. When she starts working again.
The falling game and even for adults. Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 7 to 9 Materials required: None Duration: Short 84 . The other children in the circle must catch the child and push him or her gently in a different direction so that someone else in the circle catches him or her. When everyone is ready. Games that foster trust The aim of this game is to enhance trust and group cohesiveness and to encourage children to take responsibility for one another. however. PLEASE NOTE: The ages indicated below show the minimum ages that activities should be used for. group leaders and home-based carers as they encourage children to explore their worlds while learning skills that foster resilience and help them to deal with other people and the challenges that life brings. The remaining child stands in the middle of the circle and makes him or herself as stiff as a rod. holding their hands in front of them so that the palms of their hands face towards the middle of the circle. All children except one stand close together in a circle. Most activities can be used.6 Games Children learn as they play. These games have been developed to assist teachers. the group leader gives a signal and the child in the middle lets him or herself fall in any direction. for any ages above the minimum age. The games are designed to foster social and emotional learning and intelligence in children.
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
benches. The blindfolded child has to cross the obstacle course from the start to the finish. After the dogs have found one another. Once the children have got used to the game. stones. Agree on the start and the finish. Blindfold one child in each pair. several children can start at the same time. 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. chairs. etc Duration: Short Discuss these questions with the children • How did you feel before you started the exercise? • How did you feel afterwards? • Were your partner’s instructions helpful? When were they the most helpful? • Would you have managed the obstacle course without help? • How did it feel when several children crossed the obstacle course at the same time? Tip: It is easier to start with one child mastering the obstacle course at a time. The children gather at the start and set off together in pairs. 88 . schoolbags. Each child should have a turn at playing both dog and guide. to encourage children to take responsibility for one another and to activate the senses. Allow each child to take a turn at being blindfolded. 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. Blind walk with directions The aim of this game is to enhance trust and selfconfidence. Before starting the game. boxes. and some items to build an obstacle course: sticks. This makes the game more difficult because each blindfolded child has to focus on the voice of his or her own guide. swop over. 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.not yet familiar with the concepts of left and right. Age group: 9 years and older Number of players: Any equal number – children work in pairs Materials required: Enough pieces of cloth to blindfold one child in each pair. Discuss these questions with the children • How did it feel to be blindfolded and guided by someone else? • What did the blindfolded child hear? Smell? Feel? Other than not being able to see. the dogs should bark and listen to each other to identify where the sound comes from to find each other. Instead. build an obstacle course with various obstacles.
make sure that the obstacles are manageable for the children. like a guide? Who? Blind snake The aim of this game is to enhance trust and to encourage children to take responsibility for one another. The head must be responsible for all the other children in the snake and must move carefully. 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. 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. The snake starts to move forward slowly. Depending on how much time is available for this game. • Was it more difficult crossing an obstacle course that you had not seen? • In real life. 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. other kinds of obstacles make a person feel weak. do you have someone who helps you to overcome obstacles. children could take turns at being the head of the snake. Variation To make it more difficult. The head must set the pace so that everyone feels safe and is able to follow.When setting up the obstacle course. 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. what did you hear? Smell? Feel? Other than not being able to see. 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. how does it feel when you manage something you thought you would never be able to cope with? • In real life. The other children need courage to be led about with their eyes closed and their hands in a fixed position. what else felt different? • As the snake’s head. The child at the front of the line is the snake’s head and keeps his or her eyes open. helpless and frightened – can you name any? • In real life. All the other children close their eyes. how did it feel to lead a group? What was the most impressive experience for you? 89 .
This is important. 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. And so the game continues. One child is the main messenger. 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. All the children stand in a circle. Age group: 9 years and older Number of players: 7 or more children Materials required: None Duration: Short Wandering rings The aim of this game is to encourage co-operation. These children lift the hand that is closest to the main messenger. The main messenger now sends a message to another child in the circle by nodding his head towards the other child. flexibility and co-operation. The messenger The aim of this game is to encourage observation. The children on either side of the main messenger are helper messengers. team spirit. The first messenger and first helper messengers drop their arms to their sides again. The last three children to remain in the circle are the winners. The game becomes more difficult as fewer children remain in the circle. concentration.Games for group cohesiveness and social skills The games in this section are to foster group cohesiveness. This child now becomes the main messenger and must lift both arms. encourage social learning skills and responsiveness to the needs of others. group-cohesion and self-esteem through overcoming obstacles. All of the children stand in a circle holding hands. Before the last children hold hands and close the circle. He or she stretches both arms above the head. Anyone who raises the wrong arm must leave the circle.5 m long and tied in a circle work as well) Duration: Short . The rule is that no one may let go of the other children’s hands.
everyone is involved in the activity. recognising one another’s needs. 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. Discuss these questions with the children • In the beginning. The hula-hoop dangles loosely. 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. sharing. you could add a second hula-hoop at the opposite side of the circle. 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 first child’s neighbour must repeat the process. In the beginning this will take some practice. The paper is spread on the floor and each penguin stands on his or her sheet of newspaper. For really advanced teams you could have three hoops moving around the circle at the same time. Tell the Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 5 or more children Materials required: Sheets of newspaper Duration: Short 91 . The trick is to step through the hula-hoop feet-first and then with the help of one’s neighbours. Each penguin is given a sheet of newspaper. jiggle the hula-hoop up until the head can be squeezed through.length of rope) over the hands of the last children so that the hula-hoop hangs over their clasped hands. In this game. 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. Since all members of the circle are interconnected and everyone is either helping or climbing. survivor skills and problem solving. one child is the sun and the other children are penguins. To make it more interesting. The children must make the hula-hoop move around the circle without the circle ever breaking.
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. Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 6 or more children. The team to reach the finish first wins the game. The second sheets of newspaper are placed in front of each team. This is a competitive game. Agree on a distance that both groups have to cover. move closer together and hold tightly to each other. then bending backwards. To make it more difficult. or attention.) 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. Eventually penguins will have to stand on one leg or even share ice bricks with neighbours. The sun now walks around and starts tearing pieces of newspaper from the ice bricks on which the penguins are standing. space. Each team receives two big sheets of newspaper. clothing.) • 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. Penguins can swim. On your command. picking up the sheet of newspaper that they have just stepped off. conflict resolution skills. holding hands. bed space. A penguin must always be in touch with an ice brick or else it falls into the sea. the children must cover the distance to the finish line by stepping from one sheet of newspaper to the next. money to pay for school. Discuss these questions with the children • How did it feel when the ice bricks became smaller and smaller? • What did the penguins have to do in order for everyone to survive? (Answers will include share a brick. The children work together in teams of three. divided into groups of three Materials required: None Duration: Varies 92 . in a row. team spirit. placing it in front of them and stepping on to it. One sheet is placed on the ground and the whole team stands on it. but they don’t have much endurance. decision-making skills and self-esteem.children that the newspaper is the penguin’s ice brick.
