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Helping children in crisis takes sensitivity, awareness
--By Tony Imms
ATLANTA, June 14--Making a difference in children's lives requires an understanding of the crises they face, a conference leader told participants in a June 13 session at the Woman's Missionary Union annual meeting at Wieuca Road Baptist Church, Atlanta.
     Cindy Chandler, a consultant with the South Carolina WMU, said in a session on "Ministering to Children in Crisis" that adults often are unaware of the crises children face.
"A crisis is an upset in a steady state, a critical turning point leading to better or worse, a disruption or breakdown in a person's or family's normal or usual pattern of functioning," she said.
     Using the book, "Precious in His Sight" by Diana Garland as a reference, Chandler gave examples of the most common crises faced by children and their effects.
Physical, mental and sexual abuse accompanied by neglect represents an obvious crisis, Chandler said. In 1998, the number of children reported abused or neglected increased by 41 percent, she noted.
     Separation -- caused by anything from a friend moving away, the divorce of the child's parents or the death of someone close to the child -- creates a crisis for the child, Chandler said.
     Anything that requires a major adjustment can be a crisis. She cited remarriage of a parent, the birth or adoption of a sibling and a family move as examples.
"Expect a crisis," she urged. Prepare by communicating and building trusting relationships with children.
     Observe children for signs of a crisis because they may not tell you in words, Chandler said. "Non-verbal communication is more important than verbal."
     Helping a child through a crisis requires listening and positively guiding the child, Chandler said, adding that helping the child see his or her power in a situation is important.
     Suggestions from conference participants included simply listening to the child's feelings and allowing the child to write a journal or even draw pictures to illustrate his or her feelings.
     Lessons can be learned from every crisis, and these lessons need to applied and reinforced, Chandler said.
     "Crisis provides an opportunity to learn and grow."

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