Helping Children Grieve a Parent

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As a PhD candidate at Ohio State University, Dr. Beth Grosshans completed her thesis on the course of grief in children who have lost a parent. Dr. Beth Grosshans has since gone on to counsel children and teenagers in her private practice.

When a child’s parent dies, that child needs help in processing the complex and intense emotions that they are experiencing. The most important thing that adults can do is reassure the child that whatever they are feeling is normal and understandable, even if they are feeling anger or other emotions that they may feel guilty about having.

After the loss of a parent, children need adequate time to process the assoicated emotions. Adults often avoid the topic of grief in the effort to protect the child from negative feelings, but these feelings will come up regardless. A grieving child needs to know that an adult is there to listen whenever he or she needs to talk something out.

While helping children work through their feelings of grief, adults should take time to reassure them that everyone grieves in their own way. It may be helpful if a child sees adults expressing their own sadness or frustration so that they can more fully understand that it is normal to struggle with accepting a death. Finally, children should hear often that no one expects them to get over the death, but instead learn to live in a world without the deceased parent while making a permanent space for that parent in their hearts.


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Judge Baker Children’s Center Advances Mental Health

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Judge Baker Children’s Center

Dr. Beth Grosshans is a retired New Jersey-based clinical psychologist whose 25 years of experience have made her a sought-after speaker on family therapy issues. In her book, Beyond Time-Out: From Chaos to Calm, Beth Grosshans explored imbalances of power between parents and their children and provided advice for remedying these situations. Dr. Grosshans served as a predoctoral intern at the Judge Baker Children’s Center (JBCC) in Boston, Massachusetts.

JBCC was founded in 1917 by Judge Harvey Humphrey Baker, the first judge appointed to the Boston Juvenile Court. Judge Baker believed delinquent behavior was caused by factors that warranted further examination. After nearly a century, JBCC has stayed true to Baker’s vision by conducting scientific research into factors that cause delinquent behavior and implementing effective treatment.

In addition to research, JBCC maintains a variety of programs and services to promote the mental health and well-being of children. JBCC’s Summer Enrichment Institute helps children ages 6-12 deal with behavior disorders such as ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), and its Center for Effective Child Therapy assesses children’s mental health and provides focused, evidence-based treatment.

For teenagers with college aspirations, JBCC offers a program called Next Step: College Success and Independent Living. This program is available to students in grades 9-12 who have been diagnosed with nonverbal learning disorders, Asperger syndrome, or any other condition that may impede learning. Next Step works to instill in these students the self-sufficiency and problem-solving skills necessary for college success.

Alternative to Timeouts – Emotion Coaching

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Emotion Coaching

Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Beth Grosshans provides assessments and interventions to individuals of all ages, including couples and families. Aside from her practice, Dr. Beth Grosshans serves as a private consultant to teachers regarding child development issues. One area of professional interest about which she is passionate is alternatives to timeouts for children.

Although timeouts are better than spanking, they are known as just another form of punishment by humiliation. Emotion coaching and prevention are positive alternatives.

In addition to coaching your child through his or her feelings, it’s critical for you, the parent, to manage your emotions, as doing so can calm rather than ignite an emotional storm. Since timeouts for a child’s meltdown can trigger abandonment panic, they are actually considered to be destructive.

Rather than subjecting your child to a timeout, try a time-in. This method is effective for helping your child calm down and work through his or her emotions with you. If a time-in means cuddling with your child and/or reading a book because he or she is over-tired, that’s fine. Even if your child is about to have a meltdown, let him or her know you are there to help and that he or she is safe.