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Growing Seasons

Parent Guide By Jean Brunson

Communications should be addressed to: Turning Point Ministries, Inc. P. O. Box 22127 Chattanooga, TN 37422-2127 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2001 by Turning Point Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved.

All rights are reserved. No part of the material protected by this copyright notice may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the Turning Point Ministries, Inc. ISBN 1-58119-048-4

About the Author Layout by Louise Lee Cover by Graphic Advertising

Jean Brunson has earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Welfare from Arizona State University and a Master of Science degree in Counseling from the University of Memphis. She has served Central Church in Memphis, Tennessee, in the area of pastoral counseling for over 10 years. During this span of time, she has coordinated children’s support groups. She developed Growing Seasons, a curriculum for children who have suffered a loss due to death or divorce.

Parent Guide: Growing Seasons, Turning Point, P. O. Box 22127, Chattanooga, TN 37422-2127


Growing Seasons Parent Guide C

ontents Page

PARENT INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . PARENT ORIENTATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . INTRODUCTION TO GROWING SEASONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . GOAL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . GRIEF . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . MAGICAL THINKING . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . HOW DO CHILDREN DEAL WITH GRIEF? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . WHAT CAN A PARENT DO TO HELP . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . GUIDELINES FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED A LOSS . . . . GUIDELINES THAT APPLY TO DIVORCE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . GUIDELINES THAT APPLY TO DEATH OF A PARENT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . GROUP TIME . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . PARENT PREPARATION—SESSION 1: A New Beginning: Self-Esteem . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 1-A . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 1-B . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 1-C . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . PARENT PREPARATION—SESSION 2: Happiness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 2-A . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 2-B . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 2-C . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . PARENT PREPARATION—SESSION 3: Changes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 3-A . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 3-B . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 3-C . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . PARENT PREPARATION—SESSION 4: Sadness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 4-A . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 4-B . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 4-C . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . PARENT PREPARATION—SESSION 5: Anger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 5-A . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 5-B . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 5-C . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . PARENT PREPARATION—SESSION 6: Guilt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 6-A . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 6-B . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 6-C . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . PARENT PREPARATION—SESSION 7: Faith and Trust . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 7-A . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 7-B . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 7-C . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . PARENT PREPARATION—SESSION 8: Forgiveness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 8-A . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 8-B . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LET’S TALK—SESSION 8-C . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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4 5 5 6 7 7 8 9 13 15 16 17 18 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 43 45 47 49 51 53 55 57 59 61 63 65 67 69 71 73 75 77 79 81 83

Parent Guide: Growing Seasons, Turning Point, P. O. Box 22127, Chattanooga, TN 37422-2127


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PARENT PREPARATION—SESSION 9: Love . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85 LET’S TALK—SESSION 9-A . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 LET’S TALK—SESSION 9-B . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89 LET’S TALK—SESSION 9-C . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91 PARENT PREPARATION—SESSION 10: Acceptance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93 LET’S TALK—SESSION 10-A . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95 LET’S TALK—SESSION 10-B . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97 LET’S TALK—SESSION 10-C . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99 BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100

Parent Guide: Growing Seasons, Turning Point, P. O. Box 22127, Chattanooga, TN 37422-2127

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Parent Introduction Thank you for allowing your child to attend Growing Seasons. We know your child is precious to you, so we have carefully designed this Growing Seasons program and prayerfully chosen each facilitator. Although our facilitators have been through a training process, they are not professional counselors and Growing Seasons is not counseling. It is a peer support group. We will not force your child to talk about sensitive issues. Instead, we will provide activities that are designed to build the kind of trusting relationship in the group that will encourage the children to talk about their hopes and dreams and their hurts and fears. To protect your privacy, we ask the children to say a pledge that what others say in the group is not to be talked about outside the group. They can talk about what they say or what their facilitators say. Please respect this pledge. We do want you to understand that there are legal limits to confidentiality. If we suspect that a child is being abused or is suicidal, we have a legal obligation to report that.

The lessons are divided by age and grade: Preschoolers and kindergartners—Use A First, second, and third graders—Use B Fourth, fifth, and sixth graders—Use C

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call your child’s facilitator or the Growing Seasons coordinator.

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Parent Guide: Growing Seasons, Turning Point, P. O. Box 22127, Chattanooga, TN 37422-2127


Parent Orientation Introduction to Growing Seasons Growing Seasons is a peer support group for children who are grieving because of a divorce or the death of a loved one. Children who live with only one or neither of their biological parents, for whatever reason, grieve the dream of having both parents in an “Ozzie and Harriet” family. After a divorce and, of course, after death, there are always grief issues. Some of these issues continue for years as holidays, graduations, and weddings leave a void where a loved one should be.

This section of your Parent Guide is provided for you to follow as your Growing Seasons coordinator leads the Parent Orientation. For those parents who are unable to attend the orientation, the information is available here in printed form. There is added value in group participation, so we encourage you to attend the Parent Orientation the next time it is offered.

Growing Seasons provides children with a safe place to talk about their loss and helps them move through the grief process toward healing. The groups are small, usually with only three to five children, because the goal is to allow each of the children a chance to share feelings, not just with their friends and facilitator but also with you. That can be difficult because children often see that you are hurting from the loss and are fearful of hurting you more. For this reason, the Parent Guide is designed to help you be a vital part of your child’s Growing Seasons experience. In it, you will find information for caretakers of children who have experienced a death or divorce in their family. Please read this and pass it along to other adults involved in your child’s life. Also, to encourage communication between you and your child, we have included a weekly activity to be done by you and your child together. Please do the activity with your child each week after the lesson and talk about how that activity relates to your family. This is an important way for your and your youngster to keep communication open and work toward healing.

Parent Guide: Growing Seasons, Turning Point, P. O. Box 22127, Chattanooga, TN 37422-2127

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There are ten lessons. They move from general to more focused discussions as the weeks progress. We do not even ask the children to talk about difficult feelings until we start to develop a relationship of trust. The lessons’ themes are: Session 1. Session 2. Session 3. Session 4. Session 5. Session 6. Session 7. Session 8. Session 9. Session10.

A New Beginning Happiness Changes Sadness Anger Guilt Faith and Trust Forgiveness Love Acceptance

Goal The goal of Growing Seasons is to facilitate children’s movement through the grief process toward acceptance of life’s changes and losses, forgiveness of those whom they perceive to have caused the changes and losses, and an understanding that despite the changes and losses, their Heavenly Father remains constant in His presence and His love.

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Parent Guide: Growing Seasons, Turning Point, P. O. Box 22127, Chattanooga, TN 37422-2127


Grief When there is a change in the family such as divorce or the death of a loved one, it is accompanied by grief, the emotional pain that goes along with a sense of loss. Normal grief can last for two to five years. Unresolved grief can lead to such problems as drug abuse, school difficulties, bodily symptoms, promiscuity, depression, and difficulties in developing relationships. Elisabeth Kubler Ross, a pioneer in the study of grief, was the first to recognize that grief comes in stages. Following are the stages of grief as we describe them to children:

1. Denial—We either do not want to believe the loss has occurred or we do not want to admit how much it hurts (pp. 35-43).

2. Anger—We can be angry at anything or everything. Some children may be angry at their parents, themselves, or even God (pp. 44-71).

3. Bargaining—We try to find a way to make things the way they used to be. We might think, “If I could be good enough, maybe the old times will come back,” but you did not do anything to cause this change and you cannot do anything to change it back (pp. 72-74).

4. Sadness—We might feel very sad for awhile and not feel like doing anything, but that will go away. KublerRoss calls this stage depression, but children may not understand that word (pp. 75-98).

5. Acceptance—Finally, we realize that the new life is here to stay and that we can live with it and be okay again (pp. 90-121).

