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PATHFINDER Parenting:

Tools for Raising Responsible Children
By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.
I - Intervening in Loss Issues Facing Chilldren
Introduction
Pathfinders recognize that children are often overcome and lose direction when they are faced with emotionally charged loss events which are out of their control and too complex to accept easily. These problems make children face loses which tax their emotional reserves. To assist them to handle these problem losses in a healthy coping style, Pathfinders develop and implement strategies which they execute in their families. The loss issues which are emotionally monumental for children are:
  1. Coping with divorce of natural parents
  2. Accommodating to step-parents and step-families
  3. Coping with death of parent or sibling
  4. Dealing with physical or sexual abuse
  5. Coping with a parent or sibling who has a severe emotional or addictive disability
  6. Coping with a developmental disability or chronic illness in self or family member
  7. Coping with a disaster or failure. 
1. Divorce of natural parents

When parents divorce they often do not want to upset their children. Yet, they realize that to stay married for "the sake of the kids" is not rational or healthy for them or the children. There are many reasons for getting a divorce and children do not always need to know all the lurid details why. What they do need to know is that they are not the reason for the divorce and that there is nothing they did to cause the divorce.


Pathfinders allow their children ample time to grieve the loss of their natural parents' marriage. They are encouraged to go through all the stages of loss: denial, bargaining, anger, despair, acceptance, and letting go as outlined in Tools for Handling Loss (Messina, J.J., 2013). Recognition is given to the possibility that they will suffer a decrease in academic or social functioning during their time of accommodation to this loss. Acceptance of its finality may take time because they may be unwilling to let go of the dream of their parents reconciling and reuniting in the future. Pathfinders recognize that it is normal for children to desire their parents to stay together forever. They do not get angry, upset, or defensive when their children speak their feelings in this way. They consistently reassure their children that they are very loved and special to each parent. They state that the divorce in no way is intended to destroy or damage them for their own future lives. The parents share their own grief over the loss of the marriage and reassure their children that they will all survive this loss as long as they keep their lines of communication open, ventilate their grieving feelings, and allow themselves to be open to accept the changes resulting from the divorce.


Pathfinders insure reasonable contact with both natural parents with visitation arrangements. This visitation plan gives the parent without primary residential rights (the home in which the children do not live regularly) alternating weekend visitation and one or two nights weekly of dinner and homework time. This insures that both parents are involved in the everyday lives of their children and eliminates the "Weekend Santa Claus Parent" model. Non-residential or non-custodial parents who are Pathfinders get involved in the academic, athletic, and club activities of their children. They attend school conferences, practice sessions, games, and other competitive events, school plays, field trips, and parent-invited parties. These visitation procedures insure that the children continue to have the balance of regular and timely male and female input into their lives thus insuring that the children are not being raised by a single parent without contact from an absent parent.


Pathfinders who are divorced from one another keep in regular contact about the children and maintain consistent rules and disciplinary measures in both homes. They jointly maintain and modify the same policy and procedure manual outlined in the T-Tracking Structures for Children . They conduct family meetings in their own homes and share the results with the other parent after the meeting is concluded. The goal is to give the children the awareness that their parents are still partners in their raising even though they are divorced and not living together. The parental team stays together even though the members are divorced. This prevents triangulation where the children play one parent off the other. The divorced parties are in constant communication which is constructive and beneficial to consistent parenting. This prevents the children from seeding ill will by telling stories to inflame the anger and resentment of one parent against the other.


Divorced Pathfinders do not talk negatively or disparagingly about their former partners. They do not try to weaken the bonding and relationship of the children with their natural parents no matter how badly they feel about them. Pathfinders recognize that coming from a divorced family can impair the self-esteem of children and they make every effort to lessen the negative impact of this separation on their children. They make every effort to not take their anger and grief about the divorce out on their children. They recognize that if they are depressed they can depress their children. So they seek out support and professional help to help themselves adjust to the losses incurred in the divorce. They also bring their children to support groups and professional counseling services to insure their children are given every outlet possible to talk out their feelings and emotional response to the divorce.


Parents of opposite sex children recognize that the children as they grow older might trigger the anger and resentment they once had towards their divorced partner. They warn their children of this and give them permission to give them feedback if they feel that they are receiving disproportionate or unfair treatment compared with their siblings. If the children and remaining parent have been abandoned by the other parent with no more contact or financial support, it is important for the children's long term development that the remaining partner clearly communicates with the children about all of the details about the absent parent. They will help the abandoned children not to develop a fantasy idealized image which makes them unresolved in their grieving this loss in their lives. If their fantasy absent parent is more attractive than their real custodial parent they will be prone to act up and not respect the parent they live with at home. By being realistic about the abandoning parent, the children will be better able to accept their current home life and the possibility of never seeing the lost parent again. Pathfinders recognize that it is important for children to accept their lives as they are, rather than how they would like them to be.


Pathfinders who are separating and/or divorced from unhealthy, irrational, revenge seeking ex-partners recognize that it does not do any good to keep the children in the middle of the battle. They are willing to give their children a consistent homelife even if it means that they must back away from the children completely. They weigh the long term benefits and negative impact on their children of protracted and prolonged legal battles over divorce settlement and custody arrangements. They refuse to use their children as pawns in the battle. They recognize the need to let go of the battle and stop trying to control outcomes over which they are powerless. They utilize the 12 Steps of Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous in The Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous Manual (Messina, J.J., 2013) and let go of control over the uncontrollables and unchangeables in their lives by using the tools in Tools for Handling Control Issues (Messina, J.J., 2013). They seek full custody and sole parental responsibility recognizing that in pursuing this, they might lose. They prefer to have the children free of battling between their divorced parents. They are willing to take the risk of losing custody to settle the revenge seeking of an ex-partner.

Pathfinders who find themselves forced to back away from their children to avoid unrealistic and debilitating court fights and harassment by the ex-partner keep their channels of communication open with their children even when they know their children are being soured and turned against them. They practice detachment when they hear what is being spoken about them by their ex-partner. They recognize that over time their children may recognize the sickness in which they are living and be attracted to the stable lifestyle alternative which the Pathfinder offers them. They recognize that material wealth may be more attractive to their children than the healthy emotional stability they offer. They also know that, over time, the children will have emotional needs which need parental support. These parents recognize in all probability they will seek out the stable emotional force of the non-custodial Pathfinder parent.

Parents faced with a destructive custody and divorce process need a great deal of emotional support and professional assistance so that they do not fall apart or revert and relapse into emotionally unhealthy responses which can have deleterious impact on their children. They need help to accept that even though they want what is best for their children, it might be better in the long run to let go of the battle and the children at the same time. In these cases the children are hurt greatly and often their life long coping is imperiled but they would be hurt all the more if the battle were allowed to rage on any longer than it has already. Children of divorce, as adults, have a harder time in making and trusting of commitment in marriage. They often need professional assistance once they find themselves in an interpersonal relationship to help them cope with their fears, mistrust and insecurity about commitment. Divorced Pathfinders prepare their children for this reality so that they feel that it is normal to seek out relationship counseling when they need it.


Divorced Pathfinder work at handling difficult questions of their children to assist them to grieve and accept the reality of the divorce. These parents attempt to give their children self-esteem enhancing responses which do not destroy their sense of self-worth and self-confidence. 
Some sample questions about divorce and the divorce process are as follows

1.1. When will you two come back together?

At this time it does not look like we will ever come back together. We have decided that it is best for everyone involved that we no longer stay married to one another. We do not believe we would ever be happy together. We do not believe it is fair to our children that they be made to suffer from our "staying together for the sake of our kids."

