2 December 2020 at 8:54 am

Keep local families strong together

Grief for a child affects their whole existence – creating strong, trusting relationships with adults makes an invaluable difference to help them process their emotions.

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As the holiday season gets into full swing, Cholmondeley Children’s Centre is delighting in festive activities with the children we support.

While there is definitely excitement in the air for most, the season is also tinged with sadness and brings with it some heightened emotions for many of the tamariki and their families. Grief, family crisis and isolation are often exacerbated during the holidays, especially Christmas, and for many children they are still trying to
understand what these emotions are and how to live with them.

Christmas is especially hard for 11 year old Maia and her family. Maia lost her father two years ago just before the holiday season, so whist it might feel like she has made some progress working through her grief, Christmas time brings to the surface many emotions for her. Maia’s nana Judy is now sole carer for Maia and her brother Tyler, and it was Nana Judy that reached out to Cholmondeley for support whilst she was coming to grips with the death of her son and trying to support the children who had just lost their father.

Grief for a child can manifest in many ways and for Maia this was an extremely complex grief situation. Maia was unable to sleep, struggled with anxiety and spent a lot of time worrying that those around her would also leave her, like her dad did. She couldn’t understand her emotions and spent a lot of time acting out as a way of coping. This can be a scary and very lonely place for a child to be in.

A crisis like the loss of a loved one has a huge ongoing impact on any family, and the whānau we work with often lack connections to help them get through their grief. Cholmondeley is here to ensure children like Maia have a safe space to work through trauma, while ensuring families have support around them when they need it most.

“Having Cholmondeley help with Maia and Tyler, and the support they’ve offered me, makes a big difference to coping with our grief and our new normal as a family –especially at times like the holidays. Maia really enjoys spending time there,”
Judy says.

It’s reassuring to know that the team have been there for Maia and her family and have been able to create individualised support plans to help both Maia and her whānau heal, and adjust to their new living situation. Our team has also connected Maia’s younger brother Tyler to specialised disability support.

Our staff are highly skilled in supporting children and whānau through trauma and grief. We are the only
community-based respite care and education centre in Aotearoa, and we’ve been building our unique approach for more than 95 years. We provide tailored, wrap-around support that strengthens the whole family and have an on-site social worker, youth workers and teachers who specialise in supporting children through crisis and change.

Maia is now in a place where she can openly talk about her feelings and emotions with those around her without the anxiety she experienced when she first arrived at Cholmondeley. Building strong, positive relationships with the children in our care is crucial to helping them develop the confidence and skills they need to cope with life’s challenges. Our team has spent considerable time with Maia over the past two years, fostering trusting relationships to help her feel safe to talk about her dad. We’ve been alongside her throughout the grieving process and have put techniques in place to help Maia heal, focusing on therapeutic play and normalising conversations about her emotions.

We place the children at the centre of everything we do, however we recognise that the whole family needs support systems in place to become strong again following a trauma. For Maia’s whānau, this has meant looking ahead to future events that may bring up grief and putting strategies in place to prepare for occasions like Christmas. Our team creates whānau support plans that alleviate stressors at home, help caregivers with parenting tools, and provide connections to support. Over time, Cholmondeley has become viewed as ‘extended whānau’ for Maia’s family. We are always the first to hear when life gets tough so that our team can step in early with additional support.

Cholmondeley will continue to be there for Maia and her whānau over the coming months and years. Walking alongside children long-term is how we create an enduring difference. Our respite care and family support services can be provided as often as every six weeks for up to seven years! By working intensively with children and their families, we bring about whānau change that stands the test of time.

By ensuring Cholmondeley can continue to work with families like Maia’s, supporters like you play a crucial role in giving local tamariki opportunities to achieve their potential. Thank you for being there for Canterbury’s children.

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