Magical Thinking Children believe the world revolves around them. That may sound good until you realize the responsibility that puts on little ones. They believe they are the cause of whatever happens in their lives. That is wonderful in the fantasyland of childhood; but in reality, childhood is full of losses. Even the loss of a favorite toy can be devastating. Any change in the family can be perceived as a major loss to children. They feel extreme guilt because they believe they caused the loss, either by a negative wish or thought or by Parent Guide: Growing Seasons, Turning Point, P. O. Box 22127, Chattanooga, TN 37422-2127

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a wrong choice. Sometimes they know exactly what they thought or did that they believe caused the loss. Other times, they only know they did something and wish they knew what it was so they would be sure not to do it again. You may be thinking this sounds childish, but adults are prone to magical thinking too, especially after a loss. They feel that if they had done something differently, the loss would not have occurred. How many times have you heard an adult say, “I’m going to wash my car; then I know it will rain.” This is an example of magical thinking. If you can be aware of your own magical thinking, it will help you to better understand what your child is experiencing. How Do Children Deal With Grief? Ages and Stages

1. Infants—Babies believe a thing only exists when it is in their field of vision. Grief for an infant is caused by the breaking of a bond. If bonding is broken in the first two years of life, it is important that babies quickly bond with someone else. This is essential if they are to establish trust in their world. Infants and toddlers also respond to the emotions of those around them.

2. Preschoolers—Little children still do not fully understand object permanence. They think death is reversible, like it is on cartoons. This is an age of much magical thinking. They think they did something to cause the loss.

3. Six to ten—Early elementary-age children are still very

concrete, so it is important not to use euphemisms in explaining death. They understand that death is final but think of it as a ghost they can outsmart. After a death or divorce, they feel much sadness but think they must control it. They need to be encouraged to express it. Boys are more prone to expressing their emotions by anger and acting out while girls seem to show more sorrow.

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Eleven to teenage—Preteens act angry because it seems more acceptable than sadness. They may long to retreat into childhood and will look for meaning in the loss. Any normal adolescent rebellion that occurred before the loss can cause feelings of guilt. Grieving children this age may have difficulty concentrating in school.

Parent Guide: Growing Seasons, Turning Point, P. O. Box 22127, Chattanooga, TN 37422-2127


What Can a Parent Do to Help? Most important, love your child. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8a). Dr. Ross Campbell in his book, How to Really Love Your Children, says children who are loved often do not feel loved. The four elements that show love to a child are eye contact, touch, focused attention, and discipline (p. 38). Communication Activity We are going to do a quick activity. Everyone find a partner. The person on the right can write down these numbers: 137, 359, 2098, 3412. Now for one minute, I want the person on the left to tell how you feel about going to the beach. At the same time, I want the person on the right to add the numbers. (Discuss how it felt.)

This is an activity designed for the Parent Orientation class.

Now I want the person on the left to tell how you feel about going to the mountains. The person on the right should listen, intently focused on the speaker for one minute. How did that feel? This is an example of nonverbal listening. Children read nonverbal communication better than verbal. If nonverbal and verbal do not agree, they will believe the nonverbal, but it will be confusing to them. Many parents try to hide their grief, tears, and anger from their children; but how can they be expected to be honest with their feelings if it is not modeled for them?

Verbal communication—“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Reflective listening—Reflective listening is one way of listening for the feelings. It helps the children to express and understand their own emotions. Beneath the anger is always another sentiment, usually fear or sadness. True healing begins when the child is able to understand and express the underlying feeling and believe that someone understands.

Parent Guide: Growing Seasons, Turning Point, P. O. Box 22127, Chattanooga, TN 37422-2127

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Reflective listening involves listening for the feeling and reflecting back to the children how you think they feel. A good way to do this is to say, “It sounds like you feel…” It is even more helpful if you add “because…” For example, the child says, “My teacher gave me a D on my paper!” Your response would be, “It sounds like you are angry because you got a bad grade.” Practice sentences for the group:

Example responses:

1. “Mom, you said you would pick me up at 10 o’clock, but you didn’t come until 2.”

1. It sounds like you are angry because I was late.

2. “You said I couldn’t have a friend spend the night, but now you are letting Sally have her friend over.”

2. It sounds like you are jealous that Sally is having a friend over.

3. “I don’t want to spend another boring weekend with Daddy.”

3. It sounds like you want to stay here where your friends are.

We will need volunteers to role-play some sentences. One person can be the child and the other can be the parent. First, the person who plays the parent responds like a typical parent, teaching and admonishing. Then the parent uses reflective listening.

This is an activity designed for the Parent Orientation class.

Example responses:

1. The child just came back from the other parent’s house and seems very upset.

1. It looks as if you are upset.

2. The child just brought home the report card, and the grades have dropped considerably since the death or divorce.

2. It seems you are disappointed that your grades have dropped since the divorce.

3. The child is extremely frightened by a thunderstorm.

3. It seems the thunder scares you.

Asking Questions—A question can open or close communication depending on the way it is asked. Yes or no questions tend to close communication because they can be answered with one word and require no emotional investment. Why questions may be difficult for the children because they may not know the answer. Questions that put the child on the defensive close communication. Openended questions facilitate communication. They often start with how, what, where, when, would, or could. Sometimes statements tear down communication walls better than questions. For example say, “Tell me about that.” The important thing is to listen to your child’s feelings without judgment.

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Parent Guide: Growing Seasons, Turning Point, P. O. Box 22127, Chattanooga, TN 37422-2127


Discipline—Children who have recently experienced a loss need loving discipline to feel secure. The adults in their lives often give in too easily because of guilt or pity, yet the children can learn to use this to get their way. This pattern can be difficult to stop once it has started, and children can became adept at playing one parent against the other. There are other reasons grieving children misbehave. They may be angry and not know how to express their rage or depressed and feel that there is no reason to do the right thing because life is hopeless. They may be afraid to come out of denial, so they become extremely active to keep from thinking about the loss. They may misbehave to get attention or to see if they are still loved even if they are bad. They may simply be misbehaving because they are children and all children misbehave at times. Whatever the reason for the misbehavior, it should be addressed. Fleischman, Horne, and Arthur in their book, Troubled Families, A Treatment Program (pp. 114-116), give several suggestions for disciplining children:

1. Clear rules—Children need to know what is expected. Rules should be stated simply so the child understands.

2. Time-outs-—A time-out place can be established in your home. It should be safe and away from toys. A long time- out is not necessary. A good rule would be one minute for each year of the child’s age. A kitchen timer can be used to mark the time.

3. Grandma’s law—First we do this so we can do this. For example, first we eat our vegetables so we can have dessert, or first we pick up the toys so we can go to the park. It works better when stated positively.

4. Loss of privileges—A privilege can be lost for breaking a rule or refusing to go to time-out. Examples of privileges that can be restricted are TV, dessert, or playtime.

5. Loss of attention—If the child’s misbehavior is for the purpose of getting your attention, ignore the behavior. When it stops, give the child attention.

Parent Guide: Growing Seasons, Turning Point, P. O. Box 22127, Chattanooga, TN 37422-2127

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6. Allowance or point system—Children love to work towards a reward, and it increases self-esteem when they can feel like they have earned something.

7. Natural and logical consequences—Natural consequences occur when you allow the consequences of misbehavior or irresponsibility to occur without rescuing children, such as not bringing them their lunch if they leave it at home. Logical consequences occur when you put into place the logical consequence of a misbehavior or irresponsibility. For example, the children are fighting in the car on the way to the movie, so you pull over and stop the car until they are quiet.

