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second edition of Trauma in the Lives of Children is introduced by a
sequence of forewords and prefaces, all of which prepare us for a very
worthwhile read. I wasn't surprised then to find the book confident and
comprehensive in the material it handles. Some of the most devastating of
human experiences are explored in a constructive and positive way. Writing
about childhood bereavement, for instance, the author is not shy of debating
the conventions of Elizabeth Kubler- Ross's Stage Theory of grief. As he says,
whilst most people working in the field would tend to agree that the so-called
"stages" of grieving exist, there can equally be no doubt that an
infinite number variables interact with those stages.
am very pleased to note his emphasis on the value of emotional education in
this text. We are beginning to recognize just how imperative Emotional
Literacy is for all of us in the UK and Kendall Johnson gives a very strong
case for its preventative potential. Whilst for the most part we can't prevent
these devastating events happening, we can at least expect to have empowered
children with the skills and resilience to make an attempt to effectively
express at the very least and hopefully process some of what life throws at
them. It would be exciting to see the so-called preventative (or emotional)
curriculum embodied in all teacher training. Johnson's assertion is that the
fundamental steps are to:
validate and affirm children's expression of feelings
assist the child in recognizing, identifying and naming feelings
validate intuitive awareness
help the child to differentiate between thoughts and feelings
wholeheartedly concur with this view, as so often I find that teachers and
other professionals are concerned to "cure" children of what they
perceive as bad behavior. There is tendency to focus on cognitive
interventions rather than exercises in learning.
and trauma are at the heart of many of the serious emotional and behavioral
problems that children manifest in schools and at home. This book will help to
build confidence to make more effective interactions with children experiencing
trauma in their lives. It isn't a directive text; rather it provides the reader
with an abundance of ideas. Statistics in the appendices obviously relate to a
specific US study, but could be used as guidelines
for anyone to create their own study. Often it is the starting point for such
studies that takes the time. The Critical Life Event Survey and Parental/Adult
response exercises are very penetrating. I might not ever use these per se,
but bearing the identified events and response areas in mind could help me
develop life story work or frame my own thoughts for report writing. I also ran
through these for myself and found that process insightful and sobering.
enjoyed the chapter on professional stress, having worked in institutions that
are experiencing the trauma of closure or being labeled "failing" and
felt at first hand the highly charged phenomenology of staff rooms during such
times. At times professionals cannot find the objectivity to cope. People
frequently carry on working when they are in burn out. It is helpful to remind
ourselves that, as Johnson says" stress is the result of personal
investment in difficult situations." His explanation of the stress cycle
is very useful and the dire warnings to those who may get over involved is well
heeded. I'd like to read aloud from this chapter at times!
On child sexual abuse, I find Johnson helpful
referencing of US policy and practice, but obviously UK has its own slant on
this area. It is always important to refer directly to the current legislation
guidance. I would put a health warning on this chapter for UK professionals for
whom it is essential that they are trained to follow up to date methods of
handling disclosures. What Johnson is good on is the aftermath for the
professionals involved: Left over feelings can abound; transferences can occur;
the other person's trauma revealed can feel very invasive. De-brief is so
important. Too often the model of supervision is inadequate.
in the Lives of Children
is a very good companion for any professional working in the education or
health field. Whether you read it straight through or dip and dive into
interest areas, it will help you to process your own thoughts about your own
and children's lives. I shall certainly circulate it amongst my colleagues and
give it good home on my bookshelf.
© 2004 Lizzie Perring
Lizzie Perring, Cert Ed., Dip Mus., MA, Dip
Counselling and Psychotherapy is now working as a Behavior Support Teacher in Coventry, UK.
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