 

1.2. Why didn't you give me a choice who I could live with after the divorce?

We both felt that it was in your best interest to have primary residence with your designated parent. We both believed that it was a reasonable choice so that your life would not be altered too much more than it already will be by the divorce. We both recognize that once you grow old enough, and if you so desired, you could select to change your primary residence to your other parent's. We both support your right to make such a choice when you become old enough to do so. But on the other hand, because of our agreement, you will be splitting your weekends between the two of us and you will spend at least two nights a week with your parent with whom you do not permanently live. We believe that this contact will result in you feeling like you have equal contact with the two of us.

 

1.3. Why couldn't you work out your problems with each other?

We tried to work out our problems by seriously working on them in marital and individual counseling. We recognized that we were doing more harm to each other, and to you kids, by staying married. We believe our problems are not workable or solvable. We needed to be honest about that so that the hurting and fighting could discontinue. We hope that you kids will be able to forgive us for this decision when you get old enough to fully understand our dilemma and pain in making this decision. We love you dearly and in no way do we want our decision to hurt or destroy you.

 

1.4. Can both of you come on vacation with us when we have our family vacation?

Because we are divorced we will no longer do things together like family vacations, holidays and birthdays. We both do not believe it would be fair to you for us to do things together which might mislead you to think that maybe we indeed will be able to come back together to reconcile and remarry.

 

1.5. Will you both love me as much as you did before the divorce?

Just because your mother and father no longer love each other enough to stay married does not mean that we do not love you as much as we did prior to our divorce. Because of the changes coming from the divorce, we may not have as much time to spend with you as we did before but that does not mean that we love you less. Divorce does not result in parents loving their children less. In fact it is because we love you so much that we have chosen to role model a decision which shows respect for our individual differences. To stay married together would have destroyed each of us and possibly you in the process. Because we both love you very much we no longer want to do anything in our marriage which will give you poor preparation for your own adult life. We do not want to give you a false or negative image of how to conduct interpersonal relationships in your life. Just because the chemistry between your parents was bad does not mean that the chemistry between you and them is also bad.

 

1.6. If you both loved me, you would have stayed together to keep our family together, wouldn't you?

It is because we love you that we are divorcing. It is important to us that you be given healthy messages about how people should get along with one another. We recognized that our relationship was unhealthy. It could have had a negative impact on you for later life, if we stayed together. We recognize that it is hard to understand that a bad thing can in the long run be a good thing for you. We recognize that you have a right to feel bad and sad about our decision. We both felt sad and bad about our decision as well. We recognized that it might give you a wrong message about our individual relationships with you. We both love you very much and want for you to be as happy and successful in life as possible. We regret having to force you to cope with this divorce and its aftermath. We want you to continue to feel free to express your feelings, doubts, and sadness over this divorce, since it is an unhappy occasion for all of us.

 

1.7. Now that you are divorced, you aren't going to marry someone else are you?

Just because your parent was not the right partner for me to live with the rest of my life, does not mean that there might not be a better person out there for me. There is no one out there for me right now. It will take at least one to two years to get my life back on track to adjust to this divorce. Once I have adjusted to this divorce, I may meet someone whom I would be willing to marry. At that time I will involve you in meeting the person and hopefully you will be able to accept this person as a good spouse for me and a good step parent for you.

 

1.8. What should I tell others about this divorce?

You need the support of your friends during this time. We expect you will be honest with them about the fact that your parents are divorced. We want you to be free to express your feelings about the divorce to them. You need to be ready for some kids to make fun of you because your parents divorced. Remember that they really don't know how bad you feel because of the divorce. You need to help your friends to know how sad you are as a result of this divorce. Ask their assistance to let you express freely your negative feelings with them.

 

1.9. Now that you are getting a divorce will my grandparents still be my grandparents?

Even though your parents are divorcing does not mean that you lose your grandparents in the process. They will still be your grandparents. It is our goal that you will still have continuing contact with both sets of grandparents. Your grandparents might feel bad about our getting a divorce and say things about each of us they ought not to say. We hope that you will not take to heart what bad things your grandparents say about either of us. If they continue to say negative things about either of us, and it makes you feel uncomfortable, let us know and we will talk to them about this. We both want you to continue to have a close relationship with both sets of grandparents. We hope they feel the same about you. If they don't want to continue to be close with you, then we will help you grieve that loss when the time comes.

 

1.10. Why does my life have to change just because the two of you can't get along and want a divorce?

We recognize that we are getting a divorce, not because of anything you did, but because we have troubles of our own. We are very painfully aware that because of our problems, your life is being turned upside down. We regret that we are doing this to you. However, if we stayed together to please you and not to affect your life, there is a good chance that we would become resentful of you for forcing us to stay together when we no longer love one another. If we did that, your life would be miserable and most likely you would feel as bad then as you do now. It is better for us to be honest with each other and you and divorce while we can still maintain a cordial relationship with each other. This will enable us to raise you in a healthy and cooperative manner.

2. Step-parents and step-families

Pathfinders recognize that it is often difficult for children to adjust to the presence of a step-parent in their lives. They are subjected to an inner turmoil over divided loyalties between their natural parent and the step-parent. They need to be given time to get to know the new step-parent. They need a chance to get to know this new person as well as their parent has. It is unfair to expect them to warm up and accept this person into their lives until they have worked out their grieving and acceptance of the loss of the marriage of their natural parents. The introduction of a new potential step-parent often precipitates the crisis about the loss of their dream of parental reconciliation and often the new step-parent becomes the brunt of their active or passive anger. Pathfinders recognize that it is normal for children to act out towards the new step-parent as a result of their hurt over the finality of their parents' divorce becomes real to them. Step-parents who are Pathfinders do not take the initial negative responses personally. They give cues to the children that they can freely express their negative feelings so as to assist the presence of the step-parent in their lives.

Pathfinder natural parents do not expect new step-parents to step in and radically change how the family life is run. The step-parents are introduced to the family policy and procedure manual as outlined in Section 5. The step-parent is welcomed into family meetings. New changes in family routine are agreed upon by all family members. Definition and clarity of the step-parent's role in the lives of the children is detailed and recorded in the family policy manual and family meeting minutes. Pathfinder step-parents make it clear that they do not intend to replace the other natural parent of the same sex. Their goal is to support and aid their new spouse in the following through with the parenting strategies the two Pathfinder natural parents have decided upon.


If the natural parents were not Pathfinders, the Pathfinder step-parent cautiously role models healthy parenting strategies in interaction with the children without being too invasive or intrusive. The Pathfinder step-parent introduces the new spouse to the Pathfinder Principles of parenting and encourages the use of the family meetings, the natural and logical consequences model of behavioral change and the use of the family policy and procedure manual. Pathfinder step-parents accept that the outcome with their step-families is out of their control. They do not force things to happen but rather role model a healthy life style and practice detachment when they see things that need "fixing" in their new step-families. Pathfinder step-parents resist making judgmental or critical comments on how the family life has been conducted up to their point of entry into it.


Pathfinders avoid marrying into a family in which their new spouses are not willing to be open to implementing the Pathfinder parenting system. They recognize that there could be a possibility of conflict and turmoil over the inconsistency between the parenting styles of the natural parents and themselves. The resulting confusion on the children could be too debilitating to their health and the health of the parents involved. Pathfinders step back from trying to fix an unhealthy family by marrying into it. They recognize their limitations and set healthy boundaries for themselves so as not to relapse into an overcontrolling mode.


