Change or loss is something that many children tend to experience and is likely to have lasting and profound effects on the well-being of these children. Despite the fact that these children tend to have a limited experience and understanding of the world, they experience overwhelming emotions as well as negative reactions after the loss or trauma. Children like stability, and this gives them comfort. They benefit from having the same routines such as routines of going to bed, the rituals on what is said and done. As such, they need to have the parameters of behavior and lifestyle, and the absence of this will cause poor self-control and inadequate social skills. In order to survive periods of grief, children normally depend on adults to reassure and support them, and to provide love, strength, and security. Change or transition may take the form of abuse, bullying, family breakdown or bereavement. One important concept that emerges in the study of these transitions is the concept of laminality. This refers to the state of ambiguity that exist in the middle stage of certain rituals or events, in the course of which the participating individual does not adhere to the pre-ritual status, but has not attained the status which it will hold the moment the ritual has been completed. It is more of the transitional phase or period of a rite of passage during which the participant follows prescribed forms of conduct, lacks social status or rank, etc. Transitions are dynamic processes that are said to follow some threefold sequential pattern, namely preliminal rites or rather rites of separation from the previous world, threshold or laminal rites (those that are performed during the transitional stage and the postliminal rites that mark the re-incorporation of an individual into the world with a new status. The paper considers several strategies that can be used to support children through loss or change and how this concept of liminality can help practitioners to support children’s experiences of transitions.
Several strategies that can be used to support children through loss or change
One should try to be available during times of change or transition to offering the appropriate support to the child. For instance, if the child exhibited some hard time at the onset or end of school year or had difficulties to cope with life after losing a parent or guardian, it is critical to be more available during this time. Attempts should be put in place to simplify on our needs so that we can focus on the needs of the child. However, this will have to be done while at the same time inculcating some level of independence in the child. Practitioners have a challenge in striking a balance between the two; the extent to which they should be available and the level to which the child should be alone to reflect over the transition (Foley & Leverett, 2008, B, p.267). In a situation where children experience loss, it is important to talk about death or loss candidly. One has to talk about what will happen and what the change is likely to mean to all of you. Important facts about such events should be shared. This assists an individual to get a sense of what the children feel and think about the situation. It is important that a child should be invited to talk about how they feel regarding the event. As such, one will be guided by their reactions.
There is need to build secure emotional and physical base for children. This may not be easily attained if one fails to establish that emotional connection with the child. Responding to emotions with reassurance and comfort is highly called for after being emotionally connected with the child (Foley & Leverett, 2008, A, p.268). One is supposed to notices if the child seems worried, upset or sad in other ways. One should let the child know that it takes time for one to feel better after the loss of a loved one. There may be a situation where the child has problems in concentrating or even sleeping. The child may also have worries or fears. In such a situation, counseling and support groups can assist the child who needs more support. The child has to be given enough time to recover or heal from the loss. People grieve or recover from a loss over time. As such, our roles will be to have ongoing conversations to monitor how the child is doing or feeling. In this case, the feeling will not necessarily mean forgetting about the person or the loved one. It may mean that we are remembering the person with love and allowing the loving memories to stir the good feelings which will support the child as he or she goes on to enjoy life. Acknowledging the fears and worries of the child is paramount. The child should be allowed to express his feelings by feelings by being allowed to feel sad, angry and confused during the times of change (Foley & Leverett, 2008, A, p.268). Such feelings are normal, and the child should be allowed to express them. The child should be convinced that his or her concerns are taken very seriously. Therefore, it is important to help a child feel better in this case. This will be done by providing the comfort that is needed by the child, although there is need not to dwell on the sad feelings. After some time of listening and talking, there is need to shift to an activity or topic that will assist the child to feel a bit better. Activities such as cooking, making art, playing and going somewhere are very relevant in this context.
