Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Resource for Kids...

Serious compassion fatigue, like other forms of posttraumatic stress and burnout, has a ripple effect on the sufferer's circle of family and friends. Some children are particularly sensitive to this CF fallout.

PTS specialist, Aphrodite Matsakis, (1996), describes the impact this way:

"... the major problems experienced by children in homes
afflicted by PTSD are emotional. If ... PTSD expresses itself
in irritability, outbursts of temper, frequent flashbacks or erratic
behaviour, the children are often frightened and anxious,
not knowing what to expect next."

Children can also grieve as the result of a CF parent's distancing and emotional numbing.

And, while many spouses of compassion fatigued helpers are highly effective parents, some say that they can become so focused upon, and depleted by, their partner's pain that they are less emotionally available to their children than they would like to be.

A result of this stress and distress is that children may cope by suppressing their own feelings, believing that no one will listen or that their emotional responses will make things worse.

One way to counter this kind of reaction is to provide children with information about their feelings and about their wider safety net of helpers. There have been several good children's books written about feelings over the years, but this week I came across a great British website designed for children aged 7 - 10.

The website,, was set up by Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust, a mental health trust based in Camden, North London. Here, Cam and his team of sock puppet friends, each named for a different feeling - Happy, Sad, Calm, Confused, Angry, & Sad -, read stories and talk about feelings, learn a feelings song, explore common emotion-laden problems and learn to make their own sock puppet with whom they can share their feelings.

While not specifically focused upon CF or PTS affected families, Cam's Den leaves children with the message that there is always someone available to listen and to help with difficult feelings and problems. (In this case, the NHS mental health clinics, so parents here would have to provide alternate information for their area or country.)

There is also a section for parents, explaining how to recognize emotional problems in their children and when to seek help.

Annabel Venning, a journalist who reviewed the site for one of the British newspapers, reported that her children, aged seven and five, "... were immediately captivated by the puppets while the stories were a great springboard for discussion. After one, about a new girl who is ostracised at school, both vowed to make sure that no one got left out at playtime in the future."

Why not take a look and see if it would be helpful for your kids?

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