CH Web Course Header - Amb Loss-01.jpg

MODULE 2

Special Needs of Children

Overall, this module will present important needs that children experience not only as children, but throughout their lifetime. The supports that are suggested in this module are offered for children, and for adults who were children when the family member went missing. For many now adults, these needs still have not been met.

Learning Objectives

 When you have finished Module 2, you should be able to do the following:

  1. Describe the importance of the feeling of safety for a child of a family of a missing loved one. 

  2. Illustrate what children consider ‘normal functioning’ within the family of the missing and how to re-establish structure. 

  3. Differentiate between emotional structure and physical structure based on the child’s perspective and depending on their age and development. 

  4. Explain why open communication with children is important. 

  5. Describe how the children’s beliefs about the status of the missing, and their relationship

  6. to him/her changes over time. 

  7. Define and explain the concepts of pain of absence and uncertainty and fear.

  8. Identify long-term concerns and effects that a missing family member has on children. 

Module Instructions

  1. Read Supporting Families of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls & Other Missing Persons Manual (pages 22-30, starting at the title "Special Needs of Children" on page 22)

  2. Watch the videos and read the article in the Learning Materials section

Required Readings

  1. Supporting Families of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls & Other Missing Persons Manual (pages 22-30, starting at the title "Special Needs of Children" on page 22)

  2. Video: Ambiguous Loss Webinar sections
     

   3. Video: The importance of adapting family rituals to minimize the disruption when dealing with ambiguous loss 











 

   4. Video: Finding meaning as an important step in coping with ambiguous loss 

   5. Reading: When Your Child is Missing: A Family Survival Guide by J. Robert Flores (pages 64-66)
 

Key Terms & Concepts

  • Emotional Structure: Perception of the family’s emotional structure may be expressed more through a child’s reactions to people and situations than through verbal communication. 
     

  • Physical Structure: Most basic establishment of physical structure is through the creation and reinforcement of daily routine.
     

  • Normal functioning: Family’s communication patterns, internal relationships, and their sense of belonging to a family will provide information on the child’s perspective of normal functioning in the family.
     

  • Safety: Children must feel safe to thrive and grow. Key emotional support for children in all of these instances is the establishment of safety.
     

  • Pain of absence: Children of families of missing persons often adopt behaviours which help them to avoid feeling the pain of the absence. They are at high risk for alcohol and/or substance abuse later in life
     

  • Uncertainty and fear: Out of their experience of the missing person, the children develop an uncertainty as to who to trust. Fear is a significant part of the children’s experience. Often, they fear that whatever happened to their loved one will also happen to them.
     

  • Perception/perspective: Truth to the person at the time. 

LEARNING MATERIAL

INTRODUCTION

Module 2 will focus on the important needs of children when dealing with ambiguous loss and how those needs extend throughout their lifetime. The differences between emotional and physical structure from the perspective of children within the family of the missing will be discussed. The importance of a feeling of safety for children within the family of the missing and how to provide that feeling of safety as a support person will be explained. The various behaviours that children can develop throughout their lifetime to cope with the pain of a missing loved one will be examined. Lastly, the different outcomes between a missing child being abducted by a family member as opposed to a non-family member will be discussed. 

READING

Supporting Families of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls & Other Missing Persons Manual (pages 22-30, starting at the title "Special Needs of Children" on page 22)

Emotional and Physical Structure Summary:

pexels-burak-kostak-14303.jpg

In our Supporting Families of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls & Other Missing Persons manual reading we can see that children’s perception of the family’s emotional structure may be expressed more through their reactions to people and situations than through verbal communication. We can recognize that ‘acting-out’ behaviours of children are due to emotional feelings of disconnection that cannot be verbalized. Identifying the different ways that children will cope with their emotions to a missing loved one at different developmental stages. Lastly, we know the importance of safety is a key to emotional support for children and that establishing physical structure is through the creation and reinforcement of daily routine. 

 

Video: The importance of adapting family rituals to minimize disruptions when dealing with ambiguous loss. 