Ideas for Discipline 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

Clear rules Time-outs Grandma’s law Loss of privileges Loss of attention Allowance or point system Natural and logical consequences

Discipline is important, but so is sensitivity. During the time of acute grief, children need special attention. • • • • •

Allow for more rest than usual. Allow for periods of regression. Allow for any feelings. Do not criticize honestly expressed feelings or be shocked by them. Understand that the child may temporarily have difficulty paying attention. Talk to the child about the outcome of the behavior. For example, “Your friends will not want to play with you if you do not share.” Remember, your children will be more vulnerable to new losses: moving, a new school or grade, their mother going back to work, or even a new blanket or pacifier. If possible, use rituals to help with these losses such as a going-away party or a special breakfast on the first day of school.

Sometimes a child in Growing Seasons is acting out so much that the group cannot function. This kind of behavior is often used as a way to keep from talking about the difficult subject of loss. These children are often stuck in denial. If this happens, the coordinator or facilitator may call and recommend individual counseling for your child. This just means that the group may not be the best format for your child to deal with the loss.

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Parent Guide: Growing Seasons, Turning Point, P. O. Box 22127, Chattanooga, TN 37422-2127


Guidelines for Parents of Children Who Have Experienced a Loss Avoid role reversal. Your child needs to be a child and you need to be a parent. It is not healthy for children to attempt to take the place of their absent parent. Watch for signs of over-responsibility and encourage your little one to take time to play.

To emphasize the importance of these guidelines, many of them will be repeated in the Parent Preparation sections.

Apply proper discipline. When you as a parent are grieving a loss because of the death of a family member or a divorce, it is often difficult to apply appropriate discipline. You may not want to risk alienating your child, you may feel sorry for your child, or you may lack the emotional energy required to apply discipline. Remember that especially at this vulnerable time, your child needs loving discipline in order to feel secure. Avoid involving the child in money problems. Money problems are adult problems. Your child can understand that you cannot afford a certain desired item without knowing all the details. When you attempt to buy the love of children, it tends to make them feel that their own value comes from the amount of money spent on them. When child support issues are discussed in front of your child, it can cause anger, fear, and confusion. Be sure to deal with your child’s guilt feelings. Children believe that their thoughts somehow control their environment and that the world revolves around them. They need to be assured over and over again that they did nothing to cause their loss. It is not necessary to place blame on anyone. Allow your child to express anger. Anger is a natural emotion, and children need to be taught appropriate ways to express it. They can be taught to use their words. Other ways a child can express anger are through art, writing, and physical activity. If you are the parent who has custody, you may bear the brunt of your child’s anger. It may help to know that your child sees you as a “safe target.” Listen to your child. Children have a difficult time talking about their feelings. They tend to be ready to talk at the most inopportune moments. When children are ready to talk, parents need to drop everything and listen because they may never be ready to talk about those particular feelings again. Almost nothing is more important at that moment.

Parent Guide: Growing Seasons, Turning Point, P. O. Box 22127, Chattanooga, TN 37422-2127

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Explain to your child what is happening. Children feel more secure when a parent takes the time to explain what is happening and why at a level they can understand. They have vivid imaginations and limited experience. When they put these two factors together, they think of some amazing reasons for what is happening. Without an explanation, this incorrect thinking can be carried into adulthood. The best way to combat these false assumptions is to ask children what they think. You will probably be surprised at the answer. Be reliable. The loss itself causes children to feel insecure. After all, the world they trusted has let them down. You can begin to rebuild your child’s trust and security by always being where your child expects you to be when you are expected to be there. If you are unavoidably delayed, be sure to call. Spend time alone with your child. Your child needs time alone with only you. As often as possible, plan together time without siblings, grandparents, friends, or your date. You do not have to do anything. Just “hang out.� One-on-one time helps children feel special and allows them a chance to be open about their feelings. Provide your child with an opportunity to build a relationship with another adult you can trust. Especially during the time of grief, children need to have an adult outside the immediate family in whom to confide. This person, possibly a Sunday school teacher, scout leader, favorite aunt, or Growing Seasons leader, can listen objectively. Be sure your child feels loved. Most children are loved, but many do not feel loved. During a time of grief when children have lost the familiar family routine, they need an extra dose of love. Dr. Ross Campbell in his book, How to Really Love Your Child, says the things that make a child feel loved are eye contact, touch, focused attention, and discipline (p. 38). Forgive. True emotional health can only come through forgiveness. Bitterness and resentment are energy zappers and can even cause physical problems. Remember that your actions may hurt the object of your anger, but your angry feelings only hurt you. The best thing you can do for yourself and your child is to work prayerfully towards forgiveness.

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Parent Guide: Growing Seasons, Turning Point, P. O. Box 22127, Chattanooga, TN 37422-2127


Allow grief. Parents who allow themselves to grieve are also giving their children permission to grieve. Grief requires a tremendous amount of time and energy, but unresolved grief can resurface at any time in life and cause physical and/or emotional pain. Teach your child to lean on God. Divorce or the death of a loved one changes almost everything in children’s lives. It appears that the whole world is crumbling. You can help your child cope with all these changes by explaining that God is unchanging. You will help yourself and your child by making prayer, Bible reading, and regular church attendance a part of your life. Make your child comfortable. This is a time for comfort foods (chicken soup, ice cream, popcorn, etc.), warm blankets, and comforting sounds. Each family has a unique way of accomplishing this. Use family traditions and be creative! Focus on the day’s activities. Try to find something positive to do each day. Something as simple as a five-minute walk, a romp with the dog, or a favorite movie on the VCR can give the child something positive to anticipate each day. Understand denial. Realize that denial is normal but should not last for more than three to six months without interruption. Denial is the first stage of grief. If children stay in denial, then they are not grieving. Unresolved grief can lead to difficulties in forming relationships or a feeling of emptiness. A child who is still in denial after six months may need professional counseling. Do not bring a date home until you are engaged. Children bond easily and are vulnerable to new losses. If they bond to your new “friend” and that relationship ends, they will begin the grief process all over again.

Guidelines That Apply to Divorce Do not allow your child to be the message carrier. Communication with your former spouse can be done directly, by mail, email, or through your attorney. Never ask your child to deliver the message, and do not allow your former spouse to ask either. That is not fair to your child! Do not allow your child to be put in the middle. Your child loves both parents and should never be put in the position of feeling emotionally pulled between the two of you. This causes a feeling of confusion and disloyalty. Parent Guide: Growing Seasons, Turning Point, P. O. Box 22127, Chattanooga, TN 37422-2127

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Do not say negative things about your child’s other parent. No matter how you feel about your former spouse, he or she is still your child’s parent. Your child’s own identity depends on your child’s being able to think positive thoughts about both parents. Keep fights and arguments between you and your former spouse private. Witnessing fights between parents can be frightening to children. They do hear fights when they are supposed to be asleep. If you must fight, call a truce for the sake of your child until you can get a sitter or get out of the house. Avoid being the weekend circus parent. Special occasions are fine, but what children need with the noncustodial parent is normal day-to-day activities. This is a lifelong relationship, not a twice-a-month party. Try to be consistent in discipline. Consistent discipline gives children a sense of security. If both parents can put aside their differences long enough to establish a plan of discipline to be used in both homes, children can be greatly benefitted. Avoid using your child to get revenge on your former spouse. Divorced parents can find ingenious ways to hurt their former spouse through their own sons and daughters. To children, this is probably the most harmful part of the divorce. When you and your former spouse have a disagreement involving your child, take a soul-searching look at your motives.

Guidelines That Apply to the Death of a Parent Allow your child to participate in family rituals such as funerals. Children may not understand everything that is happening, but they will feel included and allowed to see normal grief. Encourage your child to remember and talk about the parent who died. Children often do not know if it permissible to talk about the lost parent unless it is encouraged by the remaining parent. It will be difficult at times, but it is healing. Avoid the use of euphemisms. Children are very literal. For instance, if you say a parent is lost, they will wonder why no one is looking for him. If you use the word asleep to describe death, the child may fear going to sleep. A child can be told that the spirit, the part that makes us move and talk, left the body and went to heaven.