The fox. one child plays the chick. Sticks should be of similar length. divided into pairs Materials required: Each child should have a straight stick (a pen with a lid works as well). The hen at the end of the line (the one who was next to the chick) becomes the new chick. Each pair needs two straight sticks. both children have to apply a little pressure. Duration: Varies To keep the two sticks balanced. and the rest of the children are the hens. the chick and the hens The aim of this game is to foster group cohesiveness. This is not easy! 93 . awareness of and respect for one another and concentration. 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 chick becomes the fox and the fox becomes one of the hens. Age group: 8 years and older Number of players: 2 or more children. 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. Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 6 or more children Materials required: None Duration: Varies Keeping balance The aim of this game is to encourage observation. the children must observe closely and react quickly to one another. If the fox manages to touch the chick. This game can get a little wild! One child plays the fox. To keep the stick balanced. team spirit and self-esteem. Both children have to learn to adjust to each other’s movements. 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. The fox now tries to chase the chick. The hens must keep holding hands. The chick holds hands with the hen beside her. preferably of equal length. The hens form a line holding hands and the little chick is the last child at the end of the row.
sheets or blankets and have groups of four children. The children holding the towel with the ball try to throw the ball by lowering the towel and then pulling it quickly to make the ball fly into the air. Bear in mind that if more children take part it becomes more difficult to catch and toss the ball. Once the children get better at this. holding on to each other’s shoulders. Much more co-ordination and communication is needed. the game can be played with children standing in a triangle. 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. children hold opposite ends of a towel. 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 . If you have a large group of children. (This may need practice at first. A piece of cloth is stuck into the belt or the trousers of the child at the end of the row. The children stand in a row. A ball is placed on one of the towels. Towel catch The aim of this game is to encourage group co-operation and co-ordination. one behind the other. they may start counting how often they can toss the ball without falling on the ground. Working in pairs. you could use bigger towels. The game becomes more difficult if more children participate. The child at the front of the row is the head of the snake and the last child is the tail.Depending on the number of children. in two lines or in circles. the other pairs try to catch the ball on their towels. Age group: 8 years and older Number of players: 4 or more children. The aim of the game is for the head of the snake to grab the piece of cloth at the end of the tail.) As soon as the ball is in the air.
2nd exercise: Raising the rope Now the exercise becomes more complicated. You should interrupt the game – the aim of the game is for the children to stay connected to one another. Two children take opposites ends of a rope and pull it taut about 30 cm from the ground. 95 Age group: 8 years and older Number of players: 5 or more children Materials required: A piece of rope about 2 m in length and plenty of space Duration: Varies . but they must imagine that the rope has an electric current and no one should touch it. Discuss these questions with the children • When you were the tail. The head and the tail must pay attention to the rest of the group while running and chasing each other. The group leader asks the two children holding the rope to lift it so that it is approximately hip height. and to encourage self-esteem. This means that the head can only run as fast as the whole snake allows. the children will let go of one another and they may stumble or fall. If this game gets too wild. all the other children hold on tightly to the child in front of him or her.the head of the snake chases the tail. This game is an ideal way to observe skills and strengths and leads nicely into the games for self-esteem and self-confidence. what things did you have to be aware of? • When you were the head. If the head manages to grab the cloth. All other children stand on one side of the rope. Now the group must get over (not under) the rope without touching it. This is quite easy and children usually manage without much difficulty. 1st exercise: The children must get over the rope as a group holding one another’s hands. to reinforce conflict resolution and decision-making skills. 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. the head becomes the tail and the next child in the row takes over as the head. The group leader tells the children standing next to the rope that they must climb over the rope as a group.
For example. the numbers one to eight if there are eight children in the group). The rope should be high enough that the children can just manage without any accidents. 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. 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. they may not use chairs to stand on. or does it need other skills like thinking. On your command. Divide the class into equal groups of five to eight (or more) children. Usually.Some children will still not find this particularly difficult. do you have other skills and strengths that are valuable? • What are these skills and strengths? Games for fostering self-esteem. older Number of players: 5 or more children Materials required: None Duration: Varies 96 . Each child in the circle gets a number (for example. who immediately throws it back to number one in the middle. children climb over the rope by lifting each other over it or climbing onto each other’s backs. (Nothing else may be used to help them. communicating and decision-making as well? • If you are “strong”. Each group will need a ball. If some children do not manage at all. all the number ones throw the ball to each child in the group. 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. make it a little easier for them by lowering the rope.) The children will realise that it is only possible to get the whole team over the rope if they discuss the problem and develop a strategy. Child number one in each group stands in the middle of the circle. does it mean that you are generally strong or do you have weaker points as well? • If you belonged to the less agile group. They will also realise that the stronger children must assist the less agile children. Each group stands in a circle and the circles must stay the same size. It is crucial to discuss the game with the children after they have finished. The groups play against each other.
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
“Think about the last time you felt jealous.” Older children will soon realise that there are some feelings that people express more or less in the same way.“The last time I felt jealous was when. Show me how you look when you feel. It is important to find several activities for the same feeling. angry. It may help to say. The other children will have to explain when they felt sad/happy/jealous. 100 Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: Any number Materials required: A ball Duration: Short . but it helps children to learn a variety of names for their feelings as well as ways to express their feelings. If children find this difficult you could change the sentence to. The children could also count how often the ball is passed until none of the children can think of any new feelings. The child who catches the ball has to act out the feeling with his or her whole body. As the group leader you may notice that the more often you play this game. The aim of this game is to get to know one’s feelings and how feelings can be expressed.. With children that have become used to the game. The child passes the ball to another child calling. One child has a ball (or anything you can throw and catch without getting hurt). All the children stand in a circle. Can you remember how it felt? Try to put yourself back into that situation. to encourage motor co-ordination. They should say.”(or happy.. but different people express other feelings differently... you could introduce a new rule: no feeling may be mentioned more than once.. Ask the children what else they do when they feel happy and then sing the song and perform all the behaviours named for demonstrating happiness.Soon the children will want to add their own verses and activities. because this teaches the children a variety of responses.. “Show me what you do when you are.“Show me how you look when you feel sad. This is a very simple game. jealous – any kind of feeling).” • Sometimes children cannot get in touch with their feelings immediately. the more the children become accustomed to expressing their feelings and giving their feelings names.” • Some children find it difficult to act out a feeling.
you should whisper the name of the feeling to them. or a person looking sad saying goodbye to a friend. Ask the children to describe what they see in each picture. They should make sentences like. a woman looking angry after someone bumped her car. 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. Let each child choose a card and read the feeling silently to himself or herself. you can take this activity a step further by asking the child to write a short story about the event happening in the picture. excited. (If the child can’t read. Ask each child to choose one feeling and then to draw a big face showing that feeling. Make a list of the feelings a person can have. a child looking excited on her birthday. satisfied. This list may get very long! Display the list in the classroom. Discuss the situations that cause certain feelings in the children.) Each child must demonstrate the feeling to the class using only facial expressions or body language.” With older children (eight years old and older). for example a soccer player looking happy after scoring a goal. This enhances their self-expression and writing skills. Ask them to describe something that made them angry (or scared.Picture games The aim of these games is to get to know one’s own feelings and to be able to express them. “The soccer player is happy because he scored a goal. Cut out pictures that show people expressing feelings.) Faces and hands The aim of this games is to get to know one’s own feelings and to be able to express them. Hang the faces around the classroom. The other children in the class must guess what the feeling is. Write the names of feelings on little cards. Cut the word out of the list and stick it onto the face. Show the pictures to the children and ask them what the people in the pictures are feeling. etc. 101 Age group: 4 years and older Number of players: Any number Materials required: paper or card to be cut into cards Duration: Varies .