Courtesy of social storytelling, one can also share his or her thoughts and feelings regarding the same. However, one may not need to address their experiences directly. Children may be able to understand these experiences better and be able to change their responses to such situations. They are likely to act as if they have not heard anything that has been said especially when they are experiencing loss. One has to be prepared to repeat the same information because kids may not sometimes process the information when they are distressed. This calls for a lot of empathy and patience on the part of the practitioner or the intervening party (Foley & Leverett, 2008, A, p.270). They have also to be reassured that the feelings of helplessness and sadness are normal. Imparting this kind of knowledge to the grieving children can be reassuring to them, and always provide hope that they will not always be feeling the way they do. Children are also likely to blame someone when they experience some loss or change. In many cases, these changes are not anyone’s fault. A parent can change a job and move to another city, a loved one can die, or parents may not necessarily be able to get along well and decide to separate. In these cases, it is easier for the adults to understand that there is no person to blame here. However, children are more likely to blame when they experience loss or some important change. They even go to the extent of blaming themselves irrespective of how unrealistic this may be. As such, it is important to tell the child that many children do this, although they are not to blame for the same.
In the case of loss or death, children should be fully involved in the rituals or funerals. Such involvement can help the children move through the grieving process. However, they should not be forced to go for such functions, especially if such functions are very overwhelming for them. It is important to be empathetic enough for these children and let them know that you feel sad the way they do. If possible, it is important also to make the child aware that change is a normal part of everyday life. Involving children in rituals gives them an opportunity to understand and in touch with death as a reality. Participating will also involve externalization of grief and is important to allow children to participate in them fully. Through these rituals, they can begin to find the expressions of the internal feelings of grief that they are experiencing (Foley & Leverett, 2008, A, p.275). This also gives them an opportunity to experience the comforting presence of friends and other relatives and a chance to ask relevant questions about what they are feeling. They appreciate the process itself as something that is dictated by nature. Practitioners are therefore obliged to remind them of various changes that they have been able to encounter such as how they have been able to outgrow their clothes over time, or even ride a bicycle(as part and parcel of change). On the same note, the children ought to be told that some life changes are natural and everyone has to go through them. Just the same, way they will grow and perhaps join a tertiary institution; people go through various changes and stages of life, including adulthood, ageing, and even death. In making decisions about change, the child should be fully involved. Children under normal circumstances have very limited control over the changes taking place in their lives. Involving them will make them feel more in control of the changes in their lives. Having an active, small role will assist the child master and familiarize with an emotional situation by taking part in occasions such as memorial services. For example, a child can be invited to read a poem, display some photos, and pick a song to be played or engage in any activity. The children have to decide what they want to take part in and how they intend to do that.
Continuity of care should be in place after these interventions. It is important to ensure that both the home and school environments are engaging enough, to see the children through the healing process. There is a need for practical, emotional support from the teachers, peers and the family. The continuity of the caring family environment should be guaranteed by ensuring that there is always security, affection, trust, and that relationships are central. Continuity of care will take into consideration child protection and welfare services, psychological services, alternative care, family as well as locally based community supports, education welfare services, alternative services among others(Foley & Leverett, 2008, A, p.277).
How the concept of liminality can help practitioners to support children’s experiences of transitions
The concept of laminality entails studying of the life course, and this is important for the practitioners to identify and understand the impact of the various changes in the lives of these children. This implies that there is a lot of preparation for change that practitioners take into account. Since the concept focuses on different stages, the whole process of transitions is examined as opposed to the specific marker of events that are merely referred to everyday usage. As such, the practitioners are equipped with knowledge across the board, and the relevant support mechanisms that have to be applied to support a child during every stage of transition. The concept represents transitions as substantial times of change that are also turning point in the lives of these children and should be approached with a lot of care. In fact, the practitioners are in a better position to assess the readiness of the child to take on the new responsibilities in the next stage that more demanding. It may not necessarily be important that a very young child that is experiencing the rite of passage is unaware of the status change. The concept of laminality implicates the practitioners in recognizing the fact that these events are essentially about recognition, social participation and affirming the new and old relationships. The concept of laminality goes the whole way to unpack the processes of transitions to adulthood, and therefore more effective interventions can be taken thereof. They focus on the transitions as a process of becoming. Practitioners consider the transitions of these children by taking into account the context of the transitions. They take into consideration the specific life course transitions as well as the context (Foley & Leverett, 2008, A, p.214). In fact, it has been established that the relationship is a causal one, always moving from the context itself to transition. The practitioners are therefore able to take into account the issue of context, and its probable effects on the transition experiences that is being experienced by these children. However, practitioners may be limited in taking into account the contextual factors for less commonly experienced transitions and also when it comes to considering the contextual factors (Foley & Leverett, 2008, A, p.214).
