Curtin Uni pilot study helps children deal with the sudden loss of a parent or sibling
Dealing with the sudden loss of a parent or sibling is a seismic event in the life of a child. Researchers from Perth’s Curtin University recently participated in research to determine the effectiveness of a newly developed two-day childhood bereavement service called Lionheart Camp for Kids.
Lionheart aims to provide support to grieving children aged five to 12 years of age living in Perth who are grieving the death of a parent, primary caregiver or sibling.
The camp is run by a team of expert staff including a clinical psychologist, bereavement counsellor, teacher and social workers, and includes collaborative activities for children and their caregivers such as sharing photographs of their deceased family member and discussing coping strategies such as breathing and relaxation techniques.
Lauren Breen, lead author, said the research was important, and was designed to identify services that help to support both the child and their caregiver during the process.
“The death of a parent or sibling is one of the most distressing experiences that can occur for children during childhood, increasing the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, prolonged grief disorder and long-term cognitive and socio-emotional outcomes,” Associate Professor Breen said.
“The age of the child, the cause of death of the loved one, the relationship to the deceased and the relationship with the remaining caregiver shape the way a child responds to loss and grief. Lionheart Camp for Kids aims to improve long-term life outcomes for grieving children and enable them to integrate grief into their everyday lives,” she added.
The researchers found that the camp “may help children’s peer relationships, promote positive parenting practices, and potentially improve the grieving process” with feedback from the caregivers being “very positive”.
“Further research is needed to determine the full benefits of the camp in helping children deal with the loss of a significant person in their lives. It may be beneficial to look at the long-term benefits of the camp,” Associate Professor Breen said.
The research was co-authored by researchers from the School of Psychology at Curtin University, Lionheart Camp for Kids, and the Perth Children’s Hospital.
The research paper titled, ‘A pilot study of a new bereavement program for children: Lionheart Camp for Kids’ can be found online here.