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Reassure your child that he is not going to die soon. This is difficult because we all die eventually and we do not know when that will happen, but a child needs to be told that most people do not die until they are very old.

This is an activity designed for the Parent Orientation class.

Group Time Now it is time for you to focus on yourself for a few minutes. If your child has experienced a loss, then you must have also. Please divide into groups of three to five. Then take a few minutes to share with the group how the loss has affected you. We do realize that for some of you the loss may have been devastating and for some of you it was a relief. That is okay. Just tell as much of your story as you feel comfortable sharing with your group. After fifteen minutes, please come back to the group. What did you learn from being in the group?

How did it feel to share your story with others?

It is not always easy for adults to share feelings with others and it can be even more difficult for children, so please do not get frustrated with your child.

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PARENT PREPARATION

1 A New Beginning: Self-Esteem

Session

Children have two basic needs: to feel lovable and to feel worthwhile. They must feel that they have value because of their existence and that they have some control over the environment and something to offer others. Self-esteem is solidly built when children feel loveable and worthwhile because they are children of God and because He loves them unconditionally.

“The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart� (1 Samuel 16:7).

Why does death or divorce lead to lower self-esteem?

1. The identity of children comes from their family. When the family system changes, the children must redefine their identity. In some cases this involves a new name, a new school, new friends, a new home or maybe two homes. At an early age, these children must begin to define who they are separate from their families. A child also needs to identify with the same-sex parent and learn to relate with the parent of the opposite sex. Each family is different, but in many cases of loss, the children are left with a parent of only one sex. All children struggle at some time with finding their own identity, but children who have experienced a loss may be forced into this search too early.

2. Children are egocentric, believing the world revolves around them. They think that their thoughts, wishes, and actions have some kind of magical control over the rest of the world. Thus, they believe that they thought or did something that caused this change in their life. Sometimes they know what it was that they think caused the change, but often they have no idea what they did. They just know they did something! This leads to much guilt which, of course, leads to lower self-esteem.

3. Children can find themselves caught in the middle of family conflict and feel disloyal if they side with one family member over another. This can cause them to feel guilty and confused, thus lowering self-esteem.

4. Children need a warm, loving, predictable feeling of mastery over the world to feel worthwhile. The change in their family shattered this ability to find mastery and predictability. Thus, children feel powerless to find any control in their lives which lowers their self-concept. 18

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5. Anger is a normal stage of grief, so it is normal for children to be angry after the change. Almost all children and probably most adults do not have the ability to deal with anger appropriately. When children deal with anger inappropriately, the people around them are going to react. Even if the adults around the children respond in an understanding way, the children will not, so angry children receive negative feedback which leads to more anger which leads to lower self-esteem.

6. The grief process itself requires energy. At certain stages in this process, paying attention becomes very difficult. When children do not pay attention in school, grades tend to decline. Then children get behind in their schoolwork, and it is even more difficult to catch up. The lower grades lead to a feeling of failure and a loss of selfesteem.

7. For the first year after a death or divorce, parenting declines significantly. This may be difficult to hear, but it is generally true. No one is to blame, but the simple fact is: The parents are grieving. That takes lots of energy! In addition, the death or divorce and all the life changes involved are extremely time-consuming. Just when the child needs more care and attention, the parents are physically incapable of meeting all those needs. A child who has basic needs that are not being met completely will tend to have lower self-esteem. What can a parent do to improve a child’s self-esteem?

1. Open communication. Most children feel guilty after a change in the family because they think they caused it. They cannot tell you about their guilt feelings, either because they do not know what they did to cause the change or what they think they did was so horrible in their mind that they could never admit it. Thus, you have to listen very closely to try to understand the source of their guilt feelings. Use active listening or even ask directly, “What do you think caused the divorce or death?” For a very young child ask, “What do you think made it happen?” Then reassure the child over and over again that it was not his or her fault.

Some of the suggestions are also listed in Parent Orientation. They are repeated here for emphasis.

2. Do your best to keep children out of family disagreements. Allow your children to love other family members without feeling guilty. Say only positive things about these people to your children. (You can say the negative things to a friend or counselor if you need to vent.) Remind your children that their family loves them (even if they do not show it). Parent Guide: Growing Seasons, Turning Point, P. O. Box 22127, Chattanooga, TN 37422-2127

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3. Keep life as predictable as possible. Allow your child to make his or her own decisions whenever possible to bring back a sense of control over life. (This does not mean to let the child control the family but to make small, personal choices.) Reassure your child that you will always be there. Do not just say it but show your child in little ways that you will be there.

4. Start new family rituals and traditions in your new family and try to keep the old ones if possible. Be positive about the family you have now.

5. Accept all your child’s feelings even if you do not agree with them. Teach your child appropriate ways to express anger. Beneath the anger is always another feeling. Try to help your child uncover the feeling under the anger and deal with it directly. Usually this feeling is sadness or fear.

6. Help your child find something in which he or she can excel. This can help your child through the hard times.

7. Do whatever you can to help your child in school during the time of grief. Do not expect the impossible. Children will not question our expectations; they will only wonder if they are adequate if they do not meet them. Do not punish but encourage.

8. Praise appropriately. Children need praise to flourish, but some praise can be harmful. Praise only the things that your child has control over such as the effort, not the results. For instance, if your child is on a sports team, do not praise your child for winning. Praise your child for paying attention or catching a certain ball. Praising the results can cause your child to set the wrong priorities and to be very discouraged when the results do not turn out right. Also remember that your child has no control over his or her appearance, and beauty is fragile. If self-esteem is based on skills or beauty, what will happen when these assets are gone?

9. Avoid role reversal. Your child needs to be a child and you need to be a parent. It is not healthy for children to attempt to take the place of an absent parent or sibling. Watch for signs of over-responsibility and encourage your child to take time to play.

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10. Do not involve your children in money problems. These are adult problems. Children can understand that you cannot afford a certain desired item without knowing all the details. When you attempt to buy the love of children, it tends to make them feel that their own value comes from the amount of money spent on them. When childsupport issues are discussed in front of children, it can cause anger, fear, and confusion.

11. Listen to your child. Children have a difficult time talking about their feelings and tend to be ready to talk at the most inopportune moments. When your child is ready to talk, you need to drop everything and listen because he or she may never be ready to talk about these particular feelings again. Almost nothing is more important at the moment.

12. Be reliable. The loss itself causes children to feel insecure. After all, the world they trusted has let them down. You can begin to rebuild your child’s trust and security by always being where your child expects you to be when you are expected to be there. If you are unavoidably delayed, call.

“Love covers over all wrongs” (Proverbs 10:12b).

13. Give your child unconditional love. Spend time alone with your child daily and make him or her feel valuable and special to you.

What We Discussed in Session 1 (Group A — 4- and 5-year-olds)

What We Discussed in Session 1 (Group B —1st – 3rd grade)

What We Discussed in Session 1 (Group C —4th – 6th grade)

This was a time for the children to get to know each other and begin to feel special. We made a name tag in the shape of a snowflake, planted a flower seed, and had a birthday party to celebrate our new beginning. The Bible story was from Genesis 1. Next week, your child can bring a favorite music tape. The children were told that each of them is special to Jesus. They celebrated a new beginning by having a birthday party and rooting a plant. Please put the plant in the window and remind your child to water it. As the two of you watch the plant grow, remind your child that God is making him or her grow also. The Bible story was from Matthew 19:13-15 and 18:4-5. The children got acquainted with each other and their leader. Please put the avocado seed we planted in a sunny window. We had a birthday party to celebrate a new beginning. The Bible story came from 1 Samuel 16:4-13.