Pathfinders recognize that when they blend two families together, this can be a source of great loss for all children involved. They give all of the children time to grieve so they can accept and adjust to the changes this blending creates in their lives. It is imperative when two separate families are being blended that both parents be Pathfinders. The possibility of one parent being a Pathfinder in a blended family and being successful in assisting all children to have healthy self-esteem and to become personally responsible is close to impossible due to the incredible number of factors involved in the blending process.


Initially in a blended family, the two new parents need to review the family policies and procedures operating in their respective families. They then need to combine all relevant procedures and polices in a common blended family policy manual. They then need to implement family meetings to review the newly combined family policies and procedures so that new modifications can be made for the blended group. All new blended family members need to be involved in some or all of these meetings so that there is clarity of lines of parental authority established with all children at one time.


Pathfinders recognize that in establishing a step-family or blending two families together that many factors need to be addressed.


Here are samples of issues dealing with step-parents or step-families

2.1. Why do I have to listen to you? You aren't my parent.

Pathfinder step-parents and natural parents recognize that it takes time for children to accept and accommodate to the new role of a step-parent in their lives. Every effort is made, beginning in the dating and engagement period of their relationship, for the natural parent and the soon-to-be step-parent to involve the children in the planning of a new family configuration. This involves the children in first becoming comfortable with the new adult parenting figure in their lives. Pathfinders take this process slow and gradual. They do not rush into remarrying and overwhelming their children with the magnitude of changes which this will bring on. When it seems appropriate, the children of the two "old families" are introduced during the dating process of their parents. Pathfinders who have children make it clear to new dates that they come as a package deal since their children are an important part of their lives. Children who sense that they are not accepted unconditionally for who they are will be very hesitant to accept and be open with a new adult figure in their natural parent's life. Pathfinders accept that children will test out new parenting figures in their lives. They do not take it personally when children initially are hesitant to accept what they tell them. In situations like this, they will get the natural parent involved to handle it until there is a permanent commitment and clarity of the roles of the step-parent in the lives of the children.

 

2.2. Who is in charge of me?

Pathfinders avoid "yours" and "mine" in blending children into a new family. Rather they implement "our" children so that the blended family can develop a "new we" identity. This is only possible if both parents agree to the same forms and model of parenting. This hopefully avoids comparisons made by the children as to which "old family's children" are being treated fairer, better, and more generously. This creates a sense of consistency in an unstable environment which helps reduce the anxiety, stress, and tension of children as to what this new blending will cause in their lives.

 

2.3. Why do I have to give up my room?

Pathfinders try to avoid blending a new family into the home of one of the "old families" so as to avoid the "old family's children" feeling invaded by the other family and being displaced or evicted from their old private and public rooms. Often the life style of one or both of the "old families" will be altered dramatically due to the infusion of new financial capabilities or the reduction of financial resources due to the needs of the larger blended family. Pathfinders allow their children to grieve these realities openly and freely in family meetings and parental communications.

 

2.4. Why do I have to share you with them?

Pathfinders recognize that their children will initially find it difficult to share their natural parents with the step-children in the new blended family. These parents allow their children to openly grieve the necessity of having to share them with others. They listen to their concerns about "not enough of you to go around" and "will you still love me as much as you did before they came into our lives?" They allow their natural children time to adjust to seeing them be affectionate and loving to their step-children. Pathfinders recognize that some children will never be able to accept the sharing of their natural parents with other children and they practice detachment and let go of the need to change their children's feelings, perceptions and attitudes about this.

 

2.5. Why do I have to get along with them, they aren't my real brother or sister?

Pathfinders recognize that sibling rivalry becomes more intense in a blended family. They make allowances for it in their family meeting agendas, family policies and procedures. They inform their children that the natural consequences of cooperation in the blended family is greater peace, serenity, love, acceptance, and fun times for all. They allow them to openly discuss their feelings about their new siblings. They encourage them to grieve the loss of the possibilities of what they could have been for what they really are. Pathfinders in blended families struggle to be fair and not to reflect a bias in favor of their natural children when conflicts and disagreements arise.

 

2.6. Why do we have to go to counseling and support groups just because you remarried?

Pathfinders recognize that it takes a great deal of time, emotional energy, patience, perseverance, and objectivity in blending two families together. They recognize their own limitations in this process and seek out professional help when the project appears bigger than the two of them can handle. They seek out support groups for the children where they can ventilate their feelings about the blending process with others experiencing life in the same way. They may involve the new family in family counseling. They may seek out professional help for themselves to retain their objectivity and recovery life style in the blending process.

 

2.7. My dad (or Mom) would never treat me the way you do.

Pathfinder step-parents recognize that their step-children may be resistant to accepting their parental authority and may use manipulation and guilt to undermine them. These parents do not take such comments personally but instead see them as natural considering the grief and loss issues involved in blending families. The Pathfinder step-parents are prepared for their children to make comparisons with the absent natural parents. They make every effort for the absent natural parents to know and to accept the new step-parents' roles in their children's lives. They make every effort to involve the step-parents in discussions with the natural parents about the welfare of the children. The children are informed of the cooperation between the absent natural parent and step-parent so as to disarm the manipulative ploy of playing the natural parent against the step-parent.

 

2.8. I would like to move in with Mom(or Dad).

Pathfinders are prepared for children in blended or step-families to request to move into the home of the absent natural parent. Pathfinders are willing to allow their children the freedom to chose where they want to live if they cannot adjust to the blended or step-family. They use detachment, the letting go of control tools and the 12 step principles to give them the strength and courage to allow their children to make the move. The children are told that once this move is made that they would be welcomed to return to the family. This is only if they could live within the blended or step-family's policies and procedures and accept the family as it is rather than how they would like it to be. They are also told that if they did return that they would no longer be allowed to move back with the absent natural parent if they were unhappy again with the blended or step-family. This prevents the children from using the moves to cover up for problems which go unaddressed and unsolved.

 

2.9. I like you more than my real Dad(or Mom).

Pathfinder step-parents are prepared for their step-children to make comparisons of them with their natural parents. They do not set out to set up a competitive comparison with the natural parents. Due to the Pathfinder model of parenting, children are more predisposed and accepting of parents who fully accept them unconditionally for who they are rather than for what they do or accomplish. Pathfinder step-parents redirect their step-children when these comparisons are made to love their natural parents unconditionaly and to accept them for who they are rather than regret what they are not. Pathfinder step-parents always remind themselves and their step-children of who they are in their lives. They never try to usurp the authority and role of the natural parents in their lives.

 

2.10. We did it better in our old family. Our old family was better than this one.

Pathfinders recognize that children will long for the older more habitual and comfortable ways of doing things. It is a part of their grieving the loss of their old family as they knew it. Pathfinders remind their children that the old family no longer exists and that they have a right to mourn its loss. However the new family now exists and that they are doing the best they can considering the circumstances to make everybody happy and adjusted with the changes. They ask them to be patient with the changes and to continue to give input so that the new family can run smoother and more efficiently for everyone involved. Pathfinders make every effort to assist their children to adapt to and accept their new family circumstances with their step-parents and step-families. They recognize that they cannot make their children fully accept the changes in their lives and give their children plenty of space and time to cope with their new realities.

3. Death of parent or sibling

Pathfinders recognize that death is a difficult reality for people to face and accept, no matter their age. When a parent or sibling is dying, it is important to allow the children to be informed about all aspects of the impending death. Children need to be prepared to deal with the impact of the terminal condition of their loved one. They need to be given time to say "good by" and to visit and talk with their dying loved one. They cannot be kept in the dark about what is happening. 