If there is another figure in the picture. sad. Praise the child for making up such an interesting story. When working with a group of children. Collect pictures from newspapers or magazines. Write this on a separate bubble and let the child paste it to the picture. 8. 1. summarise it. Use bubbles as illustrated below and on the next page. Is the child in the picture happy. 3. Say to the child. 5. Hand a bubble to the child and ask him or her to place it on one of the figures in the picture. ask the child how he or she thinks this person would respond. Ask the child what the figure in the picture is saying. Let the child choose a picture (or show a picture to the child). 6. 7. After the child has finished telling the story. Ask the child what the people in the picture are doing. What do you think the child would say now?” Write the child’s comment into the bubble and glue it to the picture. jealous or angry? When working with younger children you may have to suggest some feelings! 4. 2. Exercise for children younger than 9 years old Use a speech bubble as shown on this page. emphasising the feelings in the story and tell it back to the child. Ask the child to describe what he or she can see in the picture.Pictures and bubbles The aim of this game is to get to know one’s feelings and how feelings can be expressed. Duration: Short 102 . each of the children chooses a picture. Now ask the child to imagine that the picture could come alive like a movie or a TV programme. Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 4-5 Materials required: Pictures showing people interacting in various situations. “Imagine that the angry child in the picture is a real child. Ask the child how he or she thinks the people in the picture feel. What would happen next? Let the child tell the story.
but older children are able to differentiate between feelings. The children should cut out the illustration. 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. (Of course you could use wooden cubes if they are available. If a child describes a story that contains negative feelings (or expressions of helplessness.Picture and bubbles for children 9 years old and older The exercise is similar to the one for younger children. thoughts and deeds and so it is important to give them different shaped bubbles to use. fold it along the dotted lines and glue it 103 . what they are thinking and what they are saying or doing. shame or disgust) you could introduce a new symbol: a “help” bubble or a “rescue” star. The child could use the rescue star to identify a possible solution to the situation in the picture. revenge. aggression. guilt. Feeling dice are made out of cardboard or paper. anger. Write the comments in the appropriate bubbles and paste them onto the picture.) Make a copy of the illustration and give one to each child in the class. For example. A feeling bubble (how do you think the figures in the pictures are feeling?) could be square. Feeling dice To make it more interesting for the children you could make “feeling dice”with them. After asking what the children see in the picture. ask them to describe how the people are feeling. hate. Use the rescue star – she could perhaps try to talk to the group leader about her problem. betrayal. sadness. The group leader could discuss teasing in class and establish a class rule. 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.
Each honest answer will get a point. For example.“Describe what happened when you were last very ______”.together in the form of a cube.Younger children may need some help with this. The goal of the game is to answer the questions as honestly as possible. After the children have finished making their dice ask them to get into small groups or pairs. ask the children to draw a face displaying a different feeling on each panel. Explain that they are going to play games with their dice. 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 . Questions will refer to feelings – what causes feelings and how we express them. Before gluing the cube together.
Glue the rest of the (headless) figure onto the outline that you traced on the second piece of cardboard. On one piece of card draw the outline of a simple figure. angry and excited). a second child should ask the questions which the first child must answer. so it flips 105 . 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. Each time a child answers a question honestly. Take two thick pieces of card of the same size (approximately 25 cm x 20 cm). a sharp knife. but many “dice”to play a game.One child should then throw the die (Note: We use one “die”. You now have the cardboard figure. 2. Ask the question. When you have finished. he or she gets a point.” will not be accepted. Dressing the doll Teaching a younger child to identify emotions Preparations 1. 5. trace the outline of the figure onto the second piece of cardboard. Answers like “I don’t know. koki pens or colouring pencils. sellotape. Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 1 and the person who guides the process Materials required: Two thick pieces of card. This game encourages children to speak about their feelings and the way they express their feelings. 4. After answering the question honestly. Both dice are thrown and two different faces come up (for example. Cut the head off your cardboard figure.) If it lands on an angry face. scraps of wool. it is the next child’s turn. you could play the game with two dice. scraps of material Duration: Short 3. a piece of cardboard with a hole in the shape of a figure and another piece of cardboard. With older children who can already reflect more deeply. Ask the other children if they can think of similar situations. Cut along the outline of the figure with a sharp knife without cutting into the figure. Lay the two pieces of cardboard on top of each other and with a pencil.“When did you feel angry and excited at the same time?”Let the child describe the situation. the figure should drop out.
but stick it along the right-hand side. The child has the mirror window closed in front of him or her. scissors. Ask the child to open the window and describe what he or she sees in the mirror. you could ask the child to dress the figure in the card by flipping it open. 6. Place the other two pieces of cardboard on top of the mirror so that they cover the whole mirror and stick the left-hand side of the A5 card onto the left hand side of the A4 card. The figure in the card can be changed as often as the child wishes. for example during his father’s funeral or when her mother died. The fabric shows through the cut out shape. 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. If the top pieces of card are stuck correctly. Flip the card open. 8. Take some scraps of material and cut squares approximately 15 cm x 15 cm. 9. 2. Choose a head that represents how the child feels and put it in the head hole. strong sellotape and a mirror (preferably square) Duration: Varies . The figure should fit into the hole when the two sides are closed. 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). Take the card that you have made and glue some wool around the head-hole to look like hair. 10. Do the same with the other piece of card. Draw different expressions (or feelings) on each head. slide one or two pieces of material inside the card and then close it again. 11. 7. 3.open and closed like a book. they will open from the centre like cupboard doors to show the mirror inside. Use the head to trace some more heads and cut them out. These squares will be the “clothing”. Glue the mirror onto the A4 cardboard. slipping the material inside and flipping it closed again. When working with younger children. Ask the child to choose a face that shows how the child felt at any particular moment.
it’s you. the collar of your shirt. Glue the mirrors onto the cardboard and using sellotape. etc. Say that this is easier to do if he or she thinks of a sad (happy/angry/jealous) situation.The conversation may go like this: “It’s me!” “Yes. teeth. hair. eyebrows. angry. As soon as the child’s face changes. ask the child to open the mirror and check for him/herself. join them to one another with the join in the middle like a book. For a mirror book you will need two pieces of cardboard of the same size and two mirrors of the same size.Yes. Have a close look and describe what you see. ask the child whether the reflection in the mirror looks happy. Then ask him or her to make a sad (happy/angry/jealous) face. the child will see him/herself from different angles. After completing the exercise. Ask the child to close the window. mouth. Emphasise that it is important to feel the feelings in our bodies and that our bodies give us signs about how we feel. Older children may describe what happens to their faces when their emotions change.. Then ask the child to change the picture – let the child experiment with making funny faces. 107 . nose. ears.. content. 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. If the child puts his or her nose close to the mirrors and moves the two mirrors towards his or her face. Discuss these questions with the children Feeling chart Feelings are not only experienced in our minds but manifest themselves in the whole body. The mirror book The mirror book is a development of the mirror window. discuss it with the child.” Try to get the child to give you as detailed a description as possible. sad. After the description.
It is also a way to assist a child in finding adequate and helpful ways to deal with negative feelings. 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. 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 . 2. I _______ (activity the child did) to make me feel better when I felt _______ (feeling). Games to deal with aggression and frustration House of cards This games examines how children deal with frustration. 3. Ask the child to complete the sentences below. Say. Let the children work together in groups of three to five. 1.Ask the child to colour in (or draw a circle around) the part of the body in which he or she feels anger.“Where in your body do you feel it when you are really angry?”Or. It helped me a lot/helped me a bit/didn’t help me at all. have one group of children demonstrate the game to the rest of the class.You may want to make notes about how the children react. The last time my body gave me a sign that I was very upset. I can do _______ (activities) to make me feel better.“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. I_______ (activity the child did) to make me feel better. which makes us think about the way we deal with our feelings.
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. wristwatch.one layer on top of another as illustrated in the diagram. 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. Depending on the age of the children. Each team immediately tosses the balls that land on their side of the field back to the other side. Don’t forget to ask the children to collect the paper balls and throw them away after you have finished playing. Give the children ten minutes to try. Get rid of it! This game is good for letting off steam. Age group: 4 years and older Number of players: 4 or more children Materials required: Old newspaper. Each player is given one sheet of newspaper. set the alarm clock for four to eight minutes. which must be squashed into a paper ball. alarm clock or cellphone (mobile phone) with an alarm Duration: Until everyone is exhausted! 109 . Watch the children for signs of frustration. end the exercise and discuss it with the class. • Ask the class for ideas about what they can do when they get frustrated. all children throw their paper balls into the opposite half of the field. On your command. Divide the children into two teams and allocate each team to one half of a field with a line down the middle. The winning team – when time’s up – is the team with the fewest balls on their side of the field. 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.