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Let’s Talk Session 1-A 4- and 5-year-olds “Your hands made me” (Psalm 119:73). Activity: Find things in this picture that God made. Go on a nature walk with your parent and look for things that God made. One of the most special things God made was YOU!!!!

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Let’s Talk Session 1-B 1st – 3rd Grade “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me” (Matthew 18:5). Activity: Draw a picture of yourself. This is a picture of someone God loves. Parent: Make a list of things you love about your child’s character.

Someone God Loves

Parent’s List of Favorite Things About Me

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Let’s Talk Session 1-C 4th – 6th Grade “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Activity: Go outside together and watch the stars. Draw or write about how it feels to see all those stars and know that God made them, yet he still has time to hear your prayers.

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PARENT PREPARATION

2 Happiness

Session

The second lesson in Growing Seasons is happiness. We start with happy to introduce the idea of expressing feelings and to move gradually from the less threatening emotions to the ones that are more difficult to talk about.

“Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy” (John 16:22).

What can you do to help yourself and your child to have joy even when circumstances seem to be the worst they can be?

1. Teach your child to lean on the Lord at all times.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

2. Obtain guidance from someone you trust.

“The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15).

3. Set your mind on positive things and model this to your child. A.

Spend time with positive people.

“A righteous man is cautious in friendship” (Proverbs 12:26a).

B.

Dwell on positive thoughts.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

C.

Try to create a positive environment for you and your child by controlling what you attend to, such as the media.

“Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way” (Proverbs 4:14-15).

D.

Be positive in your words.

“The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21a).

E.

Focus on the day’s activities. Try to find something positive in each day. Something as simple as a romp with the dog, a five-minute walk, or a favorite movie on the VCR can give the child something positive to anticipate each day.

This suggestion is also listed in Parent Orientation. It is repeated here for emphasis.

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What We Discussed in Session 2 (Group A — 4- and 5-year-olds)

What We Discussed in Session 2 (Group B —1st – 3rd grade)

What We Discussed in Session 2 (Group C —4th – 6th grade)

We were still building relationships and beginning to talk about feelings. We started slowly so the children would not feel threatened. We played with bubbles, pretended to get a present, and role-played a happy memory. Our story was from Luke 1:26-33 and 2:8-10; Matthew 1:20-21. Next week, your child can bring baby pictures and family pictures to show the group as we talk about changes.

The children shared jokes and roleplayed a happy memory. The Bible story was from Luke 15:3-7.

The children painted a happy memory and learned about the Israelites crossing the Red Sea in Exodus 13-14.

Answers for unscramble activity.

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Let’s Talk Session 2-A 4- and 5-year-olds Activity: Draw a picture of a time when you felt happy. Then have an ice cream cone together. “The joy of the LORD is your strength”

MY HAPPY TIME

Nehemiah 8:10

MY PARENT’S HAPPY TIME

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Let’s Talk Session 2-B 1st – 3rd Grade “I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High” (Psalm 9:2). Activity: Draw or write about things you like to do. Parent: Plan a time when you can do one of these things.

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Let’s Talk Session 2-C 4th – 6th Grade “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). Activity: Unscramble the following words about things you might like to do. Make three word scrambles of things you like to do. Ask your parent to unscramble the words and then plan a time to do one of the activities together. Parent: Unscramble the list your child has made and do one of the activities together.

1. dier ksebi 2. tput utpt 3. misw 4. og rof cie merac 5. nrte ovesmi 6. lwak odg

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PARENT PREPARATION

3

Session

Changes

Grief is the emotional pain that accompanies any loss such as death, divorce, a move, loss of health, or even a pet or treasured possession. It is very real and affects people spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Grief comes in waves. A person can go through all the stages and then slip back to the first one again. A good listener helps a person go back and forth through the stages by allowing him or her to tell the story over and over and accepting the emotions of the grieving person. Without this help, grief can stay unresolved only to resurface later as addiction, physical problems, or relationship issues.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: …a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4).

Both children and adults must move through the grief process in their own unique way, yet children can experience the stages differently than adults. In the early stages of grief, a child may experience shock, denial, and a feeling of numbness. This seems to be God’s way of letting the loss sink in slowly. Children will seem lifeless, smiling on cue with possible outbursts of panic. They may act as if they are not bothered by the news. Physical symptoms can include increased heart rate, tension, sighing, and relaxed bowel and bladder control. There may be sickness, nervousness, and trouble sleeping. During this time, children need comfort, warmth, and structure. Denial can be manifested in several ways. One child may seem to forget the loved one is not returning or the loved one may be rejected or the very existence of that person may be denied. It may be that the feelings are denied as if to say, “This is not happening.” Denial can also take the form of excessive talking or hyperactivity to keep from thinking. The child may fear being alone. Some children are too busy adjusting to a new situation to grieve. If denial lasts longer than three to six months, professional counseling may be needed. As children begin to face reality, their grief becomes overwhelming. They go between thinking about the loss and ignoring it, strong emotions and apathy. They need free time during this period of grief, so too much activity can delay the grief process. Children are preoccupied with the lost person and wish he or she were still in their lives. They may be very active or bargain to get the person back as if they are thinking they have some control over the loss. Since children model the way their parent expresses grief, they should be included in the mourning process. For divorce, there is no organized mourning process such as a funeral, but a parent can take a day with the child and create a ritual to mourn the loss of the family dream together. Parent Guide: Growing Seasons, Turning Point, P. O. Box 22127, Chattanooga, TN 37422-2127

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Just before children begin to reorganize their lives, they go through the worst but the shortest stage, depression. There is a sense of hopelessness which may include slower movement, physical symptoms, helplessness, loss of appetite, and even fleeting thoughts of suicide. After this difficult period, children begin to realize that life can go on and they are going to be all right. The strong, overpowering feelings are gone, but even small, new losses can bring back the waves of grief. Taking time to think about how the change has affected you, the parent, will help you be better able to understand your child. How did you feel when the loss occurred and how have your feelings changed? What have you done that has helped your child?

What We Discussed in Session 3 (Group A — 4- and 5-year-olds)

What We Discussed in Session 3 (Group B —1st – 3rd grade)

What We Discussed in Session 3 (Group C — 4th – 6th grade)

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We played dress-up and made pudding to show some ways things change. The Bible story was from Acts 9:1-19.

The children learned that all families have changes. The Bible story was from Genesis 32-33. We made PlayDoh® using flour, salt, and water .

The children made popcorn. We talked about changes in their families. The Bible story was from Matthew 4:18-22; 14:22-23; and 16:13-19.

Parent Guide: Growing Seasons, Turning Point, P. O. Box 22127, Chattanooga, TN 37422-2127


Let’s Talk Session 3-A 4- and 5-year-olds “There is a time for everything” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Activity: Draw a picture of your family before the change. Then draw a picture of your family after the change. Ask your parent to look at family photos with you. Notice how you have changed since you were a baby. The next time your parent cooks scrambled eggs, ask if you can help. Notice how the eggs change. MY FAMILY BEFORE

MY FAMILY AFTER

THE

THE

CHANGE

CHANGE

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Let’s Talk Session 3-B 1st – 3rd Grade

“He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs” (Psalm 107:35). Activity: Ask your parent to help you make a family tree including grandparents, aunts, and uncles, if possible. The next time your parent bakes cookies, ask to help. Notice how the cookie dough changes into something very good when it cooks.

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Let’s Talk Session 3-C 4th – 6th Grade “ ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty’ ” (Revelation 1:8). Activity: Look at family pictures or videos together. Write how it feels to think about the old times.