Pathfinders make sure that their children are fully informed on the progress of their dying loved one. When death does come, hopefully it is not as great a shock to them as it could be if they were left in the dark. They need to be given reassurance that the illness and/or death is not due to anything they did to or said about their loved one. They need to be given reassurance that there is nothing they can do to make the person live a healthy life or come back from the dead. They need to be given time to fully comprehend the impact of the news about the illness and/or death. They need to be given time to grieve the loss and told about the stages of grieving so that they know what they are experiencing and feeling is normal.


When the death occurs suddenly through accident or illness, the shock and horror needs to be dealt with openly and honestly with the children. They need to be given permission to fully express their feelings about the suddenness of the news and horror of the reality in their lives. Pathfinders allow their children to see them deal openly with their own grief and emotional responses. They do not encourage stuffing feelings or keeping a stiff upper lip.


Pathfinders allow their children to participate in planning the funeral for their loved ones. They give their children opportunity to put their own touches into the ceremony. They encourage their children to write good by letters or eulogies which are read at the service. They have them select music which is reflective of the dead loved one. They encourage their children to be open about their memories about their loved ones and to share these memories during the services. They let their children know that it is healthy to feel sad and tearful in facing this death. They encourage their children to be free with their sad feelings during services for their loved ones.


Pathfinders encourage their children to establish a memorial place in their homes where they can place mementos of their dead loved one. They encourage their children to gather in this place scrapbooks, photo albums, baby books, and other special artifacts of their deceased loved one. Pathfinders encourage their children to use this memorial place during their future grief work. In this place music tapes, eulogies and good by letters can be used along with the other mementoes to experience the full grief experience, as outlined in The Tools for Handling Loss (Messina, J.J., 2013), so that they can come to full acceptance of the loss over the next two to five years post death. Pathfinders do not attempt to rush themselves or their children to fully accept or grieve the loss of their loved one.


Pathfinders openly and honestly answer their children's questions and concerns about the death. They attempt to do so in a way to guard and keep secure their children's self-esteem, sense of security, trust and self-confidence.

 
Some sample questions and Pathfinder's responses concerning death issues

3.1. Why did this happen?

We will never fully be able to fully comprehend why this happened. All we can do is to ask our Higher Power to accept our loved one in Heaven. We need to hand over to our Higher Power, our grief and doubts about why this happened. Death is never easy to understand or accept. But we must go on with our own lives and try to accept it. No one can ever tell us why it happened. All they can tell us is what caused the death and how it happened. It is my hope that because we loved our deceased family member so much that we will pull together as a family and survive this loss in as healthy a manner as possible.

 

3.2. Is there something I did to make this happen?

You did not do anything to cause this person to get ill and/or die. This happened for reasons none of which had to do with you. There is nothing you need to blame yourself for in this matter. You are not responsible for what happened. You need to be good to yourself and not worry about how you could have done something different so it wouldn't have happened.

 

3.3. How will we go on without our loved one?

As hard as it is to accept, we will survive the death of our loved one. Yes, our life will be different, but we will pull together and make adjustments. We have the ability to make the most of our life without our loved one present. We can show by our new life that our loved one was well loved and cared about because we cared enough not to completely fall apart and die ourselves. Our loved one would expect us to go on and make the most of our life. We can fulfill that wish by making it happen in memory of that wish.

 

3.4. Why couldn't it have happened to me?

I appreciate your concern, but it does no one any good to think that way. You weren't responsible for what happened. There was nothing you could do to not make it happen. If you took our dead loved one's place, then we would be mourning your death. No matter how we feel about it, we still must accept it happened. We must go on from this point forward with no regrets or doubts about our role in the death. To offer ourselves up for the life of the other is to bargain with the loss. It is a form of denial. We had no control over this death. We need to accept this death as it is rather than how we would like it to have been.

 

3.5. Why did it have to happen now?

There never seems to be a right time for a person to die. We know that we will all ultimately die at some time. We need to accept that it happened now in our lives when we least needed it to happen. We can't control when we will die, even if we take perfectly good care of our health and safety. This is a fact of life we need to accept. When death comes no one can control the timing. This is just one more thing we need to hand over to our Higher Power. Why this time was chosen, we will never know. What we do know is that it happened. We need to go on from this point to live the rest of our lives without our loved one.

 

3.6. Why couldn't the doctors save our loved one from dying?

No matter how skillful and talented doctors are, they cannot always save a person from dying. We need to recognize that we can take a lot of measures to prevent illness and death, but even with the greatest advances in medicine there are still things that cannot control and prevent deaths. We did every thing we could to keep our loved one alive. When there were no other things to do, we needed to accept that death was all that was left.

 

3.7. Why does it still feel so bad a year later?

To fully grieve the death of a loved one takes a long time. It is a sign of how much we loved that person that we still feel pain over this loss. There is no shorthand, quick solution to relieve the pain of our loss. We need to fully grieve and allow ourselves to let our feelings out. Maybe in time the hurt and pain will feel less, but the loss will always be there for us to remember. Feeling bad does not mean that we haven't accepted the death. It instead means that in acceptance of our loss we recognize its magnitude and impact on us.

 

3.8. Will I have to accept my new step-parent as a replacement for my dead parent?

I never expect you to fully let go of the loss of your dead natural parent. My wish is that you accept my new spouse as your step-parent. Step-parent means "in place of." I would like you to accept this new person as someone who loves and accepts you enough to parent you in the place of your dead parent. Your step-parent does not want to replace your dead parent but rather to fill in to complete the tasks of parenting you which death robbed your natural parent from accomplishing. My hope is that you will come to love your step-parent as your own. I recognize that this love will be different from what you felt for your natural parent. We will always openly talk about your dead natural parent if the occasion arises. I never want you to be afraid to ask questions about your dead natural parent. I want you always to be free with your feelings if you are hurting or in pain. I hope that you will be free with your loss feelings with your new step-parent. Please do not hide from us if you are missing your dead parent. Don't hold back because your natural parent is not alive to experience the joys and successes you are experiencing in your current life.

 

3.9. What can I do about feeling guilty about what I did or didn't say or do to my deceased loved one?

There is nothing that you can say or do at this time to make up for what you said or didn't say before your loved one died. You need to forgive yourself for what you did or didn't say or do in the past. You need to let go of guilt for this and allow yourself to go on and live your life to the fullest without burdening yourself with blame or guilt. Your loved one would have wanted you to live your live as optimally as possible and would not want you to be so down on yourself for your past behaviors.

 

3.10. Will you die and leave me too like my dead loved one did?

Death is a reality which we cannot predict or control. All we can do is to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible so as to insure that we lengthen our time on earth. But we cannot ever fully reassure you that some accident or sudden unexplained event might not cause you or me to die. For that reason, we need to enjoy life one day at a time. We need to enjoy each other's company to the fullest each day of life we are given. It is because of this that we need to always be as honest and open with one another. We need to try to insure that things do not go unsaid which need to be said. Conversely we need to try not to say things to one another anything which we might come to regret later on. I love you very much. I will do what I can to take care of my health and safety to be around as long as I can to share my life with you.

4. Handling the reality of physical or sexual abuse of children

The goal of Pathfinder Parenting is to prevent the abusive treatment of children. However, there are times when Pathfinders have to deal with their own children or step-children who have suffered physical and/or sexual abuse. It is important in dealing with them that Pathfinders recognize that they will be dealing with children who may be filled with horror, pain, fear, insecurity, anxiety, rage, or a mix of all of the above and more.