Either the lion’s team or the hunter’s team will win. The child whose name was called out Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 7 or more children – the more. The game ends when all the impala have been caught. To start the game. but the lion has to get closer to the impala to catch them. The hunter and the lion both chase the impala. then the side with the most impala already caught is the winning team. Hit me if you can This game is a good ice-breaker when children are getting to know one another. Immediately. The impala try to hide in the field. the child holding the newspaper tries to hit the knees of the child whose name was called out. depending on who caught him or her. either trying to hit them with the piece of cloth (the lion) or “shoot”them with the ball (the hunter). The hunter must try to get the ball.Lion and hunter This game is good for letting off steam. First mark the boundaries of a field within which the players must stay. but the ball leaves the field more often and he or she has to fetch it. The hunter has the advantage of the ball being faster. One child stands in the middle of the circle holding a rolled-up newspaper. the group leader calls out the name of one of the children sitting in the circle. Each impala that is hit either by the ball or by the cloth leaves the field and sits on the lion’s side or the hunter’s side. • The rest of the children are the impala. it encourages concentration and quick reactions. The lion has the advantage that the cloth stays where it falls. depending on the side that has the most impala. • Who is going to be the hunter. All the children sit in a circle. The lion must try to get the piece of cloth. Alternatively. the better Materials required: One rolled-up newspaper – see “Observations” below Duration: Short 110 . Make sure that the ground is soft and that there are no obstacles to trip over or sharp stones to hurt the children. 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. the game ends if the hunter hits the lion or the lion hits the hunter.
The child holding the newspaper immediately tries to hit the second child on the knees. The faster the children react. the children who were fighting will be very tense. It helps aggressive children deal with their aggressive behaviour. anger. If there has been a fight in the classroom or during break. explaining that their game is the only time that they may hit one another. It may be valuable to use this game as a starting game for a group discussion about aggression. Don’t take sides. This child then stands in the circle with the newspaper and the other child joins the children in the circle. it is important that only a newspaper is used and not a stick. rage.may only “rescue”him or herself by quickly calling out the name of another child in the circle. anger and how to express negative emotions. Observations Because children may hit very hard with the newspaper. In an environment where hitting or beating children is common (although not allowed) it may be necessary to discuss the game with the children. Make sure that neither child is interrupted by anybody. the faster and more fun the game becomes.) 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. Ask each of the “opponents” to describe briefly what happened. The game continues until one child doesn’t react quickly enough and is hit on the knees. Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: The whole class Materials required: None Duration: Varies 111 . The atmosphere could be very unpleasant and it would be useless trying to teach. Discuss these questions with the children • How do you feel when someone hits you? • Do you think it’s right to hit someone or to be hit by someone? • Why do some children hit others? What feelings make them hit a person? (Helplessness. etc. The rest of the class may also be upset and may have taken sides.
This will have to happen very quickly because tapes rewind very quickly! This usually looks very funny and makes everyone laugh. Everything has to be said by gestures and actions. 112 . Press your imaginary button and call.“freeze”them and ask them how they feel in that situation. but allow the scene to unfold at normal speed.“Slow!”Everyone should slow down.”Stay in total control of the scene.“Fast!” Everyone should speed up. The whole scene will first be played in slow motion (like an action replay on television. Press your imaginary button and call. Each movement has to stop a few centimetres short of the other child.) This imagined control allows you to control what is happening.Tell them to come to the front and play the fight in the classroom. • No one is allowed to touch the other person. Test it on the whole class: ask them to move their arms around. very slowly). When you press the rewind button they will have to walk backwards and do all the movements backwards.“Stop!”Everyone should freeze. It might still be full of anger and rage. press “play”and start the two players off again. Ask the players if they would like to try another scene in which they try out other ways to solve the conflict. Tell them that you will have to rewind the scene (like you rewind a tape). slow them down with your remote control the movements can be extremely slow. (Make sure that the children understand what a remote control is. Establish some rules first. Ask the class for ideas (keep the players frozen). When the two opponents reach the end of the scene. moving very. • Tell the children that you are in charge of an imaginary remote control. press your imaginary button and call. No one may disobey the rules. Ask if they can think of another way to solve their conflict and avoid a fight.“Start. Press your imaginary button and call. When they are back in their starting position.You can even stop the scene. Arrange the starting scene with the two opponents. When you see the players speeding up. Don’t allow any real fighting to start. • There is no talking. Start them in slow motion. leaving the two opponents standing there “frozen”.
As soon as one of the two children thinks they have understood the sentence. What should happen in the scene to make these feelings disappear? You may need to rewind the scene and play it all over again until everyone is happy. 113 Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: The whole class Materials required: None Duration: Varies . This technique is time-consuming and you will probably not have time to return to your lesson plan. ask them how they feel. Each group creates a five-word sentence (younger children need only think of one word).When they reach the end of the scene. about 15 metres apart. If the child understood the sentence correctly. After you have finished. 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. right in the middle. The two listeners join their groups again and two other children are chosen to stand behind the lines and listen. The teacher stands between the two lines. the other group gets a point. let the ex-opponents sit down. Discuss the non-violent problem-solving. 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. his or her group gets a point. One person from each group tells the teacher the sentence that the group has chosen. If the child misunderstood the sentence. If there are still negative feelings. One child from each group stands behind the opposite group. Each group stands in a line. so it will be difficult for the children behind the lines to understand their sentences. When you give a sign. both groups start shouting their sentence from the child from their group who is standing behind the opposite group. Both groups are shouting at the same time. the child must run to the teacher to report the sentence. talk about what can be done to solve the problem. The screaming game This is a game that helps to relieve tension. Ask the class what happened.
OK. If necessary.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 Some children will find this difficult and will keep fidgeting. this would be even better. The child who bumped into the fish must keep quiet too. I want you to be very quiet now. It helps children to relax. saying. you do not wish to see anybody move. Time out If the whole class is restless. All the other children move around and when they bump into each other they say.“You’re the fish!”into the ear of one of the children.You may want to add a breathing exercise at this stage. (It is easier to use a school hall or a fenced playground where there is no furniture in the way.“Sara. address them by name. Quietly but firmly. 114 . The game ends when every child is silent. Ask them to close their eyes and just lie silently until you tell them to sit up.You may instead want to blindfold the children. Just rest your head on your hands. Tell the children to sit down. Ask the children to clear their desks and make sure that each child has enough space for himself or herself. well done. All the children close their eyes and move around the room. let the whole class take time out. Try to keep your feet still. Then tell the children to open their eyes and sit up.) Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: The whole class Materials required: None Duration: Varies The teacher whispers. Ask them to cross their arms on their desks and put their heads on their arms. “Fish!”until they meet a child who keeps quiet. tell them that you want them to lie quite still. This means that this child must stay silent.” If you can play some quiet music. Tell them that you do not expect them to do anything but to keep very quiet.
They need to learn to respect other people’s thoughts and feelings.Games for help-seeking. Age group: 5 years and older Number of players: 2 or more children Materials required: Paper. Add interest by having the children hold one another’s ears or feet instead of holding hands. to work with other people and to co-operate in a group while retaining their unique individuality. open a bottle. On the other hand. Siamese twins The children work in pairs. 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 . or place an arm around the waist or shoulder of their partners so that they each have one free hand to use. 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. crayons. wishes and thoughts. sellotape. a short piece of rope or some material. They hold one hand. Small children will probably find it impossible to tie a shoelace. they need to learn to be assertive enough to express their own feelings. The following exercises help children to respect other people. Together. they must complete various tasks: carry a bucket. autonomy and awareness Children have to learn how to function in groups. tie a shoelace.
