Parenting Books on Grief and Trauma

Monday, December 17, 2012

In response to the horrific event in Newtown, CT, YDL librarian and parenting book reviewer Julianne Smith has created a list of recommended titles for parents and professionals who are in a position to help children deal with stress, grief, or trauma.  All reviews were originally published in Library Journal and are available at YDL.

Verbal First Aid: help your kids heal from fear and pain--and come out strong
The research agrees that traumatic experiences and parents' responses to them can have a life-long impact on children, coloring their future outlook and abilities to navigate stressful situations appropriately. The authors do an excellent job of illustrating children's reactions to stress at various developmental stages, as well as outlining the science behind the mind-body connection. Addressing everyday occurrences like asthma attacks and nosebleeds, in addition to more stressful situations such as preparing for surgery and unplanned catastrophic events, the authors give sample dialogs and responses designed to address the existing fear as well as provide "a teaching moment after the initial fear is over." While it is impossible to plan for accidents, it is within our power to prepare our responses. The authors (The Worst Is Over) have taught verbal first aid to doctors, nurses, and first-responders around the world, and their effort here to bring these skills directly to parents is empowering and on target. Recommended for any child care worker, responder, and certainly for parents.

The Parents' Guide to Psychological First Aid: helping children and adolescents cope with predictable life crises
Clinical psychologists Koocher and La Greca help parents guide children navigating what they call "predictable crises" of youth, ranging from body image to dental visits to the birth of a new sibling. Organized by subjects (e.g., "Family Issues," "Adolescent Issues," "Social Issues"), each section contains a selection of articles by leading experts describing the problem and offering reassurance, management strategies, and tips for when to seek professional help. The contributors range from psychologists in private practice to academic faculty at hospitals and medical centers. The articles are brief (two to five pages) and concise, written for a lay-audience yet based on the most up-to-date research. Replete with recommended books and websites; a top choice for all libraries.

Great Answers to Difficult Questions about Death: what children need to know
Thanatology fellow and counselor Goldman (Children Also Grieve) presents a brief introduction to death discussions with young children by providing sample questions children typically ask after a death, followed by appropriate responses based on a child’s age. Questions range from the general (e.g., “What does dead mean?”) to the heartbreakingly specific (e.g., “Why do all the good people like my mom die young?”) and include sample responses; follow-up questions for further dialog; and suggested terms and explanations for things like tumors, suicide, and cremation. The author strongly advocates honesty in order to secure trust in children, who will have future questions throughout their lives at various life stages, as well as to alleviate egocentric “magical thinking” that children engage in when given insufficient information. This should be on the ready-reference shelf for anyone who works with children; it is brilliant in its honesty, sensitivity, and brevity.

The Journey Through Grief and Loss: helping yourself and your child when grief is shared
In this tender and compassionate book, social worker and bereavement specialist Zucker helps parents and children explore their grief with practical advice for the ongoing journey to healing. He breaks grief down into three phases, emphasizing that bereavement is never really “over,” but only changes over time. He explains how children grieve differently than adults and outlines typical behaviors and concepts for various ages. Practical advice is offered on preparing children for funerals and dealing with family conflict following a death (it’s normal). He also stresses the importance of keeping memories alive, as second-tier losses (like unrealized relationships) are often greater than a death itself. He concludes with an excellent chapter on getting help and provides sample questions to ask potential counselors, not all of whom are qualified as bereavement specialists.

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