Rhinebeck Child and Family Center, LLC            

Child Therapy Techniques - The Center for Practical Tools for Child and Adolescent Therapists

Dr. David A. Crenshaw, Director  

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Dr. Crenshaw is the proud recipient of The Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hudson Valley Psychological Association.

Dr. Crenshaw is co-editing a series of books for Guilford.  Please click here for his Guilford books and ordering information.

 Rosie, first NY trial dog and what you can do to support Rosie's Law

"Heartfelt Feelings" Coloring Cards

Certified translations in 8 languages

Find out about Dr. Crenshaw and his books at Amazon Author Page

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in print and e-book. Click to order with 20% discount Code 2E.

Dr. Crenshaw's latest books

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Dr. Crenshaw's book Bereavement: Counseling the Grieving throughout the Life Cycle is so successful that it is now in its third printing and earned an average customer rating of 4.0 out of 5 starsfrom Amazon.com      

Read Dr. Crenshaw's articles in Play Therapy magazine by clicking on title: "Should I Be Worried?"  "Selective Mutism" "Preverbal Trauma" "No Time or Place for Child's Play" "Sounds of Silence" "Symbolism of Windows and Doors in Play Therapy" "The Wonder of It All" "Rosie Goes to Court"  "Secrets Told to Ivy"  with permission of Play Therapy Magazine.  

Two New Poetry Books By David A. Crenshaw (click on titles for details)       The Vision of the Heart  and A Place of Healing and Hope

Books below are available in paperback at 20% discount. To order click on the book images below or simply call 1-800-462-6420.  Code # 4W9CAPBK.  If you want to read reviews first, click on book title under the book image.

Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy: Wounded Spirits and Healing Paths,

Therapeutic Engagement of Children and Adolescents

Understanding and Treating the Aggression of Children: Fawns in Gorilla Suits

Understanding and Treating Aggressive Children: Fawns in Gorilla Suits

Handbook of Play Therapy with Aggressive Children

 

Evocative Strategies in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy

Home
Presentations- Including Upcoming
Testimonials from Presentations
Books
Dr. Crenshaw's Publications
DVD on Grief
CHILD THERAPY TECHNIQUES:
...Heart Symbol Strategies
...Heartfelt Feelings Coloring Card Kit
...Party Hats on Monsters
...Anger Modulation Drawings
...The Ship Prepares for Voyage
...The Magic Key
...The Fair Trial
...The Tree at the Top of the Hill
...Falling Leaves
...Holiday Writing Exercises
...Three Doors
Articles for Parents and Teachers
Article: Empathic Healer
Article: The Fawns beneath the Gorilla Suits
Article: The Hidden Dimensions
Article: Sounds of Children's Silence
Article: Windows to the Child’s Soul
Article: Selective Mutism
Article: Sealing off the Fountain
Article: by Liana Lowenstein, MSW
Article: Rosie the Golden Retriever
Poetry... Musings of the Soul
...Multicultural Language of Healing a Child
...Poetry Book-The Vision of the Heart
...Poetry Book-A Place of Healing and Hope
Tribute to Survivors of Domestic Violence
"My Wish for Children"
YouTube Videos
About Dr. Crenshaw
Translations
 

Mailing Address

David A. Crenshaw, Ph.D., ABPP 205 Dogwood Court Poughkeepsie, NY 12601

Phone:  (845) 489-8661

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Copyright © 2004-2015 by David A. Crenshaw, Ph.D., ABPP. All rights reserved.

Helping Toddlers and Preschool Children Cope with Grief

 By David A. Crenshaw, Ph.D., ABPP

     Grief and loss has to be faced in everyone’s life. It is almost always painful, but it is a natural process, as much a part of the life cycle as birth. It may be indescribably painful, but it need not be traumatic.  When young children, ages 3-7, are faced with the death of someone important to them, it can be very trying for parents to help them, partly because the parents may be overwhelmed with their own grief, but also because they may not know how to approach the issue with such a young child. Yet we know from research and clinical experience that children as young as three can do considerable, healthy grief work when given the proper encouragement, facilitation, and modeling from parents. It is not necessary to automatically assume the child needs to see a child therapist, although if the parents’ own grief prevents them from being able to talk to their child, then I would recommend a consultation with a qualified, licensed mental health profession who is trained to work with children. If children are taught early on that death is a natural expected part of life and although it is very sad, exceedingly painful, it can be survived and add deeper meaning and purpose to life, especially if it is faced by the family with a sense of mutual support for one another and togetherness.  The child may learn that when painful events occur the family pulls together, helps one another and together they can face anything.

    As a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with children in grief, I have come to appreciate the many feelings that arise in even quite young children as they grapple with the mysteries of death.  Children lack sufficient psychological resources to embrace grief in the intense and prolonged manner typical of adult grief that we typically refer to as mourning.  Nevertheless, they are capable of grief work. The research has shown that facilitation of grieving in the young child can prevent significant mental health problems later in life including depression and relationship/intimacy problems.

    Often the grief of young children is ignored by well-meaning adults because they delude themselves into believing that their child is “too young to understand.”  Yet any play therapist knows that 3 and 4 year-old children are grappling in their symbolic play with issues of loss, separation, abandonment, and death. So adults are really not in the position of protecting children from having to confront these mysteries, the children are already wrestling with these often frightening and disturbing early conceptions of loss and death. So are only real choice is whether we allow them to struggle alone with these issues or do we open up the communication with them and let them know they do not have to face these difficult issues all alone.

    When toddlers ask questions about death, they should be given simple and direct explanations. Parents should capitalize on the natural curiosity of young children to teach toddlers about death. The earlier and more naturally the concept of death is taught the more likely children with develop a healthy and fuller appreciation of life. They will often have questions about dead insects and birds, and especially when a family pet dies. They can be helped to understand that everyone living eventually dies, usually after a long and full life. When toddlers are told of a death of a pet or family member they will need both verbal reassurance that they will be taken care of and nonverbal support in the form of holding, hugs, and the physical presence of caring adults. Older preschool children are capable of more verbal exchange regarding death than toddlers and usually have more questions. They will require more detailed answers, which should be given directly and honestly to the best of the parents' ability. It is perfectly okay to say that you don’t know the answer to a question since adults don’t understand all the mysteries of death either. 

    The preschool child may suffer undue guilt because it is the age when children believe they magically causes all kinds of things to happen both good and bad. It is important to reassure the preschool child that “bad thoughts” or “angry words” don’t cause people to die. Children often play out their worries, fears, and conflicts about death and this should not be a cause for concern unless the child is “stuck” in repetitive play of death-related scenes that don’t seem to relieve the child’s anxiety. In that instance, a consultation with a mental health professional specializing in work with children is recommended.

 

Copyright © 2006 by David A. Crenshaw, Ph.D., ABPP.  All rights reserved.

 

 

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