The children will need to concentrate and anticipate what their partner is going to do next. 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. Encourage them to discuss the questions below. Observe what happens. Suggest something straightforward to start with. • 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. The children should hold their other hands behind their backs. One child starts to move his or her hands and the other should try to copy the movements.Siamese twins for older children Use the sellotape to stick the paper to the wall or the floor. Both children should hold the same pen. Their hands should not touch. Make sure that both children express their opinions. 116 . like a house or a car. working in pairs Materials required: None Duration: Varies The children stand facing each other. palms facing each other. let them report back on how they felt. Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 2 or more children. They hold their hands in front of them. Have two children stand beside one another and then tie their adjacent hands together. Now ask them to use the joined hands to draw a picture of something. like a mirror image. at a distance of approximately 10 cm.
Discuss these questions with the children • How was working in threes different from working in pairs? • If it was more difficult. Standing one behind the other. On your signal. Observe what changes when both hands are moved. the pairs form a circle. both facing the middle of the circle. Children should stand in a triangle. their hands may not touch. each one holding his or her hands out towards the other children in the group. 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. he or she must try to run to the person who winked. 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. 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. since the partners standing in the outer circle must try to keep the partner standing in front. The winking is done as secretly as possible. Step 2 Form groups of three. Let the children try this exercise for a while. the children start to move their hands. As soon as a child has been winked at. an uneven number Materials required: None Duration: Short Discuss these questions with the children • How did you feel when someone chose you? • How did you feel when you were held back? • How did you feel when your partner ran away from you? • How did you feel when you managed to get a new partner? . 117 Age group: 6 years and older Number of players: 9 or more children. before taking a rest to discuss the questions below. once again approximately 10 cm apart.Let the children try this for some time. but one child remains alone. They must discover how best to follow in different directions and to accommodate their partners. The partner at the back throws his or her arms around the partner in front to prevent the child from getting away. Once again. The children standing at the back hold their hands behind their backs.
Each flea may jump ten times. The fleas are allowed to jump away. Games to see how feelings appear physically Catching fleas One child plays the flea catcher and all the others are fleas. The new flea has ten jumps to use and the game begins again. If a partner has been stolen away.The children at the back may not follow if their partner runs to the winker. The fleas squat on the ground and make chirping sounds. 1 observer Materials required: A cloth to use as a blindfold. If the flea catcher correctly identifies the flea. the flea catcher has to identify the flea by gently touching his or her face. working in pairs Materials required: None Duration: Short 118 . they swop roles and the flea becomes the flea catcher. it is then the turn of the partner left behind to wink in order to steal another child. The children agree who will be the camera and who will be the photographer. The camera closes his or her eyes and the photographer leads the “blind”camera around until he or she finds an interesting subject. The flea catcher is blindfolded and tries to catch the fleas. The observer must make sure that the blindfolded flea catcher doesn’t hurt him or herself or leave the premises. Each child must be very attentive and maintain eye contact with the child who has no partner. the flea may not jump any more. but if a flea uses up all of its ten jumps. Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 2 or more children. accurate perception and visual focusing. 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. Age group: 7 years and older Number of players: 5 or more children. When the flea hunter catches a flea or touches a flea by accident.
opens its eyes. This version can only be played with children who are fluent readers. what he or she saw. The child pretending to be the camera must try to produce inner pictures of what he or she sees. In the beginning you may want to allow both children to keep their eyes open and watch what is happening. The receiving child must concentrate and combine the letters in his or her head to form a word. Age group: Children who can read Number of players: 2 Materials required: None Duration: Short 119 .The photographer adjusts the camera and. trying to observe as much as possible. with the help of the inner pictures. Then the two children swop roles and the game is repeated. the child who is writing may decide to write a whole word. After a few moments. One child uses an index finger or a twig to gently “write”a letter on the palm of the other child’s hand. one letter after another. the camera and the photographer sit down and the child who played the camera describes. the shutter closes (the camera’s eyes close) and the camera is led to a new subject. The second child has to feel what the first child has written. 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. To make it more difficult. After taking pictures of three to five subjects. the camera looks closely at the subject. Without moving his or her head. The same process is repeated. 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. awareness of bodily feelings.) • 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.
letters or numbers with bigger children. The shape could be a square. so that each child faces the back of the child in front of him or her. The other children follow suit. 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. No one may talk.“And now we all feel the sun rising and shining gently on our backs. Age group: 5 years and older – but this game doesn’t work with adolescents! Number of players: 6 or more children Materials required: None Duration: Short 120 . awareness of bodily feelings and relaxation. The game goes on until it reaches the front of the line. It helps the children to follow this game if you participate as group leader. you draw a shape with your index finger on the back of the last child in the line. awareness of bodily feelings. The children line up and form a circle. This helps to prevent the secret message from being revealed before reaching its goal. The children stand in a long line. The group leader starts the game by saying.Secret messages The aim of this game is to encourage concentration. so that everybody is gently massaging the child in front of him or her while having his or her own shoulders massaged as well. a circle or a triangle with smaller children. As group leader.) Each child places his or her hands on the shoulders of the child in front of him or her. The child must concentrate.”while gently massaging the shoulders of the child in front of him or her. (The group leader is part of the circle as well. The children should concentrate on their bodies.
Other children will love the game since it allows them to relax and be active and focused at the same time.“Suddenly big clouds appear in the sky.”(Making whooshing sounds and stroking firmly left to right.”(Tap more gently.) “And more lightning!”(Draw another line. 121 .Then the group leader continues. Some children may feel uncomfortable since the game requires a lot of bodily contact.) “And rain!”(Tap.” (Tapping harder and faster.“and suddenly it stops.”(tap with fingertips only). the sun comes out. touch should be restricted to the shoulders and the upper part of the back.”(Tapping firmly with all fingers.) “Then suddenly there is a huge flash of lightning!”(Draw a line on the child’s back with your finger.) “And more thunder!”(Another clap.”(Stroke the shoulders of the child in front of you very strongly.) “And softer.) Group leader: “And the rain grew harder and harder.” (Tapping gently on the shoulders of the child in front of you.) Comments When playing this game.) “And suddenly the rain grows softer.) All children follow suit. quietly. It blows the clouds away. Children who don’t want to participate should not be forced to do so.” (Massage the child’s back gently.) “And still harder!”(Tapping hard and fast. Group leader: “And suddenly it starts to rain very gently.) “And more and more.) “And slowly.) “And then a strong wind blows. and back again.) “And a loud roar of thunder!”(Gently clap with both hands on the child’s back.”(Pause.
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.
Ask the adolescents to imagine that they are newspaper reporters and that they have to compile a report on one of the headlines. The stories can be shared later on with the whole group and can be used as a basis for a group discussion. Often they are reluctant to talk about their own feelings and try to keep emotionally distressing memories at a distance. like “School fees for AIDS Orphans”. The next step is to distribute the original article that was attached to the headline. To make them reflect on their situation and express themselves. it helps find ways to engage in the topic without the discussion becoming too personal. In order to make it more interesting for the reader. One method worth trying is the journalist’s report. Have several headlines prepared and spread them out so that everyone can see them. Invite the adolescents to choose one of the headlines that interests them most and ask them to compile the story.Journalist’s report Older children may resent focusing on conflict situations that have to do with their own lives. Collect headlines from newspapers referring to difficult situations. 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 . they should invent a story about a child facing a situation that relates to the headline. Ask them to compare their story with the original article.
