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How to Help Kids Grieve When a Sibling Dies

Typically, our experts are best-selling authors and top experts who have studied a topic for many years as a researcher, writer, professional and adult. But sometimes, our best experts are the children themselves who are going through a unique situation that make it so only a small portion of people like them would understand.

Every once in a while, I will be putting in a special kid edition of How to Talk to Kids about Anything so that we get this “expert” “in-the-trenches” view of what it’s like to be on the other end of these conversations with insights on what kids really need, want and would ask for from us, as adults, if we would be open to it. And- we are open to it, aren’t we? So here we are with this first kids’ edition of the How to Talk to Kids about Anything podcast—and you’ll see why it’s so important that we ask a teen who is going through this journey to talk about her views, take-aways and tips—so the adults who find themselves in a helper role such as this, are prepared.

When people hear that one of my dearest friends suffered the loss of her 13-year-old son, Gavin, after his 16-month battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma, they often say something like; “no parent should experience the death of a child.” As a mother and a best friend, I agree. It is heart-wrenching and tragic and makes me cry in random moments as it just happened in August of this year. But there is a secondary loss that many don’t often consider to the same degree, and that is the loss of a sibling. My bestie’s amazing 15-year-old daughter, Jadyn, who I am fortunate enough to have in my life as who I refer to as my “adopted niece” and she refers to me as her Aunt, is also suffering. She is learning how to live, love and find joy in this new normal and moving forward without her brother by her side.

Studies tell us that when a sibling passes away during childhood or the teenage years, it can have a profound impact on surviving children. The development of independence, romantic relationships and even career paths can be stunted or affected, risk-taking can either be triggered or severely reined in. Acting out can take the place of excruciating sadness.

The death of a sibling has also been associated with increased diagnoses of mental disorders such as anxiety, depression and disordered eating for living brothers and sisters. So how can we, as key adults in the lives of children- teachers, coaches, parents, mentors, aunts and uncles- help and support children and teens when they’ve lost a sibling or a very close friend?

We have the privilege of speaking directly with Jadyn today on a special kid edition of the podcast—understanding that one unfortunate way you become an expert in the topic of child or teen sibling grief is to lose your brother and sister during childhood or adolescence. This is a sensitive topic- but an important one to discuss as our guest is very focused on wanting to help others who are going through a similar situation.

Jadyn is a 9th grader in the prestigious BETA program in Florida. She has been writing for years to help other teens like her. Jadyn is a high-school athlete, playing volleyball and soccer. She is known by those around her as a loving sister, daughter, and friend. She is the author of the poem, Empty Space, about her experience with grief and losing her brother.

I am so more than a little touched to have my beautiful “niece” on the show today so Welcome Jadyn to how to talk to kids about anything!

How to Talk to Kids about Depression, Conflict & Coping with Katie Hurley

Special guest: Katie Hurley

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, approximately one out of five teens has a mental health disorder, diagnosable by clinical methods, and nearly one-third show symptoms of depression. Now you might be thinking- well, many teens seem depressed to me, their moods and their emotions are all over the place! Stress is overwhelming! Yes, that can be true- symptoms of depression in adolescents aren’t always easy to identify because they often appear as normal adolescent behavior. But if we keep an eye open for consistent depressed behavior and indicators like, fatigue, changes in sleep patterns, changes in eating patterns, social withdrawal, and/or anger- these can serve as early warning signs that can allow us to get help for our teens as depression is absolutely treatable but NOT fixable on its own. Teens who have depression need therapy, support at home and yes, some also need medication. There’s no quick fix and thankfully, we have Katie Hurley here to explain how we know if our child needs help, what we and our teens can do at home to assist and what exercises and tools we can use to improve mood, self-esteem and motivation.

Katie Hurley, LCSW, is a child and adolescent psychotherapist, parenting expert, and writer. She is the founder of “Girls Can!” empowerment groups for girls between ages 5-11. Hurley is the author of The Happy Kid Handbook” “No More Mean Girls,” (both subjects we have interviewed Katie on previously on How to Talk to Kids about Anything) and her new workbook, The Depression Workbook for Teens, which is the #1 new release on Amazon for Teen and Young Adult Self Esteem and Self Reliance Issues. Her work can be found in The Washington Post, PBS Parents, and US News and World Report, among other places. She practices psychotherapy in the South Bay area of Los Angeles and earned her BA in psychology and women’s studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She splits her time between California and Connecticut with her husband and two children.

How to Help Kids Learn Friendship Skills and Avoid Social Isolation with Caroline Maguire

Special guest: Caroline Maguire

A child hangs back in gym class because he just knows he’ll be the last one picked. Another child monologues nonstop about dinosaurs on every playdate and still another talks nonstop throughout the movie even though everyone asks her to stop. They don’t get invited to birthday parties, are thought of too much or too little, & playdates often end poorly. Do you know any of these children? Every child struggles with something—and many have social challenges that, at their root, are issues with executive function and a need for social skills training. And while this may seem like just child’s play- those who know and love the children who struggle in the area of friendship know that it can be a very lonely place to be. The child often wants to have friends but isn’t picking up on social cues, the need to be flexible, and how to connect with same-age peers. They may ask, in one way or another, the heart-breaking question—Why Will No One Play With Me?

Caroline Maguire is a personal coach who works with children with ADHD and the families who support them. Caroline earned her ACCG (Advanced Level Certification) from the ADD Coach Academy and her PCC (Professional Certified Coach Certification) from the International Coach Federation (ICF). She also received a Master of Education from Lesley University. Her revolutionary coaching program and methodology helps teach executive function skills to children, teenagers, and young adults. She is a former coach for the Hallowell Center in Sudbury, MA. While with the Hallowell Center, Caroline was the main coach for children and teenagers. Caroline consults with schools and families internationally and has been co-leading social skills groups for over a decade. She is also the author of a NEW book called Why Will No One Play With Me? The Play Better Plan to Help Children of All Ages Make Friends & Thrive

How to Talk to Kids about the Connection between Kindness and Wellness with Kelli Harding, MD

Special guest: Kelli Harding, MD

We all hear medical stories of triumph and frustration—there are so many mysteries when it comes to health- why some people, who are biologically healthy, but feel ill—and some patients who are biologically ill, but feel healthy. Doctors have racked their brains for years- looking for patterns, problems, links that somehow explain why certain people get better quickly and others get sick quickly and don’t recover. And perhaps it might surprise you, as you will hear in the next interview—that how we feel is not necessarily about the dosage of medication or the brilliance of the doctor but about something simpler- something much more common and humane but something that isn’t always provided—and it comes down to the science of kindness, connection and human compassion. When we look at our children- and notice that some thrive and some continue to falter, it will be interesting to look through the lens of kindness, compassion and connection to see if this is any area that needs to be bolstered in the lives of the kids we know and love. The lives that are often stressed with go, go, go hours being shuttled from sports practices to music practice to hours of homework, where they spend a great deal of time in school where many might not feel seen and heard, where social media can make us feel more disconnected, envious and perfectionistic than ever– How could some shifts of the heart, in the time we spend, with who we spend it with–  make the difference in the wellness of our children and ourselves? For that, we turn to Dr. Kelli Harding.

Dr. Kelli Harding is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. She is a diplomat of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, as well as boarded in the specialty of psychosomatic (mind-body) medicine. Kelli has spent much of her career in the emergency room at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, and has appeared on Today, Good Morning America, NPR, The New York Times, Medscape, Oprah.com, and US News & World Report.  Kelli resides in NYC with her family. She also has a new book that just came out called The Rabbit Effect: Live Longer, Happier and Healthier with Groundbreaking Science of Kindness