Unexpected Life Tips suggested by Marriage and Family Therapists

Mar 18, 2016

If your family had to face a tragedy, then you’ll probably see everyone reacting in different ways. Here are some tips from marriage and family therapists to help you support each other during this difficult time and come together as a family.

List of Life tips shared by Marriage and Family Therapists:

Look after yourself as a parent

If you have also been upset by the tragedy, such as if this has been the death of your parents, it’s important to allow yourself some time to personally grieve. It can be useful to organize some time for the kids to spend with family, friends and loved ones who can give them positive attention and allow you time to deal with your own emotions.

Seek professional advice

If the tragedy that your family has experienced also includes some traumatic events such as your children witnessing severe domestic violence or a school shooting, it can be useful to find a counselling service with experience in dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder in children.

Allow your child to express their emotions

Children can often become overwhelmed by their emotions after a tragedy. It is useful to come up with specific times and spaces for children to express any emotions they are experiencing, including grief, anger and fear. This can help your family grow stronger through this tragedy rather than growing apart.

Give them space to grieve

It used to be considered inappropriate to bring children to funerals, but it is now considered a good idea to bring children to these events so that they can get a chance to say farewell to a loved one.

Spend time together as a family

Following a tragedy, it can be a busy period, dealing with time-heavy requirements of attending medical appointments, funeral homes, police proceedings and so on. Your child may be extra clingy after this time as one of their concerns can be that they will lose more loved ones. (This is especially true where one parent or sibling has succumbed to an illness or injury, and the child is reacting to that injury). Give them some uninterrupted time with you as often as possible.

Communicate with the child’s wider community on their behalf

Your child may spend some time away from school following their tragedy and may need help adjusting back into life. Making sure that the school and other groups, such as your church, are aware of what is going on at home. This can help them guide the transition back to schooling. It also gives caretakers and teachers the chance to choose appropriate learning materials – for example not reading books about fixing cars to children who have just lost parents to car accidents.

Look for less obvious signs that your child is not coping

Children often regress after a tragedy and can start acting differently and seeming younger than their actual age. You may notice things such as bed wetting or regressing in sleep patterns. Even older children may have symptoms that manifest more in these physical signs than in words.

Grow your support network

If your tragedy is an unusual event, such as being the victims of a violent crime, it can be hard for both you and your children to find peers to talk to. It can be useful to find either a real life support network or online resources to help you maximize the people who can love and support your family.

When you have just experienced something terrible it can be useful to create some positive experiences that can bring you together. This could be as simple as everyone heading to mom and dad’s bed one night for a slumber party, or sharing a takeaway pizza while watching a movie. Simply by focusing on creating positive experiences you can bring the family closer.

Don’t focus on the calendar.

It can be easy to think that people should be ‘over’ tragedy by a certain point but each person processes events on their own timeline. Additionally new events can trigger memories of the tragedy, as can anniversaries.

Case study:

Michelle was a victim of domestic violence when her then-partner beat her in front of her children. Michelle was hospitalized following the event and the children went to their grandparents for care while their father was in jail and their mother was still in the hospital.

The children were initially extremely scared and would not sleep in their own beds. They were consistently scared of something happening and the youngest child was angry that their Mum was forgetful and couldn’t play the old games after she came home.

Michelle gave the children some space to express their emotions each day. They regularly attended therapy both by themselves and as a family. They also had a regular trip to their favourite play centre each Sunday and planned a pizza night with their grandparents. They are now very close. Michelle says “This wasn’t the way I planned it, but after a bumpy start we are now closer than ever as a family”.

Become a Marriage and Family Therapist:

Explore a career as a Marriage and Family Therapist. Achieve inner-happiness by helping individuals, families and couples resolve struggles and enhance their lives. By being a Marriage and Family therapist, you could be trained in various modes of therapy such as:

  • Depression and other Affective disorders
  • Childhood Behavioural and Emotional disorders
  • Marital and Relationship problems
  • Conduct Disorder and Delinquency
  • Substance Abuse
  • Alcoholism
  • Domestic Violence
  • Severe mental illness

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