This video addresses an example on how to establish ‘normal functioning’ in a family when dealing with ambiguous loss. This video connects to the manual reading when discussing the reinforcement of physical structure during ambiguous loss to enforce a sense of normalcy, security, and safety in the family. In this clip from the National Council on Family Relations 2013 annual conference, Dr. Pauline Boss discusses the importance of adapting family rituals to minimize disruption when dealing with ambiguous loss, discussing an example of a family adapting their Thanksgiving ritual to include a grandfather suffering from Alzheimers, who could no longer carve the turkey. For this family, physical structure and a sense of ‘normalcy’ was established by including the grandfather in the Thanksgiving ritual and reinforcing his role as the patriarchal family figure by placing the turkey in front of him at the head of the table. 

 

Reading: When Your Child is Missing: A Family Survival Guide by J. Robert Flores (pages 64-66 starting at ‘Helping Your Children to Regain Their Physical and Emotional Strength’). 

The reading focuses on helping children regain physical and emotional strength while dealing with ambiguous loss. Some key points are discussed such as establishing a safety zone for children, creating routines to help the family to cope, and the importance of open communication about family members’ emotions. While reading this brief section, think about how the information connects to the manual reading. Did you notice any similarities or differences in the suggestions within the manual reading versus the Family Survival Guide reading? For instance, both the manual and the reading emphasize the importance of ensuring feelings of safety for children when a family member is missing and the importance of staying in touch with a child’s emotions during ambiguous loss. However, the Family Survival Guide reading goes into more detail about the possibility of allowing children to participate in a search for a missing family member or the issue with the media interviewing children during a vulnerable moment. 

 

Here are some discussion questions to consider:

 

  1. Do you have any additional ideas about ways to ensure that a child feels safe when going through ambiguous loss?

  2. What do you think is challenging about comforting and supporting children through ambiguous loss? Are there solutions to those challenges?

Law Enforcement:

erik-mclean-jr_n5rFREUE-unsplash.jpg

In our manual reading, we can see that children can perceive law enforcement’s role in the finding of a missing person differently than adults, and this can affect their views towards law enforcement later in life. Therefore, having open discussions with children (even in the presence of law enforcement) as to what is happening/what is going to happen in a way that children will understand is important. 

 

Video: Ambiguous Loss Webinar (46: 00- 51:59)

In this portion of the webinar, Duane discusses the importance of family communication and how children can perceive law enforcement when dealing with ambiguous loss in their family. The Webinar video relates back to the manual when it is explained how children can continue to be impacted into adulthood by the lack of communication from parents and law enforcement, and this lack of communication, or overall distrust towards law enforcement, can negatively influence a child into adulthood. Duane offers some further explanations into the various side effects that children can experience throughout their lifetime due to ambiguous loss.

Video: Finding meaning as an important step in coping with ambiguous loss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


This video focuses on finding meaning through connection with others as an important step in coping with ambiguous loss. This video provides an example of a teacher from Japan struggling to comfort his students who were experiencing the pain of ambiguous loss after a tsunami. Pauline Boss suggested to the teacher that he connect with the students by sharing his own experiences with ambiguous loss. This video connects to the manual reading because open communication with children when dealing with ambiguous loss is greatly emphasized. Thus, encouraging open communication can facilitate feelings of safety for children and contribute to healing from ambiguous loss.

Personal Beliefs of the ‘status’ of the missing person:

Image by Eric Ward

Our manual reading describes the importance of children being able to talk about what they believe has happened to the missing family member. As time passes and the loved one remains missing, the children’s beliefs about the status of the missing, and their relationship to him/her changes. The manual touches on the long-term concerns that children have as they age and prepare for the future and the self-destructive or avoidant behaviours that can be associated with the long-term concerns. 

Establishing a permanent relationship with the loved one:

Image by Alaeddin Hallak

In this section of the module, we learned ways in which a supporter can help a child to create symbols for remembrance of the missing loved one such as celebrating the missing loved one’s birthday, and/or a public plaque, bench, garden, or tree. 

 

Here is a discussion question to consider:

  1. What are some key differences between supporting an adult and supporting a child dealing with ambiguous loss?

Abduction by family member versus non-family member:

Image by Marissa&Eric

In this section of Module 2, we identified the issue of motivation and control for abducting a child and know how to support a parent of an abducted child such as work to re-establish structure, release the child that was/accept child that is, resolve the pain of the absence, uncertainty and fear, reassess the role of guilt, acknowledge the developmental expectations of the child’s future, and re-establish a single perception of future. 

 

Conclusion

If you have any questions or information/ideas you would like to discuss, please bring those up during the zoom training session.