The stages of the transitions provide some in-depth understanding of how the children are likely to go through the contextual stage, moving gradually from the preliminal or the rites of separation to the liminal stages or the rites of transition and eventually the postlaminal, or the rites of incorporation stages. As such, practitioners are in a better position to take into account the habituation through which children are more likely to adapt to different stages of schooling over periods that are likely to differ in intricacy and length. It makes them understand that some children can easily adopt, while others may take a longer time or requires more effort to adapt to their new school status. One very critical aspect during the transitional stages by the children is social relationships. It is important that such relationships are as supportive as possible. If the contrary is true, then the institutions in which these children are incorporated are likely to subject the children to discriminatory practices that will also impair the healing process (Foley & Leverett, 2008, A, p.221). The practitioners emphasize the need for having interactions that are more focused on fairness, order, empathy band safety. For example, the classroom environment will be expected to be supportive, secure, and relaxed in social and intellectual learning. Practitioners are in a better position to ensure that the social development of children is age appropriate and acceptable irrespective of the transitions (Foley & Leverett, 2008, A, p.221).
Building resilience is another critical aspect that has to be embraced by practitioners in supporting children through loss. This provides children with the tools they need to respond to the stress they encounter, and successfully navigate through this stress. Practitioners help children to develop strength and acquire the skills to cope with these times of difficult. Successful transition needs some resilience. This also has to do with going an extra mile to strengthen the behavior of the child (in case the child exhibits some problematic behavior). Practitioners also impart a feeling of competence to make children feel that they can handle a situation effectively by helping them focus on the individual strength at all times. The competencies of the children are individually recognized without having to make comparisons with other children. The major aspect that will give the practitioner hard time will be inculcating and developing trust with the child so as to nurture the required resilience (Foley & Leverett, 2008, A, p.226).
As for preparation for change or loss, there is room for ensuring readiness for the transition of these children, by making it possible for the practitioners to evaluate the adequacy of personal, social, economic and the educational resources that are available to support the children move from one stage to another more successfully. Again, by understanding what the families and children from the diverse backgrounds view the transitions, practitioners have an opportunity to be adequately responsive to intervening for these children and being responsive to the construction of supportive systems that are paramount for support of the children throughout the transition periods. Practitioners try to ensure that there are adequate information sharing and communication between the parents and themselves in an attempt to see the children through successful transitions. They ensure that preparation for the transitions begins early enough and that all the stakeholders are brought on board (Foley & Leverett, 2008, A, p.209). The concept of laminality provides insight on how to go about this despite the fact that achieving the desirable level of buy-in in supporting the child has remained a challenge. All the stakeholders ought to be brought on board.
Children require critical support during change or loss, and continuity of the same even after the loss. There is need to build secure emotional and physical base for children and this entails responding to emotions with reassurance and comfort is highly called for and also noticing if the child seems worried, upset or sad in other ways. A strategy such as social storytelling will enable an individual to share his or her thoughts and feelings regarding the same, and assist the child through the healing process. Continuity of the intervention should also be upheld both at school and at home. The concept of laminality is also important in supporting children through transitions. For instance, the put practitioners in a better position to identify and understand the impact of the various changes in the lives of these children, taking contextual factors into account during the intervention process and also in preparing for change or loss among these children.
Foley, P., & Leverett, S. 2008. Connecting with Children: Developing Working Relationships. Bristol, U.K: Policy.