Abused children are victims who have survived horrors which they would like never repeated. It is important to give them a great deal of latitude in expressing their feelings. Pathfinders need to be fully accepting and empathetic with their feelings. They need to try not to be judgmental or critical of what the children say. Pathfinders need to be cautious not to be overly defensive or denying about what the perpetrator of abuse did to the children. In letting abused children speak openly and freely about what happened to them, it is important that they are given reassurance that the Pathfinder parent will protect them from future abuse by the perpetrator. Pathfinders work with state agency personnel and police to insure that the perpetrator is dealt with legally. They insure that appropriate mental health services are given to lessen the chances of repeat offenses. Pathfinders are willing to file charges on behalf of the children to insure that the children never have to experience such horrors in the future.


Pathfinders recognize that children often do not want the perpetrator to be punished legally. This is especially true if the perpetrator is a parent. The Pathfinder needs to be sympathetic to the fears of the children. The Pathfinder parent still needs to educate them as to the wisdom of allowing legal consequences to occur to help the perpetrator to get help to straighten out the problems which underlie why the abuse occurred in the first place.


Pathfinders might also be the victim of the abuse of the perpetrators. It is important that they be honest with their children about the extent of the spouse abuse involved. They need to be open about the need for the perpetrators to get legal and emotional help before allowed back into the home. If the abuse is family wide then the entire family needs professional assistance to handle the losses involved in such a tragedy.


Pathfinders recognize that physical and/or sexual abuse can have life long impact on their children. They do not expect their children to overcome the injury of such abuse in a short time. They are very accepting of their children's need to be slow in handling the losses resulting from the abuse. Pathfinders keep the reality of the abuse catalogued in their memory. If in the future negative behaviors erupt in the children they seek professional help. They recount the abuse issue as being one of the possible reasons behind the children's aberrant behaviors and emotions.


Pathfinders try not to allow their children to become delusional by forgetting the reality of their abuse. They assist their children to remain in touch with the impact of the abuse. This allows them to fully grieve the losses involved and to come to full acceptance of its reality and impact in their lives.

 
What follows are some samples of issues which parents have to confront in assisting their children deal with physical and/or sexual abuse.

4.1. I love my abusive parent very much and I am at fault for what happened. I don't blame my parent. I deserved what I got.

No matter how badly you acted, you did not deserve to be abused as badly as you were. No one is permitted to be physically abusive to you no matter how you act. Your body is yours to protect and no one has a right to violate your physical boundaries the way you were when you were abused physically like you were. Parents have to find other ways to discipline their children instead of using physical force. You would never be physically abused like that again if I have control over what happens to you. However, since I cannot control everything that happens to you, you will need to protect yourself in the future if your abusive parent tries this again with you. You will need to call the police for help and then call us to let us know what is happening. If the calls or threats of calling do not work, then we will have to report your abusive parent to the state authorities for your rights to be protected.

 

4.2. I don't want my abusive parent reported to the police or to the state authorities because I'm afraid I'll never see my parent again. I don't want my parent put into jail.

It is the state law that abuse such as you received be reported to the appropriate state agency. Also it is important that your abusive parent get help, because what your parent did to you is an indication that your parent is very sick and needs help. By reporting your abusive parent, we can make it possible that help, which is badly needed, will be offered so that something like this will never happen again to you. I know that you are scared that you will never see your parent. But, it would be better that you never see your parent again to insure that this never happens to you again. You are a beautiful and wonderful person. You deserve to be treated better than how your parent treated you. No one deserves to be treated the way you were treated. Since your parent did this, it is a sign of how much help your parent needs.

 

4.3. Why did my parent do this to me. What did I do to deserve this treatment?

Your abusive parent had to be emotionally or mentally ill to do something like this to you. You did nothing to deserve this. No one deserves to be treated the way you were treated. You did the right thing to let us know what happened to you. We are going to take steps to insure that your abusive parent never does this to you again.

 

4.4. What will other people say if they find out that I told on my parent and my parent ends up in jail or in trouble?

It does not make any difference what others say about you. You are doing the right thing by reporting your abusive parent to the authorities. You cannot allow your parent to do this again to you or to anybody else. You are protecting yourself and others by getting your parent the help needed to stop this behavior. You do not need to feel any guilt or embarrassment for doing what you need to do to protect yourself and stand up for your rights. What is important is to get your parent into the hands of the appropriate authorities so that help can be given. You do not need to keep this a secret to protect your parent from other's bad opinion either.

 

4.5. My abusive parent warned me never to tell anyone about what happened or I would be severely punished or that something awful would happen to my family.

You did the right thing by letting us know what happened. We are going to inform the police and the state authorities of what happened. There is no way you or we will be in danger from your parent's wrath since the officials will be taking care of your parent. At the same time, they will be protecting you and us from any danger from your parent's anger. We will ask the state authorities to not allow your parent to visit you without an appropriate supervisor present. Only after your parent gets the appropriate help needed to overcome this problem will you ever be allowed to visit your parent without a lot of protection and supervision.

 

4.6. Will I have to testify in court against my abusive parent?

If the state presses charges against your abusive parent and your parent pleads innocent, then you will be requested to testify in court. If your parent pleads innocent to the charges of abuse then you know how sick your parent really is. Because your parent is sick you need to protect yourself by testifying in court so that the judge and jury can be convinced of how sick your parent is and how much help is needed to fix the problems. You do not have to be afraid of your abusive parent coming after you because the state and police authorities are watching your parent very carefully and will arrest your parent the first wrong step taken against you.

 

4.7. Is there something I could do to help my abusive parent from doing this to me again?

There is nothing you can do to or with your abusive parent to insure that this will not happen again to you. What you need to do is to report your abusive parent to the appropriate authorities so that your parent is identified as a person needing a great deal of professional help to insure that this never happens to you again. When people do the things your abusive parent did to you, they need special help to help them understand why they do what they do and to insure that they will never do it again.

 

4.8. I am so ashamed of what happened to me. How will I ever be able to go on in life now that this has happened to me?

What happened to you is bad, but you will be able to survive this with a lot of help and assistance from us and the professional counselor who is going to be working with you. It takes time for the wounds, you received to heal on the outside as well as on the inside. You will always have our love and support. We accept you just the way you are and hope you will accept yourself in the same way. You need to forgive yourself for what happened to you. You did not do anything to justify this happening to you. Your abusive parent was sick since only a sick person could do such a thing to another person. We will work with you and your counselor so that you put your life back together again. We want for you to be successful in life and hope that you will be able to heal yourself from the wounds of this abuse.

 

4.9. I am never going to have children since they say that if you were abused as a child you will abuse your own children when you grow older.

With the help you have been receiving since you were abused, it is our hope that you will heal from the emotional wounds you received. By healing from your wounds you will recognize what are healthy ways to disciplin and treat children. By learning what are normal ways of interacting in a family, you will hopefully learn how to treat your own children without resorting to abuse. You see in our own family that we do not resort to abuse to deal with you and there is no reason for you to not be able to do this non-abusive behavioral treatment with your own children when you become an adult.

 

4.10. There seems to be no reason to try as hard as I do to please my abusive parent since no matter how I act the abuse still comes my way.

This is a sign of how emotionally ill your abusive parent is and why it is important for your parent to get professional help. You are not the real reason why your parent is so abusive. The reason you parent is so abusive is inside your parent's mind and heart. There are probably immense emotional wounds in your parent's life which have never healed due to lack of professional intervention or support. There is no excuse for the way you have been abused. You do not need to feel responsible for what happened to you. What happened to you is out of your control. You cannot fix or change your parent's abusive behaviors. Only your parent can change or fix these behaviors. It will take a lot of professional help and time for your parent to be able to heal the problems which underlay why you have been treated so abusively.

