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.
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.
After many years as a child psychologist, Dr. Beth Grosshans wrote the popular parenting book Beyond Time-Out: From Chaos to Calm. A major aspect of Beth Grosshans’ theory is that unruly children often suffer from what she calls an imbalance of family power, or IFP.
Difficult children who fight with their parents on a range of issues, from toileting to sleeping independently and causing trouble at mealtime, may indicate that the family has IFP. The general rule is that family life should be peaceful about 70 percent of the time; any less than that indicates a larger issue.
With IFP, the children have too much power. They cannot see their parents as authority figures, and parents often respond by becoming unruly and throwing tantrums themselves. Many children try tactics to get their own way, and when these tactics work, they use them often.
It’s natural for children to test out family boundaries. When the boundaries break too easily, however, children start to gain power and authority, taking on a leadership role that can lead to a great amount of anxiety. Children do not, of course, yet have the capacity to manage such responsibility in their lives, and badly need their parents to act as leaders and authority figures. Addressing the issue of IFP can help many families right the balance of power and develop a peaceful home environment.
Dr. Beth Grosshans is a retired licensed clinical psychologist with a PhD in clinical child psychology from the Ohio State University. Beth Grosshans is working to update her 2008 book, Beyond Time Out: From Chaos to Calm on parenting unruly children.
The thesis of the book is that many unruly children misbehave because children have far too much power in the family relationship. The advice of many parenting experts over the past 40 years or so, the book suggests, have made parents feel intimidated about disciplining their children.
Children need to know that parents are authority figures, the book argues, and though it can be uncomfortable, they must find ways to discipline their children gently and responsibly. When parents can do so, children will quickly calm down, relieved of the responsibility of too much power and able to trust her parents as authority figures.
One of the tools Beyond Time Out offers is the idea of the Ladder To Effectiveness. There are five steps, or rungs, to the ladder that parents can climb one at a time. Parents only need to go as high on the ladder as necessary to find compliance in the child. This technique teaches children in an action-based context, helping them to learn important lessons of self-control and cooperation, and thus restore the balance of power in the family.