Some children are tall. Hi! I am Nangula! I am 8 years old. I go to school in Katutura. After drawing your picture. There are 35 children in my class. others have long hair. Each of one of us is special. This is what I look like. 126 . Here you see a picture of me. Next to my picture you’ll find an empty box.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 all look different. I’m wearing my favourite shirt. I am in Grade 3. some children are light in complexion. my sister Maggie and my brothers Benjamin and Harry. but we are all different. We are all in one class. Some children are big and others are small. I live in Katutura in Windhoek with my granny. That’s for you to paste or draw a picture of yourself. others are short. how about writing a short story about yourself? Don’t forget to say what’s special about you. Some children have short hair. Some children have dark skin.
Not only do we look different. 127 . but we each have different strengths and skills. Some things I can do better than Freddy. Freddy can do some things better than I can. Sometimes it’s good to know you’re not the best. Rebecca can do some things better than either of us. 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.Worksheet 2 The aim of this game is to build self-esteem by acknowledging skills and capabilities (“I can…”) Here you see me with some of my friends. I am good at climbing trees. Rebecca and Freddy can help me and I can help Freddy and Rebecca. I am proud to be a member of the school soccer team! I know how to knit. I am good at dancing. Here you can write what you are good at: I can do some things better than Freddy. And I am good at playing soccer. Together. I am proud of the things I can do! I am good at Maths. I am good at reading! And I can ride a bicycle. But some things Rebecca is best at. I’m the fastest runner in my school. I am also good at making up stories. People like to listen to my stories! I am a good runner. I can draw well. I can count and subtract. I even can invent dances on my own.
feels and acts differently. What kind of person are you? Which things would you use to describe yourself? You can pick them from the list below. She is fun to be with. honest. My friend Rebecca is a gentle and quiet person. Not only on the outside but also inside. But you can also add others we haven’t thought of before. clever. musical. Each one of us thinks. brave. This makes us special. We call this “personality”. He is a good friend and a very helpful person. responsible. sensitive. active. Each one of us has a different personality. He is full of ideas. intelligent. I love to invent things. thoughtful.Worksheet 3 Even if we are a team and we are good at different things. understanding. She is very thoughtful. And I try to be very honest. gentle. kind. I am very friendly. strong. For example: I am a very creative person. My friend Freddy is a very energetic person. knowledgeable. curious. respectful. loving. a good listener. a good friend. humorous. full of ideas. sporty 128 . I am also a_____________person. helpful. but also very curious and inventive. creative. we are still different from one another. energetic. quiet. friendly. hardworking. I am a ______________ person. faithful. fun.
You won’t guess what it is! It is a photograph of her mother. Do you have special things that are important to you? It is important to have special things in our lives. Nangula keeps this photograph hidden beneath her mattress. But the best thing in my life is my granny! People have things that make them happy and that help them to enjoy their lives. but the puppy is very important to Harry. Other people have things that are very important to them and that they need to survive. and who help us. Nangula loves her schoolbooks because she loves to read and write. The photograph of her mother is very important to Nangula. Each time she misses her mum. I have my good friend Rebecca. I have a house to live in. has a sewing machine. for example. Nangula’s brother.Worksheet 4 “I have…” I have many things to be happy about. I have a sister and two brothers. This makes her feel better. 129 . Nangula has her schoolbooks. like a certificate showing how well they did at school. Harry can’t think of a better friend than his puppy. The sewing machine is important because Granny uses it to make clothes that she sells at the market to earn money. Nangula’s granny. Harry. Nangula has Rebecca – she tells Rebecca all her secrets. She knows that they are expensive. I have a bed to sleep in. Nangula doesn’t like the puppy. Nangula has a list of people she likes and a list of people who help her. but more importantly. so that nothing can happen to it. Nangula looks at the picture. has a puppy. Nangula has something else that is very important to her. And she has Freddy – he protects her and helps her with her homework. She has Maggie – Maggie shares her clothes with Nangula. but it is more important to have people whom we love and trust. Some people have things they are proud of.
There is the nurse at the clinic who helps Nangula when she has to collect Granny’s medicine. Nangula has Mrs Kakona – she is her teacher and she helps Nangula when she has problems at school. Rebecca’s mum always sees when Nangula is sad. And there is Mrs Smith. Mrs Smith is a very good friend. Mrs Smith asks Nangula why she looks so sad. And Nangula has Ms Shikongo who is the social worker. 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 . And Nangula has Granny. Sometimes when Nangula misses her own mum. she can go and visit Rebecca’s mum. even though she is Rebecca’s mum. She tells Nangula stories about her own mum.She has her brother Harry – he likes to hug her. 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. She likes Nangula very much. She listens to her.
The reaction is very intense. Complicated grief Complicated grief refers to grief and mourning reactions that can’t be expressed. The reaction lasts for a long time and does not change in its intensity. delinquent or antisocial behaviour and physical sickness.7 Some children may experience extreme reactions to grief. In other children. rather than subsiding (slowly going away). The child does not seem to have inner resources or protective mechanisms. the normal stress and grief reactions described in Chapters 4 and 5 may become more intense and prolonged as time passes. Although the child may accept that the parent has died. These are signs that the child needs specialised help. the child will probably need more specialised help than caregivers and teachers can offer. 131 . How do you know when a reaction is extreme? These are the characteristics of severe or extreme reactions. If you think that the child’s reaction is severe. It may become chronic (extremely severe) and lead to behaviour changes. 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. This is known as “prolonged emotional numbing” because the whole grieving process freezes and the child is unable to experience feelings. Pay particular attention to the following extreme reactions: complicated grief. severe depression. The child’s behaviour changes dramatically.
Staying out all night. Delinquent or anti-social behaviour Delinquent or anti-social behaviour varies from child to child. deliberately causing hurt to his or her own body. pulling out his or her own hair. Children affected by this withdraw from others and become isolated.Severe depression A child suffering from severe depression feels sad all the time and cries a lot. If you see a child in your care doing one or more of the following things. can’t concentrate and can’t relax. 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. Behaving sexually promiscuously (“sleeping around”) or engaging in prostitution (having sex for money). The intrusive images affect the child’s life so severely that the child can’t do the things he or she usually does and can’t fulfil normal tasks. or staying away from home for several days in a row. the child can’t cope with the memories. The child seems to withdraw from all activities. 132 . destroying objects that were formerly precious to him or her. may talk a lot about wanting to die and has suicidal thoughts (thinks about killing himself or herself). Breaking into houses and stealing. it would be wise to seek specialised help. Disturbing intrusive memories When unhappy memories crash into a child’s mind too often. The child may refuse to eat and lose a lot of weight. With some children. Remember that for some children this is the only way that they can earn some money. Missing a lot of school. the fear becomes so irrational (lacking in reason) and so great that it leads to irrational anxiety and recurring panic attacks. The child feels tired all day long. The child says over and over again that he or she wants to be where the deceased parent is. The child may show self-destructive and auto-aggressive behaviour like cutting himself or herself. 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).
