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The Family Center: enrichment programs for families and professionals

Recovering From A Loved One's Suicide

Ask the Experts by Mary Petersen

Q. close friend of our family committed suicide. How can I help my family understand the nature of grief and loss and navigate through the grieving process in a healthy way?

A. Grieving is a natural part of human experience, and necessary after loss for a person to heal.

Among the most common stages of grief are shock/denial, anger, sorrow, and acceptance. There are infinitely many ways to grieve. However, for someone to survive loss and be healthy, they must move through their own grieving process, in their own time, until it's finished. No short cuts, no exceptions! The only way out is through, preferably with support.

If loss is traumatic, such as a suicide, grief is often complicated and may involve flashbacks or other reactions that would benefit most from immediate professional help - especially true if a loved one witnesses the suicide itself or discovers their loved one after.

Read more: Recovering From A Loved One's Suicide


Teen Suicide Awareness

The recent, tragic loss of one of our high school students has deeply touched everyone in the community. Here at the Family Center, we can be a resource to help cope with hurt and grief.

Please use the search function in the left-hand column for articles on dealing with suicide, grief, and loss.

Access our Association of Professionals to find professionals who can help in this difficult time.

External resources: (links will open in a new window)

Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide

Article: "About Teen Suicide"

Video: "Kevin Briggs: The bridge between suicide and life | Talk Video |"

Out of the Darkness Campus Walk:
The Out of the Darkness Campus Walks are part of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's (AFSP) signature fundraising campaign. A walk is scheduled for May 25 at the Grosse Pointe South High School campus.


Caring for People with Alzheimer's who Wander

Ask the Experts by Tom Gordon

Q. My father has the early onset of Alzheimer's. A friend of mine went through this with their parents and I am particularly worried about wandering. What steps should my family consider if my father begins to wander? 

A. One of the most common hazards someone in need of Alzheimer's care faces is the potential for wandering. Wandering can occur as either a side effect of medicine or because of an environmental trigger or a vague memory. Incidences of wandering often occur because your loved one has gotten distracted while looking for someone or something is looking to get away from an overwhelming situation or because of an old routine he or she once followed.

Here are a few tips to help control wandering: 

Read more: Caring for People with Alzheimer's who Wander


Behavior Indicators for Childhood Trauma

Ask the Experts by Dr. Caelan Kuban

Q. My child has experienced trauma. What is normal behavior, and how can I help?

A. Parents, caregivers and professionals should know that trauma can be any experience that leaves a person feeling hopeless, helpless, fearing for life or safety, or feeling out of control.

Children need to know that it is normal to experience reactions like fear or worry after exposure to trauma or an overwhelming life event. This knowledge reduces their concern that something might be "wrong" with them. It also provides them with assurance that they are not alone in how they are feeling.

During an initial 4-6 week period following the traumatic experience, any sort of behavior is common and should be considered normal. Following this 4-6 week period, behavior outside of a child's norm can indicate trauma or post-traumatic stress. These behaviors include:

Read more: Behavior Indicators for Childhood Trauma


What Parents Can Do to Help Children Process Loss (Part 1 of 2)

Ask the Experts by Mary Beth Garvey, LMSW

Q. How should I talk with my kids about losses in our community? I try to shield them, but over the past year they have heard a lot of discussion as people continue to struggle with deaths that have occurred in our community.

A.  It is a parent's natural instinct to protect their children from difficult issues, but the fact that your kids are hearing so much about recent deaths in our community reflects our own reaction to these painful losses. Many young people and adults are experiencing the secondary trauma of a sudden death and a homicide of two well-known, engaged parents who were closely connected with many facets of our day to day lives in our schools, public service organizations, children's activities and social lives.

Read more: What Parents Can Do to Help Children Process Loss (Part 1 of 2)


What Parents Can Do to Help Children Process Loss (Part 2 of 2)

Ask the Experts by Mary Beth Garvey, LMSW

Q. How should I talk with my kids about losses in our community? I try to shield them, but over the past year they have heard a lot of discussion as people continue to struggle with deaths that have occurred in our community.

A.  When talking with your about your children about a loss due to violence you may want to emphasize that senseless violence is hard for everyone to understand, even grownups.  Sometimes people do bad things that hurt others because they may be unable to handle their anger, may be suffering from untreated mental illness, or may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Reiterate that violence is never a solution to personal problems and there are always viable alternatives.

Read more: What Parents Can Do to Help Children Process Loss (Part 2 of 2)


Understanding and Acknowledging Grief

Ask the Experts by Marla Ruhana, LMSW

Q. There is immense sadness surrounding me now as my father has died and my husband has been diagnosed with a chronic illness. Although we're both grieving my father's death, my husband's grief seems worse? I am so confused, can you help?

A. I'm so sorry about the death of your father and your husband's diagnosis. Grief can show itself in many different forms, loss of a loved one, loss of a limb, divorce, job loss, loss of home, loss of a pet, loss of who we once were when we experience onset of chronic illness. Many are also grieving in particular decades of their lives as they introspect on what they thought their life would be at a certain age. Expectations and disappointment instill grief too.

