Coping Skills for Children
Meena Dhanjal Outlaw
Fifteen years ago, after my spinal cord injury, I changed my type of parenting for my then three-week-old son, and my three-year-old daughter.
My daughter, who witnessed my fall from the balcony, also felt a further blow when her dad and I divorced shortly thereafter.
When she was born she was a very quiet, yet jolly child. However, after my accident, she became guarded. When her dad left she completely refused any form of affection from me; not even responding to me saying, “I love you”.
When a child goes through a trauma it is often stated that they are resilient and will get through it, however, I disagree. I also know that early on she needed therapy. Unfortunately, finding the right type of therapist, and being able to afford it, was nearly impossible. Eventually, a priest referred me to a therapist who, in addition to treating my daughter, also treated me for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and provided pre-marriage counseling.
For children, therapy dynamics change compared to adults. Children have a hard time comprehending and deciphering emotions. Without treatment, they do understand sadness or loss and lack vital coping skills.
Everyone goes through crisis regardless of his or her disposition. Whether it is a child or parent that is disabled, or a relative coping with a loved one who could have cancer, the primary focus is to realize there are key coping elements to which we must pay attention.
I also want to be clear that while therapy is enormously useful, so to at times are the use of anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications. While some patients only need it for a short time, there are just as many patients who require them on a long-term basis, and this is nothing to be ashamed of. If anything, I commend these people for having the courage to take a stand and help themselves as I did! Now my moods are balanced and less scattered.
We often guide our children to make good choices but if they haven’t processed the trauma the choices they make will become self-destructive. The longer they struggle, the more profound the destructive behavior.
Presumably, when we adults have an injury that debilitates us, a sickness that further impairs us, or even a mortality issue, we are already supposed to be equipped with chemical balance within to cope, yet, most often this is not as true.
Taking care of my two young kids after my injury was the hardest thing I have ever done. I was less than six months into my paralysis before I had to think like a soldier, and I haven’t stopped. Some have told me that I am still in survival mode fifteen years later. I disagree.
Over the years I’ve dealt with things one step at a time. Firstly, I became functional and self-sufficient, and then I bought a house and hired a nanny.
So, how do we help our children cope and what are the resources out there for us parents who also have to watch our pennies?
Jenna Luzzo and her partner, JJ. Wett started a counseling business where they are available by phone or the internet nationwide. They are also HIPPA compliant, therefore, confidentiality still applies. They counsel all ages and charge as low as twenty dollars for a fifty-minute session.
They work on cognitive behavioral therapy with adults. This is where they switch negative thoughts to positive ones and keep them there.
For children, they implement trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy. For the first couple of months they focus on how the child feels when talking about a traumatic experience. Then they continue with cognitive behavioral therapy so that they too can develop the ability to switch the way they perceive negative to positive thoughts.
Jenna was diagnosed with spinal Muscular Atrophy Type II at nine months, which is a form of Muscular Dystrophy. From two years of age she began using a wheelchair.
JJ and Jenna focus on providing accessible and affordable treatment with upmost importance to a person’s ability to really heal from a crisis.
Jenna says, “It is all how we are able to process situations. Some of us are equipped where as others are not”.
As a young child with a disability this therapist understands what it means to see how resourceful her parents have to become. Where they lacked resources they made up by finding support groups and a community of children with a similar disability.
So, here are some tips that can help you decide if and how to get your child help:
- Watch to see how they are processing the trauma. If they are isolating themselves or staying away from affection loved ones, they are most likely in fear of getting hurt.
- Do they understand what happened and that it is not their fault? If they seem despondent or unapproachable then are not coping.
- Early intervention is important following trauma.
In my case it was hard to find anyone that could even understand the magnitude of the changes
within my children and me.
- Having a therapist you can relate to is as important as one you can trust.
We have all heard the saying life is what you make it, but when something bad happens we aren’t always equipped to handle the emotions.
I attribute my positive thinking to the therapy and activities in which I’ve been involved.
One thing of which I am certain is that we all have a talent. Sometimes we just need a little help to clear the clutter and recognize them.
Jenna Luzzo, M.S.S.W., LMSW
To schedule a free consultation with Jenna, please email: email@example.com
J.J. Wett, M.S., LMFT
To schedule a free consultation J.J., please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.