5. Handling parent or sibling with severe emotional or addictive disability

Pathfinders recognize that if children are raised in a family in which a parent or sibling has a severe emotional or addictive disability that this is a severe loss in their lives. Pathfinders assist their children to recognize the reality of the problems and they do not contribute to the illusion or denial that the problem does not exist. They keep their children from being delusional that living with a person with such a severe problem is "normal." They keep their children reality focused in the "here and now" and assist them not to escape into fantasy about what could be if the problem just went away. They inform their children of the possible negative emotional and health problems which living with such a person in the family can cause for them. Pathfinders make every effort to fully inform their children of the impact of the emotional or addictive problem on the person with the problem and themselves.


Pathfinders do not whitewash the existence of the problems for their children. These parents role model healthy dealing and coping with these problems by their seeking out professional assistance to deal with them. Pathfinders participate in support programs available for people who have family members with emotional and/or addictive diseases. They encourage their children to participate in age appropriate support groups for children who have family members who have such problems. They involve their entire family in family counseling to address the impact of the identified member's problem on the family.


Pathfinders treat emotional and addictive conditions as if they were illnesses or diseases and not as moral weakness. They encourage their children to treat people with the conditions as if they were sick or ill and not as if they were "bad." Pathfinders provide their children with literature and readings about the problem. They inform their children of the long term ramifications of the conditions and why it is imperative for the problems to be treated as seriously as they are by the Pathfinder.


Pathfinders role model healthy boundaries for their children when dealing with emotional and addictive diseases. They make their limits known to the people with the problems about what they will and will not tolerate from them. They set limits for the people to seek out help for themselves for the problem. They set limits on how long a person with the problem will be allowed to stay in the house with the problem not being treated. They inform their children of the limits they have set. They inform the children of the factors which went into the setting of their limiting boundaries. They instruct their children of the wisdom of such limit setting when dealing with emotional and addictive diseases. They encourage full discussion of the pros and cons of the limits set in their family meetings with their children. They explore the natural and logical consequences of the limits set on the family.


Pathfinders attempt to protect their children from the negative impact of emotional and addictive diseases on them. However they inform their children of the potential life long ramifications in their own lives of living with a person with such problems. Pathfinders seek out professional help when they recognize that their children are experiencing negative consequences from their active involvement with such people. They encourage their children to fully grieve the losses they have incurred as a result of living with people with these problems.

 

6. Coping with a developmental disability or chronic illness in self or others in family

Pathfinders help their children to recognize when there is a chronic illness or developmental disability present in a family member or in themselves. These parents recognize that the presence of such problems can have a negative impact on children both while living at home but also in latter life.


Pathfinders allow their children to grieve the losses involved in the existence of a chronic illness or developmental disability in a family member. They recognize that all of the special attention and time needed to address the problems of the "target" family member can take time from the other family members. Pathfinders recognize that children often strive to be overly responsible and "adult like" when facing a parent or sibling with such a condition. They recognize that these children do not want to bother them with their "small concerns and problems." They are sensitive to the needs of these children to protect their parents whom they perceive as being overwhelmed by the burdens of taking care of the target family member.


Pathfinders encourage their children to openly express their concerns and worries about the target family member and the condition. They allow their children to openly express their anger, resentment, jealousy, and guilt over having a family member who has a condition which occupies so much time and resources of the family. These children are allowed to openly express their regrets and animosity emanating from having to sacrifice for the welfare of the target family member.


Pathfinders role model healthy coping with having family members with such conditions by involving themselves in support groups around such conditions. These parents encourage their children to participate in sibling and family member support groups concerning these conditions.

Pathfinders allow their children who have these conditions to grieve the losses involved in having these conditions. Pathfinders are honest and realistic with their children about the conditions and their life long impact. These parents handle their own grief about the condition so that they can realistically accepted the impact and ramifications of such conditions on themselves and the other non affected family members. To explore further issues concerning how to handle these conditions parents can refer to Coping Strategies for Parents of Children with Special Needs on this Website.


Pathfinders make every effort to address the concerns of their children so that they are not as adversely impacted as they could be by the presence of such conditions in themselves or other family members. What follows are some samples of children's responses to having developmental disabilities or chronic illness in the family.


These samples can also apply to families in which there is an emotional or addictive disease.

6.1. Why didn't I get that condition since my sibling is a better person than me.

It doesn't do you or your sibling any good to feel guilty about not having the condition which your sibling has. There is no way to control or predict how people get these conditions. What we know is that these conditions are not given to people based on the presence or absence of goodness in them. You are a good person in yourself. Your sibling is also a good person. It doesn't do us any good to harbor doubts about why we were not given this condition. What we need to do is to be a family as best as we can considering the circumstances facing us. I want you to be honest with me concerning your feelings about the condition and the impact it is having on you.

 

6.2. You make such a big deal about every little thing our target family mamber accomplishes and yet I feel like you ignore all the good things I accomplish.

I have to admit that we do over emphasize every little accomplishment your sibling makes. It is not our intention to purposely ignore your accomplishments. Please forgive me for ignoring what you do and please remind me when I am ignoring you. I am very proud of you. I love you for being who you are. I do not want to have you to think that I do not appreciate and enjoy what you accomplish. I admit that I tend to be preoccupied with your sibling and the condition. Let us schedule special times together alone so that we don't lose track of one another. This will insure that you don't continue to feel ignored by me.

 

6.3. You never have any time for me anymore. You spend all your time with our target family member with the condition going to doctors, therapists, and hospitals.

You are right. I do not spend as much time with you as you deserve. But because of the nature of the condition I find myself stretched out time wise. Let us make a scheduled date each week for at least one hour to spend alone together so that we can catch up. I realize that it is not a great deal of time, but at least we can take this hour to maintain our relationship and stay in touch with one another. You might be feeling like I do that we are becoming strangers in our own house. I don't want to lose my perspective and realize years from now that I don't even know you. So let's make a commitment to spend at least this one hour each week as "our time" alone.

 

6.4. You always tell me there isn't any money to do things and yet our target family member gets all these new things all the time.

You are right. Our target family member gets new therapeutic or medical equipment which is necessary to address the condition. Yes, we spend a lot of resources on getting tutors, therapists, caretakers and attendents for our family member. We are being drained financially by all of these necessary expenses to keep our family member rehabilitated. You have a right to be grieving the loss of our family resources on therapeutic materials. I grieve the loss too. You have the right to feel angry and resentful that we are not able to afford the fun things you crave. I want you to feel free to express these feelings so that you will be able to accept that we are not able to escape this reality by wishing it away. As long as our target family member is living with this condition, our resources will be greatly impacted.

 

6.5. People always tell me that I should be thankful that I don't have the condition which our family member has and yet I am jealous because of all the special attention given the condition.

You are a wonderful person and you deserve all the healthy attention which you can get for being just the way you are. I appreciate that you are jealous of the attention, time, and resources given to the condition of our target family member. I don't think, however, if our family members had a choice, he would chose to have the condition since having the condition is not fun or rewarding. If given a choice I do believe our target family members with this condition would chose to change places with you. It is clear from your comment that you are feeling neglected and ignored and we need to come up with a solution to insure that you get quality time and attention from us.

 

6.6. I feel so guilty because I wish my sibling with the condition had never been born. Our life would have been so much better and less complicated if this were so.