The resulting lack of education makes it more difficult for them to improve their situation in life. Neglect can be educational. but you may notice some of the signs or symptoms that have been described in this chapter. even within the limits of what the household can afford. especially those who are vulnerable. Physical complaints As explained earlier in this book. Girls are especially at risk. A child who is neglected in this way does not go to school or is not taught the basics of reading and writing. 133 . Child abuse and neglect Sometimes children. This is more likely in situations in which a child’s caregiver is overwhelmed and the child’s needs do not receive enough attention. If the child feels that you are being critical. It is important for you to make the child realise that you are not criticising his or her behaviour. If psychosomatic illnesses carry on for a long time. shelter or medical care. fighting for survival with little chance of going to school. psychosomatic aches and pains are physical complaints for which a doctor can find no medical reason. What is neglect? Neglect means that the child’s basic needs are not properly cared for. Neglect can be physical. but boys may also be abused or neglected. gluesniffing or smoking. Signs of substance abuse include restlessness.Showing signs of substance abuse – this could be alcohol. become subject to abuse or neglect. A child is physically neglected when he or she is not properly looked after: the child doesn’t receive food. you need to take the child to a childcare specialist (psychologist) so that the child can get professional help. you need to speak to the child and explain that you have noticed he or she is going through a difficult time. your help may be refused. Many neglected and abandoned children end up as “street children”. 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. being unable to sleep and slurred speech. What can you do to help? If you know of a child who is experiencing these severe problems. drugs. Sometimes the child will not tell you that he or she is being abused or neglected.
Signs of children in need of care Signs of malnutrition Reddish-looking. but the children are neglected as a result of the situation at home. Children affected by HIV and AIDS often have to take on responsibilities that would normally be shouldered by their older brothers and sisters. or their parents. mouth or on the legs Swollen belly Diarrhoea Vomiting Pus in the child’s ears Runny nose Sore. 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. 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. A child who is emotionally neglected does not enjoy a caring. Circumstances sometimes make it difficult for children to attend school – they may live far away from the nearest school. Neglect is a difficult form of abuse to recognise. irritated-looking eyes Behavioural signs: Withdrawal Sadness Crying Increased anxiety Aggressive or delinquent behaviour 134 . 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. nurturing home environment or may be exposed to violence at home. It is often clear that parents do not intentionally neglect their children.Neglect can also be emotional.
“I didn’t mean to hurt him (or her). choking or stabbing. shaking. anus or vagina as well as inserting objects into the child’s mouth. biting.Clinging Trying to please everyone Using abusive language and swear words.” 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. even if the person who hurt the child tells you. burning. What physical signs may idicate sexual abuse? Bruises (especially in the genital areas and on the thighs. Such injuries are considered abuse. hitting. indecent exposure (another person revealing his or her sexual body parts to a child). beating. but also anywhere on the body) 135 . Whether the person meant to hurt the child is not important. This ranges from small bruises to broken bones or even death. penetration (inserting the penis into the child’s mouth. anus or vagina). throwing. vocabulary that is not appropriate for the child’s age What is physical abuse? Physical abuse is when the child’s body is hurt. 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.
If a “caregiver” always refuses to be loving and affectionate. or refuses to support or guide the child. usually with other children (usually with younger children) A sudden increase in gifts or money Absenteeism from school Decreased school performance Secretive behaviour Sexually abused children may act or speak in a way that shows that they have sexual knowledge that is unusual for children of their age. needing to wash him or herself over and over Attention-seeking behaviour Frequent drawing or acting-out of sexual scenes Playing sexual games (fondling). 136 . you could say that the child is emotionally abused. but we can say that any repeated behaviour that harms a child’s emotional development. These rewards may include money.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. If a child is criticised all the time. some of them become promiscuous (have sexual intercourse with many people) because they believe that their bodies are for others to use. repeatedly threatened or pushed away. Abused children learn that sexual behaviour is a good way to get attention and rewards. What is emotional abuse? Emotional abuse covers many different behaviours. 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. 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). is abusive. food or clothing. As abused children move towards young adulthood.
children usually need the help of a specialist in order to cope with their thoughts and reactions to the abuse. Children have the right to be valued and supported. 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. Children affected by HIV and AIDS are even more vulnerable. do not force him or her to do so. 137 . They are vulnerable to adults who promise to help them but who request sexual acts in exchange for the help. Remember that children often know the people that abuse them.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. Usually the abuser is known to the child and very often comes from the same family as the child or is a person in authority. like a teacher or a priest. It is critically important that child abuse cases are reported. Such people are commonly known as “sugar daddies”. Being a victim of child abuse has severe long-term consequences and can still have an impact on the person as an adult. What can we do to prevent abuse? Make sure that each child has his or her own place to sleep. Children who are orphaned often lack the means to support themselves and their families. After being abused. Signs of possible emotional abuse A decrease in self-esteem and self-respect Feelings of inadequacy Poor school performance Aggression Is there a type of child who may suffer abuse or neglect? No. Child abuse is a very serious offence and perpetrators need to be reported and dealt with appropriately. If a child refuses to stay alone with a certain person. Who abuses children? There is no “typical”child abuser.
Good secrets are OK to keep. Talk about safe places where children can find help and support from people who will not hurt them.“I am listening to you. Childhood is a very important learning time for children. the listener. It is important for children to learn the difference between good secrets and bad secrets. but you need to talk about the emotional and physical consequences for the child and the reason why men like these offer their help. are comfortable with. Talking to children about abuse In this chapter we have looked at very basic definitions of child abuse and neglect. Talk with your child about things that happen in his or her life. 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. Most children are very trusting. listen to what the child has to say and treat the information seriously. The issue of “sugar daddies”must be discussed with children. Bear in mind that the child will only reveal as much information as she or he feels that you.Make time for your child. One of these rights is the right to feel safe. Bad secrets need to be told to someone who can help. Take time to listen. they don’t have rights. Ask the child what he or she did at school and after school. Can we talk about it in half an hour (choose a time that suits you both). Try to avoid making judgmental comments or 138 . say to the child. Another is the right to say “No!”when someone touches him or her in a way that makes the child feel uncomfortable. Teach your child about feelings: which feelings are OK and which feelings are not OK. 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. Get to know your child’s friends and your child’s teachers. If you are busy doing something that cannot wait. Show an interest in what your child is doing. If a child tells you that he or she has been abused. We should talk about this. Gifts and support may be very tempting for a child. Children must be made to understand that men like this want to harm the child. In the same way. Helping children to live through such difficult experiences and encouraging their resilience often demands more than ordinary caregivers are able to offer. Children need to understand that rights are things that they are allowed to do and no one may stop them from doing them. not help him or her. Teach your child that his or her body belongs to him or her alone. Sometimes children think that because they are “just”children. It is an important time for children to learn to be confident and assertive.
It may be that you know the person who is abusing the child. 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. It is best to find specialist help for the child. It may become necessary to discuss this with the child. you need to say that it is the fault of the perpetrator and that the child has no reason to feel guilty or ashamed. The 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. This makes it difficult for you to know what to do. If you notice such changes. but you may notice that their behaviour or reactions change (as discussed earlier). It is important for the child to understand that although the person may be likeable. Abuse is always the fault of the perpetrator. It is important for the child to feel accepted and respected in whatever he or she tells you. Important points to remember The child may not want to talk about the abuse. Once again. The perpetrator thus tries to transfer the responsibility for the abuse on to the child. Tell the child that you don’t blame him or her. saying that something terrible will happen if the child talks about it. 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 child may want to protect the perpetrator – this often happens when the child has been abused by a family member. he or she still likes the person and does not want to lose him or her. dirty and guilty to talk about it. An abused child will need help for a long time and it is best for this help to come from a person who has specialised experience. Recognising these signs doesn’t necessarily mean that the child has been abused. Although the child understands that the perpetrator did something terrible. Make sure the child understands that it is the perpetrator’s fault and that the perpetrator needs to be punished! Children who have been abused may feel too ashamed. Accepting that a child has been abused is not always easy for the person that the child talks to. This is quite normal and may be for different reasons: The perpetrator (the abuser) may have threatened 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 .strongly emotional remarks even though you may find it difficult. Very often children do not have the vocabulary to describe what happened to them. pay close attention. what that person did was wrong. but there is a risk and you need to investigate it carefully.
