Local clinical psychologist Lauren Snailham explains and offers great advice for parents.
What a week it has been! We move through life being a parent, hoping we are doing the right thing and that we are meeting our children’s’ needs. Our approach is usually a mixture of what we learnt growing up, what we’ve observed others doing and what we’ve read or watched on being ‘a good parent’. Sometimes we also just kind of wing it, and somehow it turns out okay.
But no one could be prepared for what we faced over this past week. How can a parent be there for their child when they not sure how to even be there for themselves? How do we contain and ground our children when we feel like reality has been completely distorted and we are battling to stay present. How do we pretend everything is going to be okay when we can’t even get our heads around what is happening?
If we as grownups were feeling all of this, then you can only imagine what our little people were experiencing. Some families were fortunate enough to not have been directly affected, and were able to shield their children from the bangs, smells and chaos. But others weren’t as fortunate. It’s so hard to tell your child everything is okay and that they are safe, when all you can hear is gunshots outside. Even if we shield them from all these ugly things, it’s still really hard to stop our worry, panic and stress from filtering down to them. Children are intuitive and perceptive, and can pick up the change of energy in the home.
This is why I wanted to share ‘Something Scary Happened’. I felt it was important for us to acknowledge what our little people went through, explore the feelings they may have, affirm them and remind them that their grownups are there to help them and can handle anything they give us.
In times of trauma and distress we often lose our words, and I hoped that this story would say the words that parents wanted to say but couldn’t.
‘Something Scary Happened’ is one of sixteen therapeutic storybooks I wrote about 10 years ago, as there was a need for bibliotherapy with the children I was working with. The story doesn’t give details of what scary thing happened, as the scary thing may be different for different children. Following the theme without detailing it gives children the opportunity to apply their own meaning, and makes it easier for a child to hear as there is some distance created. The reactions, thoughts and feelings shared are however the most common felt among children from my experience in working with them.
‘Something Scary Happened’ can set the scene for a further conversation with your child, children or learners. It opens the door for deeper conversations about thoughts and feelings and helps the child feel less alone in their experience.
If you read the story and your child does not want to talk about it thereafter, then let them be. They will be processing it in their own way. Drawing a picture after the story can be quite containing and a cuddle usually works too.
Watch the video here:
This video also offers great advice for parents:
A Bit about Therapeutic Stories
Therapeutic stories are an effective and non-threatening way to address challenging behaviour and navigate difficult situations with children.
By identifying with the main character the child’s feelings are validated and affirmed as feelings are named, described and understood. The child is also empowered as obstacles are overcome and resolutions achieved.
*Lauren Snailham is a clinical psychologist based in Kloof. She works with all ages, children, teens and adults, but have a passion for empowering and healing children.
“I believe that as powerful and healing therapy can be, it’s impact can be far greater if parents, teachers and the community all work together to create a safe and healing environment for the child. There is much truth to the saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. This is my reason for creating Child Therapy Toolbox. We design, create and deliver educational and therapeutic resources that can be used by parents, caregivers and teachers to assist children through any challenges they may face. I have also run many workshops within the community over the years to share ideas, understanding of our children and inspiration to keep doing our best for them.”
Tags: Child psychologist, child therapy, children, clinical psychologist, emotional health, Lauren Snailham, mental health, therapeutic stories, therapy