You have a right to feel that way. You are hurting and angry because of all of the negative impact your sibling's condition has had on our family. You are suffering from the losses which come with this condition in a family. You need to feel free to continue to release and express these feelings and not keep them bottled up inside of you. There is no reason to feel guilty. Our life would have been easier if your sibling had not had this condition. However we cannot control or change the reality that this condition exists. We all need to accept that our lives have and will continue to be affected by it. We don't have to like this reality but we must face it honestly and directly so that we can make the adjustments and accommodations necessary. We must be sure however that your needs are not being ignored or disregarded. Please be open and honest with us when you are feeling ignored, overlooked or disregarded. Please let us know when you need special time with us so that you can grow up to be as healthy as possible considering these circumstances.

 

6.7. Why am I the one in the family with this condition? What did I do to deserve this horrible thing?

You are a wonderful person and you did nothing to deserve getting this condition. There are circumstances which we cannot control or change and this condition is one of them. You are being given all of what is necessary to address and rehabilitate yourself from this condition. We want you to achieve as optimal life as possible considering the impact of the condition on you. We want you to reach your highest potential as possible in school, work and in the community. We do not want to make you feel disabled and incapable of being self-sufficient or self-confident. Our goal with you is to assist you to get the appropriate services so that you can grow up to be as independent, self-reliant, and self-sufficient as possible. We, your family members, are willing to assist you to become as successful as possible. We are going to make sacrifices to see that you get the services you need. We only expect that you will apply yourself as much and as conscientiously as you can to benefit from the services we gain for you.

 

6.8. It just doesn't seem fair that all of us have to suffer just because one member of our family has this condition.

It doesn't seem fair and it isn't. We have to suffer the losses of resources, time spent, and finances because of this condition and we all pay the price. It is important that we be honest with one another about how we feel about this and deal with our feelings openly and frankly. It isn't fair, but on the other hand, it is not in our power to control or change it either. We need to grieve the losses involved and then we need to accept it the way it is rather than to continue to bemoan the way it is for the rest of our lives. It is also important that we do not punish our family member because of the sacrifices we have been forced to make. We need to always be careful that what we are angry at is the condition and its aftermath and not the person who has the condition. It is not the person's fault or responsibility for getting the condition.

 

6.9. I work hard and succeed in school, at sports and other activities, yet I never feel like you both care about or are happy with my success. It is almost like you both take it for granted. But, if my target family member with a condition were to achieve something like I have, you both would certainly make a big deal about it. I hate you both for being this way.

You have a right to feel bad because we have apparently ignored all your hard work and the success which it has brought you. We never intended to give you the impression that we wanted to ignore you. You have a right to your feelings and our regret is that you did not speak up sooner about how ignored you felt. Yes, we are overly preoccupied with our family member's condition and it is not right that we ignored you in the process. We failed you by not teaching you to be more assertive with your needs with us. When you felt yourself being ignored, your rights were being violated. No one deserves to be forgotten or taken for granted just because there is someone in the family who has a condition which so preoccupies everyone's attention. You needed to be given permission earlier on to stop us to get our attention. This would have helped us not lose our perspective that there were more people in the family besides the person with the condition. Yes, we made a big mistake by making the condition, and the person with it, the major focus of our lives. We were probably over compensating for our guilt for the target person having the condition in the first place. We were caught up with the misguided belief that the more attention, resources, effort, energy, and money we addressed to the condition, the less impact the condition would have on the person. This was irrational and unhealthy, and in the long run, you suffered from it. We are sorry this happened. It is our hope that it is not too late for you to forgive us and to try to resurrect a relationship with us.

 

6.10. I am embarrassed by all that I achieve in school, sports, and other activities because our target family member will never be able to do the same.

You have a right to be proud of all of your successes. We are very proud of you and all that you have accomplished in life. Your life will be a different life from what our target family member will live. That does not take away from how well you have and will hopefully continue to do. Each person is an unique individual and each achieves success in individual ways. You never need to feel guilty about what you can do or achieve. You never need to feel that no matter what you do it will never be good enough because your family member can't do the same. You have your own life to live. It is our hope that we have not given you the wrong message that you must over compensate in your life and accomplish a lot in order to make up for what your family member cannot accomplish. We love you just the way you are. We accept you just for who you are. We both recognize that you are very talented and we enjoy seeing you be so successful. It is our hope that you will continue to enjoy your successes and be more free in openly sharing them in our household. We want to give you the recognition and attention you deserve for doing so well. Please do not hold back sharing your good news in fear that it will make our target family member feel bad because such success would be impossible to achieve in his or her own life.

 

7. Coping with disasters or failures

Pathfinders recognize that children have a difficult time grieving losses which are the result of disasters or failure. The disasters can come from natural sources such as floods, tornados, hurricanes, etc. The disasters can be accidental such as loss of homes in fire, robbery of homes by break-in, auto accidents, etc. Failures can be family related such as bankruptcy, home foreclosure, auto repossessed, parent's loss of job, etc. Failures can be personal such as failing a class, not being selected for a competitive sports team, loss of a scholarship, ending of a disastrous relationship, etc.


Pathfinders treat all disasters or failures as losses over which their children have a right to grieve. They allow their children to openly talk about the event. They encourage open ventilation of emotions over the events. They do not try to hinder exploration of the emotional response to the event. These parents give their children latitude of expression to fully deal with the losses involved so that they can come to a healthy acceptance of the realities involved. They encourage their children to accept reality the way it is rather than resort to fantasy as to how they would like it to be.


When the disasters or failures involve the whole family, Pathfinders role model healthy grief responses. They also role model healthy coping with the realities resulting from these disasters or failures. These parents demonstrate for their children, the concept of letting go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables. They teach their children that serenity comes from handing what they can't control over to their Higher Power. They emphasize that serenity comes from not burdening themselves with second guessing, ruminating, or catastrophizing over what happened. These parents maintain a peaceful calm and comfort by handing over to their Higher Power the magnitude of the losses involved.

What follows are some sample issues which Pathfinders deal with in assisting their children cope with disasters and failures in life.

7.1. Why did this have to happen now?

There never is a right time for a disaster or failure to occur. All we can do is to accept that this is what is at the moment. What we need to do is to accept that this is our reality right now so that we can take the necessary steps to work our way out of this mess.

 

7.2. Will we ever be the same as we were before this happened?

We might not be exactly as we were before this disaster or failure occurred, but we will do the best we can to come through this as a family stronger and more wiser as a result of this. Although at times it will seem like we fell down a deep dark hole with no way out, we will survive this and look back on this someday as a turning point in our lives which made us stronger people.

 

7.3. Why did this have to happen to our family? What did we do to deserve this?

There is never a full explanation why these disasters or failures occur. There is no reason why we deserve this since no one deserves to have this happen to them. The fact is it happened and we are the recipients. We must go on from here accepting that it has happened. We must put our lives back together now that it has occurred.

 

7.4. Why did God allow this to happen to us?

We will never fully comprehend why God has allowed this to happen to us. We can only know that He allowed it to happen and we must go from here now that it is done. There is nothing we could have done differently to prevent this from happening. We have a right to be angry and upset at God for this happening. But we can hand over to God the fact that it did and that we can't do anything to change that it happened. There is no need to waste our energy and resources worrying about why He allowed this to happened to us. We can gain serenity by handing that question back to God so that we can get on with piecing our lives back together again.