Read more: Understanding and Acknowledging Grief


Dementia and Everyday Activities

Ask the Experts by Mary Ellen Brayton

Q: We thought our 88 year old mother was developing dementia and this was recently confirmed by her doctor. Are there things we can do with her at this early stage that she might enjoy and that might help?

A: There are several traditional scales used to describe the progression of Alzheimer's and dementia.

Senior Helpers partnered with Teepa Snow, an Occupational Therapist and Dementia Education Specialist who has taken the Allen Cognitive Disability Model, which focuses on what those with the disease are able to do, and replaced the numbered levels with Gems.

Gems remind us of how precious our loved ones are and make it easier to understand the progression of the disease.

In the Senior Gems, Diamond represents the early stages of dementia and can be a difficult time for families. Characteristics include:

Read more: Dementia and Everyday Activities


Stress Overload? Slow Down

Ask the Experts by Marla Ruhana

Q- I find myself so irritable, short fused, and I feel it is leading to anxiety and depression. Is this possible? 

A- Yes, it sounds like you are experiencing detrimental effects of stress, which can lead to anxiety and depression. Can you think of what might be precipitating your irritability?

Q- My husband has been out of work for two years and since he lost his job, I've been working full time and caring for the kids. I do not like my job at all, it is simply a paycheck. Do you think that is why I am irritable? I don't like this as I was never edgy like this before my husband lost his job. Then again, I only worked 20 hours per week at a job I enjoyed.

A- Seems you just answered your own question. It is difficult to juggle life's changes and challenges and most of us aren't even aware how overextended we are with multiple life stressors. I admire you for recognizing changes in your mood and behavior and inquiring as many seem to be experiencing stress overload.

Q-How can I change things and reduce my stress? I have to work full time and I have to care for our children?

A- I recommend you sit and introspect or reflect on your personal calendar. Review all of the activities outside of work you are involved in, have a heart to heart with yourself regarding how many are things you do for self-care vs. things you do for others.

Read more: Stress Overload? Slow Down


Nutrition for Kids in Sports

Ask the Experts by Kunal Kalra, MD

Q. Can you provide nutrition and hydration tips for kids participating in sports?

A. Proper nutrition and hydration are essential in optimizing a student athlete's performance. An athlete who does not have enough nutrients or liquids to prepare for competition can be at risk of developing serious medical issues such as dehydration. Here are a few tips to on proper nutrition and hydration for the student athlete.

Eat like a champion 

The best way to do this is to eat a balanced breakfast and eat a variety of high-quality foods throughout the day containing a varied combination of complex carbohydrates, protein and fat. 

Consume the calories you need based on the physical activity you perform. During training add the extra calories burned during a session to your typical caloric intake to maintain your weight and appropriate energy level. For example, if your typical intake is 2200 calories per day and you play basketball for one hour, burning approximately 500 calories per hour, you should eat 2700 calories on that day.

Read more: Nutrition for Kids in Sports


About the Flu in Children

Ask the Experts by Nicholas Gilpin, D.O.

Q. How do I know when my child is getting the flu?

A. Influenza is a virus that primarily affects the respiratory system, so the most common symptoms include runny or stuffy nose, sore throat and cough. Your child also may have severe fatigue, body aches, fever and chills. During the winter, these symptoms should always raise one's suspicion for the flu.

Q. What kind of care should I give my child with the flu?

A. For most healthy children, the best treatment for the flu is supportive care, including rest. Parents should give their child lots of fluids and give them anti-inflammatory medications to control fever and body aches. 

Read more: About the Flu in Children


Fostering Independence and Resilience in Children

Ask the Experts by Mary Beth Garvey

Q. My teenager is so easily discouraged by setbacks. How can I help him handle his frustration?

A. One of the most important traits that builds confidence and helps kids become more independent is resiliency, or the ability to take healthy risks and recover from disappointments. Resiliency is a skill that can be fostered when we treat kids in a way that demonstrates we believe they can handle disappointments and that mistakes are allowable, or even encouraged.

A significant threat to resilience is perfectionism. Many kids today are highly perfectionistic. Though it's often highly regarded in our culture because it's associated with high levels of achievement, perfectionism lends itself to a host of difficulties in teens: unrealistic performance expectations, a low tolerance for disappointment, a critical self assessment that leaves little room for mistakes, dependence on praise from others, and increased anxiety. Each of these factors undermines the foundation for resilience or the ability to maintain the persistence needed to master something independently.

Read more: Fostering Independence and Resilience in Children


Family-Friendly Economics - empowering children to make informed decisions

Ask the Experts by Michelle Balconi 

Q: Why should I talk to the children in my life about economics?

A: For most of us, "Econ" was a class we had to take and were happy to earn a "C," but that doesn't make the topic any less prevalent in our daily lives. Understand it or not, economics has a place in your life and that of your children.

It might help to think about economics less in terms of bowtie-wearing professors mapping the correlation between supply and demand, and more in terms of CHOICES. Children can use economic principles to decide what to have for lunch and even which college to attend.

Read more: Family-Friendly Economics - empowering children to make informed decisions


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