In an exclusive interview with Prevenir, the president of the European network of providers of the child and director of the National Program of recurring for parents and children in conflict, doctorate in psychology, teaches to deal with situations of illness, hospitalization, death, bullying Or divorce, to protect the Children’s Mental Health.
First, it is necessary to make a kind of collective mental hygiene. Those who legislate and urbanize should seek to create conditions so that there are spaces for the cohabitation of the elderly and children. Magazines and newspapers should not include ads promoting anything that could be harmful. An example of this is the proliferation of hypocaloric recipes, which in extreme cases can lead to anorexia. There has to be a society that does not promote increased stress among children.
You must know how to prepare the children for their parents’ divorce. Some of them turn out to be very aggressive for them. Care must also be taken with the tremendous permissiveness that we currently have with regard to young people’s use of alcohol and drugs. These are issues of collective mental health.
What should parents do to help the child achieve this positive mental health?
We must promote more healthy activities, such as the practice of sport and the need to have escape points. We need to be more assertive about these issues.
One of the determinants of this positive mental health is the ability of children and young people to deal with situations such as illness, separation of parents, bullying, the death of friends and family … Talk about this in your book. What advice do you give parents to prepare early on for children to deal with such problems?
All these situations can be equated with poison. If it is not enough, it does not matter. It depends on the dose and how children are prepared to deal with these problems from a young age. In the case of bullying, parents should encourage the child to be aware that if he is suffering from such a problem on his skin, let him say so that he does not repress it and later become an aggressor as well.
In these situations, parents should do everything in their power to be cowardly and quiet. When it comes to dealing with situations of death or illness, just do what my book says. Parents should read it and try to put the advice that I put into practice. They do not have to do exactly what my book says or what other authors say, but they must realize the behavioural philosophies that are described therein and act accordingly.
In the case of a child who sees their pet die, for example, they need to have the notion that it is so because it is their dog. The same goes for the grandparents. There are effective ties between the child and his family, so he must prepare it from a young age for the idea that they will one day die and they will not see them. These kinds of scams are not easy to deal with but it is inevitable that children will suffer. We know that time does not erase everything but it helps.
And how should children cope with other illness situations?
In the case of transient illness, you should always explain to your child what it has and what healing process it will take. Such explanations must, however, be appropriate to their age and maturity. During this process, the child should always feel protected, cared for and protected in an environment of trust and calm. As tired, stressed, and dejected as you are, try not to convey these feelings to your child.
In situations of chronic illness, previous advice is of even greater importance. On return to normal life, after treatment or surgery, act normally and alert your child’s friends to the limitations that the illness and their recovery requirements. Fear of being rejected may lead the child to want to make greater efforts than those who are allowed. Be vigilant.
In situations of a sickness of loved ones, explain to them, without losing the notion of their age and maturity, the illness that the family member has. It is important for the child to see what is happening and become familiar with new words that will become part of the vocabulary there, such as medical terms such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
t is important, at this stage, to maintain an active dialogue, responding to the doubts it may have and preparing it, even for death, if that is the outcome. It is vital that she does not feel guilty that her relative is ill. In situations of child disability, you should endeavour to accept her limitations with courage and optimism.
It is also important in these cases for her to feel supported by family, friends, schoolmates and teachers. This incapacity should not serve as an excuse for excessive permissiveness. In educational terms, you should continue to act as if she did not suffer from this problem. The loss of a pet can be traumatic for the child.
In case the mascot is very old or sick, prepare it in due time for the inevitable outcome. If your child is old enough or old enough to understand it, explain the mechanisms of ageing and death simply and realistically. Try to comfort him during the days following his death, be patient and do not press him. Many children deal early with the death of their grandparents or other close family members.
If this is not sudden, you should talk to the child in the days ahead, in a calm manner and without manifesting intense emotions. Avoiding the topic or ignoring it is not good policy. It is also important that children can say goodbye to their loved ones. If you take your child to the hospital to see a family member hospitalized, you should first explain what you will find and indicate the type of behaviour you should not have.
What should be done to prepare the children to deal with a family death situation?
The funeral of a loved one is always a complicated time. In these situations, you should explain to the children that this is a homage ceremony. Depending on your age, you should consider whether your child should go to the funeral. If the child wants to go, he should not stop her, but he should not let her see the body of the deceased. The minimum age to accompany the funeral ceremonies is, however, nine years. During this process, you should try to reassure her and keep the routine as unalterable as possible.
What about the divorce of the parents?
In the case of separation or divorce from the parents, you must inform the child as soon as the decision is made. It is necessary to explain to them immediately that it is a decision of the two, of which she has no fault at all. Unnecessary suffering should be avoided, so disputes, disagreements and discussions should never occur in front of the child. Speaking ill of one another in front of children or using them as a throwing weapon in marital disputes are other behaviours to avoid.
Accidents, catastrophes, fires, poverty, terrorism, bullying … The list of painful experiences that children may have to deal with are many. The information you receive from the media, friends and teachers is likely to scare you.
You should, therefore, explain to him that there are situations that sometimes do not go well and that it is no one’s fault. Teach her to defend herself and to act in these situations. If you have to report the news of a traumatic event, always tell the truth.
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