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Last Updated: 02/23/2018

 Article of Interest - General Education Reform

Groups offer support to children
by Lesa Ingraham, Cadillac News, September 25, 2002
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CADILLAC — Breaking up is hard to do — especially for children.

But elementary students in Wexford and Missaukee counties are getting help coping with family divisions.

The Banana Splits, a support group for children of divorced parents, gives its members a chance to explore and express their feelings.

Children are divided into two-grade sections and meet an hour each week during the school day.
The groups are coordinated between OASIS/Family Resource Center in Cadillac and the individual school counselors.

Until last year, meetings were held after school and had poor attendance rates.

“There are so many things that kids are involved in after school these days and the kids just weren’t getting to the meetings,” said Joy Brastrom, Family Resource Center program director.

Among its objectives, the Banana Splits emphasize the importance of the family, helps children to recognize their feelings, teaches appropriate coping skills, strengthens the child’s support systems and reduces the child’s sense of isolation and stigma by providing an opportunity to discuss their family situation with peers.
The Banana Splits isn’t the only school support group that the resource center helps facilitate. It also offers an anger management group called A Volcano in My Tummy.

“We wanted to do it (A Volcano in My Tummy) because we have had lots and lots of requests for an anger management type of group,” said Jeff Deitrick, counselor at Lincoln Elementary School.

A Volcano in my Tummy works to make children aware of when they are in the early stages of anger, giving them more choices about what they do with the feeling. They learn to distinguish between emotions and behavior, to determine if a particular situation is worth being angry about and to develop their self esteem.

Deitrick, who has worked with elementary-aged children for 13 years, said he believes there is increased awareness of anger management issues, not necessarily an increase in anger management problems.
“I think it’s been pretty stable,” Deitrick said. “Once the word got out, people started to get interested.”

With a maximum of 10 children in a group, the resource center was facilitating 22 anger management groups at Cadillac, Buckley, Lake City and McBain schools last year, Brastrom said.

Linda Fiester, counselor at Forest View Elementary School, said the A Volcano in My Tummy groups help students who may have trouble outside of a structured situation.

“There are some students that do very well in the structure of the classroom and then may push kids on the playground,” Fiester said.

She added that having the anger management program during school allows more children to attend.

The resource center tries to get feedback from parents and students at the end of the 10-week span of the support groups, trying to find if they have had a lasting affect.

“If they didn’t think they were getting anything out of it, they wouldn’t want to be in it,” Fiester said.

“We ask them if they can identify a behavior that they are more aware of now than they were in the past, something that they learned about,” Brastrom said.

At McKinley and Franklin Elementary schools, students also are offered a self-esteem group and a group for children of alcoholics.

Lisa McLaurin, counselor at McKinley and Franklin schools, said that the efficacy of the groups may increase over the years.

“They tend to open up more as time goes on. We discuss a lot in group and at first some times they just like to let it soak in,” McLaurin said.

Being a counselor for elementary aged children can be emotionally racking, McLaurin said.

“It is hard sometimes to see what they are going through. In Banana Splits, most of the children hang onto the hope that mom and dad are going to get back together,” McLaurin said.


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