Some countries have women or child protection units. Child abuse and HIV/AIDS As if abuse wasn’t hard enough to deal with. 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. Many children like this are weighed down by the responsibility of looking after brothers and sisters. preferably someone who has been trained to deal with rape. The child may be able to think of no other way to earn money. We need to listen very carefully and to find out precisely what the child is referring to.them. What should you do if a child has been raped? Take the following steps immediately: Contact the police. the AIDS pandemic adds to the dangers of child abuse and neglect. It is important to act quickly.) This medicine helps to stop the HIV from entering blood cells if it is taken correctly. This sort of situation needs you as the caregiver to be very sensitive when talking to the child. Don’t try to take matters into your own hands. (PEP is an anti-retroviral medicine. Trained police. 140 . don’t allow the child to wash. but go to the police immediately. This greatly increases the chances of the child being infected by HIV. Children who are orphaned or impoverished (have no money) are more likely to turn to sex work in order to provide an income for themselves and for their dependants. A social worker will follow up the case and arrange for the child to be taken for a medical examination. If a child is HIV negative. hospitals or support groups can provide more information about this. If the rape has just taken place. Sometimes children like this don’t understand why their mother or father has died. The social worker will provide ongoing support throughout the investigation and the trial proceedings. Being able to earn money to look after their brothers and sisters may give them a feeling of control and achievement. Sometimes it helps if you ask the child to draw a picture of what happened. Find out whether a social worker will be available.
child development experts and religious leaders from all over the world. those governments must make sure that the rights mentioned in the convention are upheld in their countries. social workers. This makes children more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. The convention defines children as people under the age of 18. 141 . and provide guidance on how it can be used in conjunction with the laws of individual countries by local community leaders. health specialists. This is often referred to as a “Bill of Rights”for children. Thus it is very important for children. educators and volunteers to advocate accordingly for the rights of children in their own areas. Once a government agrees to support a convention by signing it. One hundred and ninety-one governments have signed the treaty. lawyers. just like other human beings: their rights are not an option or a favour. it becomes the same as law in that country.8 Children have rights. The document was drawn up over a 10-year period and was negotiated by governments.) Constitution which defines children’s rights in that country. They have rights. In other words. the United Nations (UN) drew up a treaty called the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Because it was so broadly based. community leaders and teachers to know about children’s rights. In this chapter we will discuss this Convention. but they are often not aware of their rights. caregivers. Each country has its own laws and (in many cases. human rights advocates. It says that children are neither the property of their parents nor are they helpless objects of charity. Background to international children’s rights In 1989. The only African member of the UN which did not sign the treaty was Somalia as it had no recognised government. It describes a new vision of children who now have legally binding rights. it reflects the main legal systems of the world. educators. non-governmental organisations. Most countries in Africa are also signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It also recognises the importance of tradition and cultural values for the protection and harmonious development of the child.
(“A child’s life must not only be saved. exploitation and violence. social and political rights of children. Have these rights been upheld? In 2002 the UN held a special international conference on children. at which the nations of the world committed themselves to a series of goals to improve the situation of children and young people. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said much work had been accomplished but much still remained to do.”) Protection rights which safeguard children against harm and address the needs of children in especially difficult circumstances – for example those children who are abused.” A plan of action was adopted. There are four priorities for children in the coming decade: promoting healthy lives. children without families and children with disabilities. combating HIV/AIDS. providing quality education.What it does is provide the framework for the protection and promotion of basic human right for all children. Almost one in five of you is not attending school … We. the grown-ups. play and cultural activities. Types of children’s rights The rights can be grouped into four categories: Survival rights which include adequate living standards and essential health care. It covers the civil. and the right to play an active role in society.“A World Fit for Children”. 142 . Developmental rights which include the rights to education. One in four of you has not been immunised against any disease. the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Children. Opening the General Assembly. such as the right of children to be heard on matters affecting their own lives. protecting against abuse. economic. all the time. it must be worth living. neglected or exploited – as well as children with special needs. Participation rights which relate to self-determination. grow and enjoy good mental and physical health. adults had failed children deplorably.“One in three of you has suffered from malnutrition before you turned five years old. Among its pledges were to protect children and their families from “the devastating impact”of HIV/AIDS. he said. The rights focus on the child’s rights to live. must reverse this list of failures. Unfortunately.
the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration. particularly in the areas of safety and health. What are some of the principles which must be upheld? Put children first. temporarily or permanently. Protect and report children in need. followed up and taken to court where appropriate. injury or abuse (including sexual abuse). religious. It is not unlikely that children affected by HIV/AIDS may have other bodies make decisions about their lives. These views should be listened to.” This is of particular importance in the case of children who have suffered the loss of one or more parents.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. whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions. thought should be given to placing the child in the same ethnic. services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children have to conform with certain standards. administrative authorities or legislative bodies. to practise their own religion and use their own language. They need to be protected from mental or physical violence. adoption. cultural and linguistic background. they are bound to uphold the principles of the treaty. It also means that children have to be given the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting him or her. with due weight being given in accordance with the age and maturity of the child. Listen to children. 143 . Each of us has the duty to act when we suspect that a child may be in need of care or protection. These children should be entitled to special State protection and assistance. they still need to be protected. The convention states: “In all actions concerning children. Supervision has to be competent. Even if they don’t.Your country should have ways of identifying and reporting children who have been maltreated. Those involved must assure the child. There must be enough staff and suitable staff. maltreatment or exploitation. suitable institutions or kafalah of Islamic law. Children with one or more parent with HIV/AIDS face having to live without their natural parents. Children have a right to enjoy their own culture. These cases must be investigated. When decisions are made about the child’s future. that he or she has the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting him or her. courts of law. This could be in the form of foster families. neglect. Even if children are in the care of an adult. It also means that institutions. Care for children without parents. who is capable of forming his or her own views.
What you can do People who know their rights are better able to claim them. schools and community groups to create grass-roots support for children’s rights. such as in Namibia. Ethiopia. The stigma of HIV/AIDS means children with infected parents or who are infected themselves are frequently subject to discriminatory treatment. Children’s rights may be enshrined in the constitution. identifying goals to be achieved for children’s rights. Even if children can no longer afford school. Rwanda has created the National Assembly for Child Rights. Mozambique has an Agenda for Action. No child shall be economically exploited. It could be separate legislation such as the ratification in Mozambique of the landmine-ban convention.Right to education. Madagascar has established the Independent Commission on Human Rights and South Africa has established the Child Rights Committee. Or it could be plans of action. whether physically. you can boost awareness in your community. If you have a computer. When children are affected by the trauma of having ill and dying parents. Uganda has developed subnational plans to guide actions at municipal level to improve the situation of children. 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. or if they have HIV/AIDS themselves. leisure and play. mentally. a review of the Child Care Act in South Africa or the passage of the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act of 1998 in Tanzania. a statutory body of the South African Human Rights Commission. Children have a right to rest. working with churches. In South Africa. interferes with their education or harms them in any way. spiritually or socially. Promoting the Convention on the Rights of the Child and making its provisions widely known are essential steps to realising children’s rights. No child should be discriminated against. 144 . the convention states that primary education should be compulsory and free to all. Find out what legislation exists in your country. sometimes schooling can suffer. Besides finding out about legislation. the National Programme of Action is designed to achieve co-ordination of governmental and non-governmental plans in favour of children. The State is obliged to take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of drop-out rates.org/crc. Often children with sick parents or who are orphaned find themselves trying to earn a living. South Africa and in the draft constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.unicef. you can look at the Unicef (United Nations Children’s Fund) website http://www. They have a right to protection from any work which is hazardous.
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