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PARENT PREPARATION

4 Sadness

Session

Sadness is a very real part of grief. We cannot come out of the sadness of grief with Christian positive thinking. In the case of death, reminding ourselves that the person is in heaven does not erase the deep sense of loss. We have to work through it and so do our children. Even Jesus wept at the loss of Lazarus, and He knew there would soon be a happy ending.

“Jesus wept� (John 11:35).

There are several ways that children may respond to the sadness of the loss:

1.

Physical illness such as headaches and stomachaches are common reactions of the body to stress. Stress also weakens the immune system and makes the child more vulnerable to disease.

2.

An attitude of not caring may appear in the child as if the child has built a wall around his or her emotions that prevents feelings. It is difficult to tell if children truly do not care or if they are acting. They can pretend so well that they even convince themselves, yet they need to acknowledge the sadness in order to grieve.

3.

They may be confused by the sadness and need help in knowing how to express it. Any little thing can bring back the memory of the absent parent and regenerate the sadness.

4.

Feelings of guilt may accompany the sadness. Children may feel guilty for not feeling sad about the loss or for feeling relieved when the loss takes them out of an uncomfortable situation.

5.

The dream of the parents’ remarriage is ever present in a divorce. Children may secretly believe that the sadness will only go away when the parents remarry.

There are some things a parent can do to help their child find appropriate ways to express the sadness. Remember that sometimes children will not talk openly to their parents for fear of hurting them.

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1. Encourage talking about it. 2. Encourage praying about it silently or aloud. If your child does not know what to say, you can pray aloud for your child.

3. Encourage your child to play what makes him or her 4. Remind your child that Jesus wept, so crying must be all right.

5. Give lots of hugs. 6. Be sure your child has a special pet, doll, or stuffed animal to talk to.

7. Help your child find a neutral adult such as a Sunday school teacher, a Growing Seasons leader, or a neighbor to talk to.

When was the last time you had a good cry?

What We Discussed in Session 4 (Group A — 4- and 5-year-olds)

What We Discussed in Session 4 (Group B — 1st – 3rd grade)

What We Discussed in Session 4 (Group C — 4th – 6th grade)

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We made a puppet and talked about things the children can do when they feel sad. We encouraged the children to talk to you about their feelings. The story was from John 11:1-44.

The group talked about grief. The children learned about Paul’s shipwreck in Acts 27:13-44.

The children did some role-playing and made some wishes. They learned about grief and read about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26:36-50.

Parent Guide: Growing Seasons, Turning Point, P. O. Box 22127, Chattanooga, TN 37422-2127


Let’s Talk Session 4-A 4- and 5-year-olds “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Activity: Draw a picture of something you can do when you feel sad. Ask your parent to hug you and tell you what makes him or her sad.

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Let’s Talk Session 4-B 1st – 3rd Grade

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4). Activity: Write or draw something about the change that makes you sad. Ask your parent to tell you one thing he or she misses about life before the change.

SOMETHING THAT MAKES ME SAD

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Let’s Talk Session 4-C 4th – 6th Grade “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy” (John 16:22).

Activity: Write a story, make a list, or draw a picture about the saddest day in your life.

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PARENT PREPARATION

5 Anger

Session

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19-20). Often we are so conditioned to swallow our anger that we do not even feel it. If you notice yourself feeling angry, stop and ask yourself what is causing this feeling. Admit to yourself that you are angry and notice what the anger does to your body. This is not healthy. Remember that this happens to our children also, so we need to help them find constructive ways to express their anger.

1. We need to accept their feelings of anger while teaching them that being angry does not give them the right to hurt another person. Anger begins to dissipate when children feel understood.

2. Encourage children to talk to the person with whom they are angry. Children can be taught to respectfully tell adults their feelings. Heartfelt words can open the eyes of someone who is unintentionally hurting a child.

3. Never force children to say “I’m sorry” because if they are not sorry, you are forcing them to lie and you are certainly not accepting their feelings, but you can encourage them to forgive. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). The physical symptoms of anger and stress cannot be ignored. Art, music, and physical exercise helps. The following are some fun activities that you can do with your child to help relieve stress for both of you:

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1. Have fun letting your child make the angriest face possible in a mirror.

2. Let your child pretend that carrots, apples, or bubble gum is the thing that makes him or her angry.

3. Buy or make a puppet and have your child tell the puppet something that makes him or her angry.

4. Encourage your child to go outside and chase the anger away.

What We Discussed in Session 5 (Group A — 4- and 5-year-olds)

What We Discussed in Session 5 (Group B — 1st – 3rd grade)

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We talked about anger and what happens to the children’s bodies when they get angry. We made anger antennas to help make them be aware of their anger and talked about ways to relax when they get angry. The Bible story was from Numbers 20:1-13.

The children played with building tools, learned that Jesus was angry in the temple, and talked about some appropriate ways to vent their anger. The bible story was from Matthew 21:1-17.

The children made stress balls and talked about things they can do when they get angry. The Bible story was from Deuteronomy 29:18-28.

Parent Guide: Growing Seasons, Turning Point, P. O. Box 22127, Chattanooga, TN 37422-2127


Let’s Talk Session 5-A 4- and 5-year-olds “In your anger do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). Activity: Draw a picture of something that makes you angry and ask your parent to tell you something that makes him or her angry. Then play ball or draw a picture together.

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Let’s Talk Session 5-B 1st – 3rd Grade

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Activity: Draw a picture of something you can do when you are angry. Ask your parent to go on a bike ride with you or play loud music and let you dance and stomp. Be silly together.

WHEN I

AM ANGRY,

I

CAN

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Let’s Talk Session 5-C 4th – 6th Grade “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32).

Activity: Make a list of things that make you angry. Write or draw about what you do to show you are angry. In your Growing Seasons group, you talked about some things you can do when you feel angry. Talk to your parent about what you could do that would help you.

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PARENT PREPARATION

6

Session

Guilt

Write one word that describes the thing about which you feel most guilty. Think for a moment: Is there anything you could have done to change the outcome of this situation? Is your guilt realistic or unrealistic? If we feel guilty, it should be because we sinned. If your guilty feelings are unrealistic, then it is time to recognize that fact and stop feeling guilty about them. If they are realistic, then it is time to confess them to God, ask His forgiveness, and let Him bury them as far as the east is from the west.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

Children live in a world of fantasy and magical thinking. They are egocentric, thinking the world revolves around them. If no one explains to them what really happened to cause the change in their family, they make up their own explanations. These explanations are usually far from reality with the child at the root of the cause of the loss. Because of their egocentric thinking, they think they must have done something to cause the loss—either they were not good enough or they had a negative thought or wish that came true. This produces much guilt that would be too embarrassing for the child to admit. Children need someone to explain the truth about what happened and convince them they did nothing to cause the situation. Telling them once is not enough; their beliefs are strong and they hold on to them tightly. Even older children who know logically that it was not their fault still feel in their heart that they are responsible for the change. Adults also revert to this type of thinking at times with “if only I had . . . ” types of thoughts. Guilt has a detrimental effect on self-esteem and needs to be discussed openly with the child. The only way to find out if a child feels responsible for the loss is to ask the question. If the answer is no, reword the question and keep asking it over a period of time. If you can find out what the child thinks caused the loss, it will be easier to dispel the guilt. Children also need to be taught that even though they did not cause the loss, they have at times done things that were not pleasing to God, but Jesus took care of our guilt when He died on the cross. In other words, we may sometimes be guilty, but we can always be forgiven.

Ask your child, “What do you think caused the divorce (death)?”

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What We Discussed in Session 6 (Group A — 4- and 5-year-olds)

What We Discussed in Session 6 (Group B — 1st – 3rd grade)

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The children heard the story of Peter denying Jesus and were taught the meaning of guilt. It was explained that although everyone sins sometimes, they did nothing to cause the change that occurred in their families. We role-played situations that are designed to help them recognize false guilt. The Bible story was from Matthew 26:31-35 and Mark 14:6672. The children made a family with pipe cleaners and clay. They talked about guilt and were told that they did not cause the change in their lives. The Bible story was from Genesis 1-3.

