What do you offer grieving children and their families?
The National Centre for Childhood Grief provides individual and group counselling and support for children and teens from 3-18 years of age. The Centre also frequently acts in an advocacy role for the child as he/she learns to accommodate grief in various family and community settings. We provide support and advice for parents, guardians and other caregivers, for teachers, school counsellors, medical practitioners and private therapists.
How do people access the service?
Parents or guardians telephone or e-mail the Centre, request help and provide basic information so that a referral sheet can be completed. Parents or guardians are always seen first so that counsellors can understand the context in which the child's grief occurs, and ensure that the child's caregiver is having their bereavement support needs met. Once the adult caregiver has participated in an assessment session, an appointment is made to see the child or teen. Please contact us for more information.
What happens in an assessment session?
Young children are first seen with a parent or guardian until they have engaged to some degree with the counsellor and are beginning to feel safe. Parent and child or teen are then taken on a tour of the Centre and the function of each room is explained. The child is told what will happen once they are on their own with the counsellor, and where this will occur. They are told what their parent will be doing during the session, where they will be located, and are reassured that they can re-join them if they feel concerned at any time. Parents are also given reassurance that they can re-join the counsellor and child if they need to do so. In the session/s, a combination of fun and serious activities enables the counsellor to understand the child's experience, to assess their needs for grief support, and to develop a possible management plan. The counsellor enters the session with the internal question 'how can I/the Centre, best help this child, this teen?' Would the child be best supported individually, or in a group setting, a combination of both, or individual first, then group support?' At the end of the assessment session, important aspects are shared with the child's guardian (with the child's consent) and a support plan is agreed on.
What happens in later sessions?
There is a familiar structure to each session which creates a sense of predictability and security but the content is determined by the child's needs at the time. Sessions normalise the child's experience, permit expression of all thoughts and emotions, are empowering and end on a positive note.
What happens in group sessions?
A version of what happens in individual sessions. The session structure is similarly consistent, has clear boundaries, and allows children to feel 'normal'. In this setting they are not different to their peers; everyone involved has experienced loss and is learning to live with grief.
How long do children have to see a counsellor or stay in groups?
No child 'has to' see a counsellor. Most attend the first session to please their parents, then come from personal choice. Individual sessions are usually around 2 hours in length, held 2-4 weeks apart initially, the space between sessions gradually increasing. Group sessions are held fortnightly so that each child receives sufficient attention for their needs. Some children need to supplement group sessions with an individual session from time to time. Children leave the groups (graduate) or their individual sessions when they are ready. Readiness may be expressed verbally, or in behaviour. Children and parents/guardians are helped to recognise signs indicating that needs have been met for the moment. The average length of stay in groups ranges from 1-4 years and is determined by many factors: the nature of the event that has occurred, the family's resources, the child's emotional development, and subsequent events for the child or family.
How much does counselling cost?
There is a fee for the assessment session, then ongoing counselling for the child or teen is free. Donations are appreciated. It is important to note that no child is refused access to the service on financial grounds. If a child participates in a support group, a small contribution is requested each session to help offset the cost of refreshments and craft materials. If families are genuinely unable to meet this request, the child is not penalised in any way.
What help do you give to parents or guardians?
When children participate in the Centre's support groups, parents and guardians can be involved in a support group which is held at the same time as the children's groups. The focus of group sharing is on living with and supporting a bereaved child, but caregivers inevitably provide each other with more general understanding and encouragement. The group is facilitated by a senior counsellor.
How can I help the NCCG ('a friend's place')?
Donate goods and services, or become a volunteer. Your contribution in any form would be gratefully appreciated.