 

7.5. What is wrong with me that this happened to me?

You are ok just the way you are. There are no clear reasons why this failure has occurred at this time in your life. It is not because you are a bad person, but rather because you are in need of some special help that this failure will now make possible for you to receive. You need to forgive yourself for this failure. You need to recognize that it is an opportunity for you to grow stronger and more organized. This will help you as you grow older to be able to face the challenges ahead with greater self-confidence and self-reliance.

 

7.6. Why does this failure have to hurt so much?

Failures are loss events which require a lot of grieving over. It hurts, It is painful to face losses. You will need to allow your negative feelings to be expressed. You need to work through these painful sensations so as gain peace, calmness and serenity which comes from fully accepting the losses involved. If it didn't hurt so much then it would not have been as important to you as it was. You will survive this loss event in your life. But to get to acceptance will require a lot of tears, anger, resentment, despair, discouragement, pain, and hurt. This is a normal response and you don't need to worry if there is something wrong with you because it hurts so much.

 

7.7. How will I ever be able to face my friends and the family with this failure in my life?

How other feel about you is not as important as how you feel about yourself. You need to first forgive yourself for this failure. You need to accept yourself as a good person even though this failure has occurred. You need to unconditionally accept and love yourself for who you are rather than for what you accomplish or achieve in life. Your value and goodness in life is not determined by the things you accomplish, but rather on who you are as person. This failure is a challenge to you to become the best person you can become based on your values, talents, competencies, skills, and abilities. You need to measure yourself by who you are in reality rather than who you want to be based on your dreams, fantasies, or ideals. If you cannot accept yourself for who you are, it will be difficult for you to believe that others can accept you in this same way.

 

7.8. My life is ruined as a result of this failure.

Your life is not dependent on this particular event being successful. Your life is an accumulation of events and how you accept their impacts on your life. You need to accept the consequences of your own actions be they positive or negative. There is no need to beat yourself up because of this failure. You are allowing yourself to catastrophize by believing your whole life is ruined by this single failure event. Your pessimism is a sign of how angry you are with yourself for this happening to you. You need to let go of your self-anger, self-hatred, and self-loathing. You need to let go of the shame and guilt you feel over this failure. You need to forgive yourself and get on with your life. You need to give yourself permission to be a human being who is subject to making mistakes and experiencing failure.

 

7.9. Why can't I be like the other kids who find it easy to be successful in everything they try?

You are an unique individual who is different from others. You need to accept yourself for who you are rather than who you would like yourself to be. You cannot remove yourself to make yourself into a person who you are not. You are who you are and I accept you just the way you are. It is my hope that you would accept yourself just the way you are and not regret that you are not like others who you are jealous of. What is important in life is not what you achieve or accomplish but rather how you live your life and how you treat others and yourself. Unless you love yourself unconditionally you will never be able to accept the love others send your way. So relax and enjoy yourself, live life the way it is, and let go of the need to have it the way you wish it were.

 

7.10. No matter what I do I never feel that it is "good enough" to please you or others in my life. The fact that I just experienced this failure is proof that I am not a "good enough" person. I am now convinced that I am a failure in life.

We are sorry that you believed that no matter what you did you were never good enough in our eyes. We always tried to unconditionally accept and love you with no strings attached to what you did or accomplished. It is clear you never got this message the way we meant to send it. For this we are sorry. But please believe us that we do love you. We believe that you are a "good enough" person just by being you. Your value and worth is not dependent on what you accomplish or achieve. Please work on unconditionally accepting yourself so that you can grow in self love and accept your self as "good enough." You are only a failure in life if you set standards for yourself so high that they are never attainable. You need to accept yourself for who you are rather than for who you would like yourself to be. Be realistic as to who you are so that you give yourself a chance to achieve things which are realistically in your reach. Please let go of your need for other's approval and work on your self-approval as the only approval you need in life. It will do you no good however to do this if you remain a hard task master who only accepts perfection from you. If you let go of your perfectionism you will be a happier person who feels "good enough" just the way you are.

 
Summary

Assisting children to cope and grieve the losses in their lives requires a great deal of personal health on the part of Pathfinder parents. Parents cannot help their children grieve the losses in their lives if they cannot grieve their own losses. Pathfinders work on their own loss issues before they attempt to assist their children deal with theirs. How these loss issues are resolved will have life long implications on children. These loss events are elements which can make families dysfunctionally and can negatively impact the self-esteem of the family members. Completed grieving and full acceptance of the loss events assists family members to grow in self-esteem and personal responsibility taking. Pathfinder parenting is achieved in helping children face their loses honestly, openly and confidently.

 

The Pathfinder's Parenting of Loss Quiz

Directions: Read each question and then fill in your   response. The answer key in at the end of this Section

1. Name the five stages of grief in handling loss events:

a.

b.

c.

d.


e.

2. What emotion is the most powerful of all the grief emotions which children need to express in order to accept their loss issue?

3. What behaviors do children need most from their parents as they deal with the loss events in their lives:

a.

b.

c.

4. What characteristic do parents need to develop in themselves so as not to take personally the words and emotions expressed by their children as they grieve the loss events of their lives?

5. What type of communication do children need from their parents in order to fully grieve the loss events in their lives?

a.

b.

c.

6. What keeps parents from being effective helpers for their children in dealing with the loss events in their lives?

a.

b.

c.

d.

7. What types of disasters cause loss events for children?

a.

b.

8. What types of failures cause loss events for children?

a.

b.

9. What do children need to let go of in order to fully grieve and accept the losses in their lives?

a.

b.

c.

d.

e.

10. What do children and their parents need to rely on so that they can let go of the losses in their lives?

 

Journal Exercise:

Directions: In your personal journal answer the following questions.

1. What other loss events have your children experienced which you think could have been included in this Section?

2. How comfortable would you feel in saying the parental responses offered in this Section? What would inhibit you from saying these scripts?

3. How realistic do you feel the material in this section was for you and your family? What would have been more realistic for your circumstances?

4. How comfortable are you in dealing with the loss events in your own life? What type of role model do you make for your children in handling your own losses?

5. How effectively do you deal with the anger you feel in your life? How well do you role model healthy dealing with anger for your children.

6. How much do you rely on denial to deal with losses in your life? How delusional is your family life with your children? How honestly and openly do you deal with the problem issues facing your children?

7. What is the biggest obstacle to your children openly confronting the loss issues in their lives? What can be done about this?

8. How does being a Pathfinder Parent enable you to assist your children to confront life like it is rather than how they would like it to be? How does this relate to the loss issues they face in their lives?

9. What role does a Higher Power have in your life? How does believing in a Higher Power assist you to deal with the losses you face in life?

10. In scoring your answers on the Pathfinder's Parenting Losses Quiz what did you find out about the way you deal with the losses facing your children? How could you improve and what would you need to change?

 

Answer Key to Pathfinder's Parenting of Losses Quiz

1.

a. Denial

b. Bargaining

c. Anger

d. Despair

e. Acceptance

2. Anger

3.

a. Unconditional acceptance

b. Empathy

c. Understanding

4. Objectivity

5.

a. Openness

b. Honesty

c. Emotions or Feelings oriented

6.

a. Incomplete grieving and acceptance of their own losses

b. Poor role modeling of handling of loss events in their own lives

c. Lack of objectivity and taking children's painful comments personally

d. Judgmental and critical comments to children about how what they are saying as they grieve their loses

7.

a. Natural disasters

b. Accidental   disasters

8.

a. Personal failures

b. Family failures

9.

a. The need to control things they cannot control

b. The need to change things they cannot change

c. The dreams or fantasies about how life should be

d. Over-responsibility for causing the loss event to occur

e. Shame and guilt for the loss event

10. Their Higher Power