The children had a mock trial. They learned form James 4:12 that they are not to judge others. The Bible story was from Genesis 2:17 and 3:1-13.

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Let’s Talk Session 6-A 4- and 5-year-olds “For all have sinned” (Romans Activity: You and your parent draw a picture of a wish you have for your family. As soon as you get a chance, watch a TV show about a trial with your parent and talk about who you think is guilty. MY WISH

MY PARENT’S WISH

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Let’s Talk Session 6-B 1st – 3rd Grade

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Activity: As soon as possible, go to a fountain or pond with your parent and make three wishes out loud. Draw a picture of one of your wishes for your family.

MY WISH FOR MY FAMILY

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Let’s Talk Session 6-C 4th – 6th Grade

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

Activity: Write a story about a young person your age who has had a loss similar as yours. Talk to your parent about who in the story was guilty of causing the loss.

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PARENT PREPARATION

7

Session

Faith and Trust

Children learn to trust by experiencing consistency in their environment and by having their needs met in a loving way. When a parent leaves the family or a family member dies, there is less consistency in the environment and the people who are usually there to meet the child’s needs are either gone or often preoccupied with their own grief and reestablishing their own life. Children may begin to lose the trust they have developed.

“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’ ” (Hebrews 13:5b).

There are some things parents can do to help rebuild this trust.

1. Be honest with your children. Explain to them what is happening in the family at a level they can understand.

Some of the suggestions are also listed in Parent Orientation. They are repeated here for emphasis.

2. Explain to them that this is an adult problem that they did not cause. There is nothing they could have done to prevent it, and there is no way they can stop it from happening.

3. Do not make promises unless you know you can keep them. Remember, anything you say to a child is considered a promise.

4. Try to be as consistent as possible in your schedule and in your discipline.

5. Do not say negative things about any family member, including your former spouse, in front of your children. Their identity comes from their family, and anything negative said about their parent feels like a put-down to them. This can be very harmful to your child.

6. Make sure your children know you love them. Tell them with words and actions. Spend time with them and listen to them.

7. Let them know that even though people may disappoint them, God will always be there.

8. Do not use your child to get revenge on your former

spouse. Divorced parents can find ingenious ways to hurt their former spouse through their own sons and daughters. To children, this is probably the most harmful part of the divorce. When you and your former spouse have a disagreement involving your child, take a soul-searching look at your motives.

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9. Avoid being the weekend circus parent. Special occasions are fine, but what children need with the noncustodial parent is normal day-to-day activities. This is a lifelong relationship, not a twice-a-month party.

10. Do not allow your child to be put in the middle. Your child loves both parents and should never be put in the position of feeling emotionally pulled between the two of you. This causes a feeling of confusion and disloyalty.

11. Do not allow your child to be the message carrier. Communication between you and your former spouse can be done directly, by mail, or though your attorney. Never ask your child to deliver a message and do not allow your former spouse to do it. That is not fair to the child!

12. Keep fights between you and your former spouse pri-

vate. Witnessing fights between parents can be frightening to children. They do hear fights when they are supposed to be asleep. If you must fight, call a truce for the sake of your children until you can get a sitter or get out of the house.

What We Discussed in Session 7 (Group A — 4- and 5-year-olds)

What We Discussed in Session 7 (Group B —1st – 3rd grade)

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The children performed their favorite tricks, played wheelbarrow, and pretended to be animals. These activities were used to demonstrate faith and trust. The Bible story was from Exodus 2:1-10.

The children played “trust tag” and learned about how Jairus’ daughter was healed when her father trusted Jesus. They were told they can always trust God. The Bible story was from Mark 5:21-43.

The children sat on their hands and the leader had to be trusted to feed them a cookie. They learned that God can always be trusted. The Bible story was from Daniel 3:12-30.

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Let’s Talk Session 7-A 4- and 5-year-olds “Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31). Activity: DRAW A PICTURE OF WHAT FRIGHTENS YOU

ADULT: DRAW A PICTURE OF WHAT FRIGHTENS YOU

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Let’s Talk Session 7-B 1st - 3rd Grade “I will put my trust in him” (Hebrews 2:13).

Activity: Read Genesis 1:26-27 with your parent. Draw a picture of something God created on earth. Think of a time when your parent was there when you needed him or her and thank your parent for that.

SOMETHING GOD CREATED

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Let’s Talk Session 7-C 4th – 6th Grade

“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’ ” (Hebrews 13:5). Activity: Look up Philippians 4:5-6 in your Bible and write it in your own words. Look up the word “anxious” in the dictionary. Write or draw a picture about something that makes you feel anxious. What does the Bible tell you to do when you feel that way?

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PARENT PREPARATION

8

Session

Forgiveness

Anger is a natural part of the grief process whether the loss is due to divorce or death. It can be the cause and is usually the result of a divorce. Even a divorce that starts out amiable often results in anger by the time the court battle is over, especially if there is a disagreement over child custody. Rage is often felt in the death of a loved one. It can be directed at anyone—the person who died, the doctors, or even God. Anger, an inevitable part of loss, is not always a sin. It is an unavoidable emotion.

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

The Bible says, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26). The problem is not whether to be angry but how to handle it. Remember, your child is watching and learning from you how to express these raw emotions. Stuffed emotions will eventually find a way to come to the surface, and hurting the person with whom you are angry is a sin. Each person needs to find a way to vent anger that works for them. Talking about it to a friend, writing about it, or participating in physical exercise helps; however, you will never be free until you forgive the person who hurt you. Remember, your anger cannot and does not hurt other people. They cannot feel your anger. They can only see your actions. The only person who can feel your anger is you! Your child is watching you to see how to deal with anger. After the deep hurt you have endured, forgiveness may seem impossible; but pray about it, and the Lord will help you to come to a place of forgiveness. You owe it to your-

What We Discussed in Session 8 (Group A — 4- and 5-year-olds)

The children were taught about God’s grace and forgiveness and were encouraged to forgive those who have hurt them. The story was from Genesis 37:12-36 and 42-45.

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What We Discussed in Session 8 (Group B —1st – 3rd grade)

What We Discussed in Session 8 (Group C — 4th – 6th grade)

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The children learned that when they forgive, it is like pouring out uncomfortable feelings. The Bible story was from Luke 15:11-32.

The children made Play-Doh and learned about the grace of God. They learned that God forgives us, and He wants us to forgive each other. Our Bible story came from Matthew 18:2135.

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Let’s Talk Session 8-A 4- and 5-year-olds “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Activity: Draw a picture of someone you have forgiven. Ask your parent if you can play with balloons or bubbles together. Remember, when they pop, it is like forgiving someone and letting the uncomfortable feelings fly away.

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Let’s Talk Session 8-B 1st – 3rd Grade

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Activity: With your parent, make a list of the feelings that you pour out when you forgive. Parent: Very soon, give your child a treat that he or she does not deserve (God’s grace is undeserved).

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Let’s Talk Session 8-C 4th – 6th Grade

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Activity: Make a list of things you are angry about. Then write a prayer to God asking Him to help you forgive like He forgives you.

