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Book offers tips for helping children face tough issues


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–Only a few decades ago tough issues children faced might include being sent to the school principal for chewing gum in the classroom or for not having completed a homework assignment. Many middle-aged adults cannot remember having friends in elementary or junior high school whose parents were divorced.
Now, however, children face the threat of violence in their schools, not to mention the pervasiveness of drug and alcohol use and an astonishing variety of family problems. Many studies estimate that 60 percent of all children now will live with a single parent before they reach adulthood.
It’s a fact that the tough issues facing children today have gotten tougher. And parents find themselves at a loss for combating issues with which they have had little or no personal experience. Children have always depended on the adults in their lives — parents, teachers, church workers, neighbors, parents of friends — to help them recognize issues and to learn appropriate, healthy ways of dealing with these issues.
“Tackling Tough Issues” (New Hope Publishers, $8.99), edited by Rhonda R. Reeves, provides helpful advice for parents and other adults who deal with preschool children. Nine experts, including Fred Rogers of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” and Grace Ketterman, a renowned physician and child psychiatrist, have written from their fields of expertise. Other contributors include prominent educators and children’s ministers who each address specific topics on timely issues concerning children.
Hedda Sharapan, associate executive producer of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and co-author with Fred Rogers of a chapter on helping children deal with anger, stressed the importance of parents and other adults having the right attitude about children’s anger.
“Adults must acknowledge that anger is not a bad feeling, not a negative feeling,” Sharapan said. “Anger is not the first thing a child feels. Usually anger is a reaction to feeling powerless, helpless or rejected. So adults need to look for the reasons for the anger.”
Sharapan said it also is important that parents realize that anger “is not a moral issue, but it is a developmental one, and that adults have the responsibility of helping children find controls for their anger.”
Joye Smith, author of the chapter on the spiritual development of preschoolers, noted, “The main task of the early years of life is the development of trust.”
Smith, preschool/children’s consultant for Woman’s Missionary Union, said this trust, which should be instilled by parents and other caregivers, is essential to the child’s future spiritual development. Since younger preschoolers have limited vocabularies and understanding, their most important concepts grow from the love and security provided by adults who care for them, she said.
Ketterman, author of the chapter on helping children deal with illnesses, disease and death, notes that it is important for parents and church workers to know how to communicate with children about these serious issues. Helping children relate to other children who are ill or have physical disabilities is sometimes a challenge for parents, she said in an interview.
“Adults who work with children need to strike a balance in being sympathetic with parents, empathetic with children, but also matter of fact,” she said. “Usually children do best when they understand something about the illness or disability. If parents of the disabled child are willing, a teacher can benefit by helping other children understand the illness or disability and how to respond to that child. Children can be taught how to assist a child in need in a matter-of-fact, casual way, so not to make a big issue of it.”
Other topics covered in Tackling Tough Issues are: appropriate learning for young children, helping young children deal with family violence, divorce, blended families, moving and adoption. Each chapter begins with a synopsis of the topic to help parents and other adults understand the problem, followed by advice offering options on ways to resolve the problem. Space is provided at the end of each chapter for readers to record their reflections about how they might apply the information given.
Even though times have changed and the issues children face have changed, it is still true that children need adults who know and understand the issues they confront and who are able to help them cope with tough issues. Rhodes, the book’s editor wrote: “My prayer is that God will empower you with His Holy Spirit to move in a mighty way for His children. May He also strengthen and encourage you as you begin tackling tough issues.”