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PARENT PREPARATION

9

Session

Love

To live a life of love is more than to feel love for your child. It is to do things that help your child feel your love. To feel loved, children need for you to touch them lovingly, look them in the eye when they are talking, and really listen (Campbell, p. 38). Listening requires not only listening for content but also for feelings and responding to your child in a way that shows understanding. A good formula for listening is to think about what your child may be feeling and respond by saying, “It sounds like you feel . . . (angry, sad, etc).” Young children often do not even have words for feelings, and older children still may have difficulty putting their feelings into words. Do not worry if you use the wrong feeling word. Your child will correct you, and that requires him or her to think even more about the feelings. When you use reflective listening, it is not a time to preach or teach. It is a time to communicate and attempt to understand. You are dealing with feelings, and children have a right to feelings. Discipline is an act of love. To let a child misbehave because of the turmoil in the family is not doing the child any favors. Children need to know what is expected with rules simply stated so that they understand. When the rules are broken, time-outs, loss of privileges, and loss of attention can be used as consequences. An allowance or point system is a helpful way to motivate a child to do what is expected, and “Grandma’s law” can also be a positive way to get a child’s cooperation. It involves saying in a positive way, “Let’s do this (the less-desired activity) so we can do this (the more-desired activity).” Loving discipline helps a child feel secure knowing that a strong adult is in control.

“Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2).

“Every child has a special way of perceiving love. There are basically five ways children (indeed, all people) speak and understand emotional love. They are: physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service“ (Chapman, p. 20). “A child’s need for emotional love is just as important after the divorce as it was before. The difference is that the child’s love tank has been ruptured by the severe trauma of divorce. The process of repairing the love tank is itself an expression of love. Listening much, talking less, helping your child face reality, acknowledging hurt, empathizing with the pain of it all” (Chapman p. 171).

During the time of acute grief, children need special attention.

1. Allow for more rest than usual. 2. Allow for periods of regression. 3. Allow for any feelings. Do not criticize honestly expressed emotions or be shocked by them.

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4. Understand that the child may temporarily have difficulty paying attention.

5. Remember that the child will be more vulnerable to new losses: moving, a new school or grade, their mother going back to work, or even a new blanket or pacifier. If possible, use rituals to help with these losses such as a going-away party or a special breakfast on the first day of school.

What We Discussed in Session 9 (Group A — 4- and 5-year-olds)

What We Discussed in Session 9 (Group B —1st – 3rd grade)

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The children heard the greatest love story ever—the Easter story. It was explained to them that grief comes from love. The group made Play-Doh, and each child molded it into a shape that reminds them of love. The Bible story was from John 3:16.

The children made a crossword puzzle using a love theme. They learned about the greatest gift of all, Jesus dying for us, and they talked about grief being an outcome of love. The Bible story was from John 15:12.

The children learned that grief comes from loving someone. The group composed a letter to an imaginary friend to help the friend through a loss. Our Bible story about the greatest love of all, God’s sacrifice of His own Son, was from Matthew 27:32-54.

Parent Guide: Growing Seasons, Turning Point, P. O. Box 22127, Chattanooga, TN 37422-2127


Let’s Talk Session 9-A 4- and 5-year-olds “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son” (John Activity: You and your parent draw a picture of someone you love and watch a family movie together.

CHILD: DRAW A PICTURE OF SOMEONE YOU LOVE

ADULT: DRAW A PICTURE OF SOMEONE YOU LOVE

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Let’s Talk Session 9-B 1st – 3rd Grade

“And live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:2). Activity: You and your parent draw a picture of someone you love.

CHILD: DRAW A PICTURE OF SOMEONE YOU LOVE

ADULT: DRAW A PICTURE OF SOMEONE YOU LOVE

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Let’s Talk Session 9-C 4th – 6th Grade

“The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:14).

Dear God,

Activity: Write a love letter to God, thanking Him for His great love and sacrifice. Name something you could do for someone in your family to show you love them. Then do it.

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PARENT PREPARATION

10 Acceptance

Session

As time passes, the hurt, anger, and sadness will start to diminish for your child, and your family will start to feel like a family again. If there is a stepfamily involved, your child will hopefully begin to feel comfortable with the new relatives in his or her life. The important thing is to listen and accept your child’s feelings and to try to keep communication open with the other people in your child’s life. Whether it be a former spouse, grandparents, or aunts and uncles, those people are an important part of your child’s identity, and he or she needs to know positive things about them whether or not they are still around. A family does not have to have a father, a mother, 2.4 children, and a dog to be a functional family. Children from all types of families can grow and become

“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11).

What We Discussed in Session 10

This lesson was about making choices and being thankful for our blessings. The children made “Happy Grams.” The Bible story was from Matthew 7:24-27.

(Group A — 4- and 5-year-olds)

What We Discussed in Session 10 (Group B —1st – 3rd grade)

What We Discussed in Session 10 (Group C — 4th – 6th grade)

The children learned that they can choose how to use their talents and whether they want to forgive and ask forgiveness. The story was from Matthew 25:14-30.

The children learned that they can choose to be thankful and count their blessings. Our Bible story was from Luke 17:11-19 about Jesus healing the ten lepers. Only one returned to thank Him.

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Let’s Talk Session 10-A 4- and 5-year-olds “Give thanks to him and praise his name” (Psalm 100:4). Activity: Make a list of things for which you are thankful. Ask your parent to write it here. Draw a picture of something for which you are especially thankful.

I AM THANKFUL FOR THESE THINGS

I AM ESPECIALLY THANKFUL FOR THIS

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Let’s Talk Session 10-B 1st – 3rd Grade

“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11). Activity: Draw a picture of a choice you would like to make. Ask your parent if you can do something to celebrate the end of Growing Seasons.

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Let’s Talk Session 10-C 4th – 6th Grade

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). Activity: You and your parent make a list of things for which you are thankful. Read Philippians 4:8. Pray together, thanking God for the things on your list and asking Him to help you remember to think about praiseworthy things.

I AM THANKFUL FOR THESE THINGS

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Bibliography

Briggs, Dorothy Corkille. Your Child’s Self-Esteem. Garden City, NY: Dolphin Books, 1975. Campbell, Ross. How to Really Love Your Child. Wheaton, IL: Victor Press, 1977. Chapman, Gary and Ross Campbell. The Five Love Languages of Children. Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing, 1997. Clayton, Lawrence. Coping With a Drug-Abusing Parent. New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Company, 1991. Fagan, Patrick F. and Robert Rector. The Effects of Divorce on America. Washington, DC: The Heritage Foundation, 2000. Fleischman, M. J., A. M. Horne, and J. Arthur. Troubled Families: A Treatment Program. Champaign, IL: Research Press, 1983. Goldman, Linda. Life and Loss: A Guide to Help Grieving Children. Bristol, PA: Accelerated Development, 1994. Hart, Archibald. Helping Children Survive Divorce. Dallas, TX: Word Publishing, 1996. Jewett, C. L. Helping Children Cope With Separation and Loss. Harvard, MA: Harvard Common Press, 1982. Johnson, Joy. Keys to Helping Children Deal with Death and Grief. Hauppauge, NY: Barrons Educational Series, 1999. Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth. On Death and Dying. New York, NY: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1974. Martin, Grant J. Children in Pain. “Christian Counseling Today.” Buffalo Grove, IL: American Association of Christian Counselors, Summer 1995. Sabates, Angela. Rain, Rain, Go Away—Depression in Children. “Christian Counseling Today.” Buffalo Grove, IL: American Association of Christian Counselors, Fall 1995. Trozzi, Maria. Talking with Children About Loss. New York, NY: The Berkley Publishing Group, 1999. Wallerstein, Judith, Julia M. Lewis, and Sandra Blakeslee. The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce. New York, NY: Hyperion, 2000. Wilson, Jean and Linda Blocher. The Counselor’s Role in Assessing Children of Alcoholics. Elementary School Guidance and Counseling, Vol. 25, No. 2. Alexandria, VA: American School Counselor Association, 1990. Zeinert, Karen. Suicide, Tragic Choice. Berkeley, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 1999.

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Parent Guide: Growing Seasons, Turning Point, P. O. Box 22127, Chattanooga, TN 37422-2127


Growing Seasons Parent Guide