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Kids Are Making A Difference In The World: The Real Story Of Gabriel

Kids Are Making A Difference In The World: The Real Story Of Gabriel

Our world is full of intrigue, deceit, and broken promises. It is merely the nature of things, nothing personal. Grand undertakings often hold dirty little secrets underneath the surface, and promises of happiness and betterment end up being yet another strategy for the powerful few to gain riches at the expense of others.

These words may have a somewhat somber tone and seem pessimistic, but I assure you that the story we are about to tell, the story of young Gabriel, shines a light of hope.

To understand who a single person, and a child at that, can truly make a difference in the war against greed and corporate apathy, we must travel back to 2014, the year when the FIFA World Cup was held in Brazil.

The World Cup and Brazil’s Impressive Football Heritage

Football, or soccer for all the American readers, is a huge deal for every man, woman and child in Brazil, the nation that boasts 5 World Cup wins, so you can imagine that everyone was ecstatic when news about their country hosting the tournament broke out.

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New stadiums where scheduled to be built and new railroads would help transport the population from outside the major urban areas to these glorious stadiums, so that everyone could witness their team going against the toughest opponents on the path to victory and honor. Yes, such is the fervor with which Brazilians, and most nations across the globe celebrate their football heroes – ranking high earns a country a lot of respect worldwide, and sparks up national pride.

However, as Gabriel and his friends and neighbors soon realized, all this exposure and prestige comes at a cost and, ironically, it is not those with an overabundance of wealth to give that are expected to pay the price.

Gabriel’s Poor Neighbourhood Was to Be Demolished

This 14 year old Brazilian boy didn’t have much in the way of riches, but he had a loving family, warm and hospitable neighbors, loyal friends and an intelligent and creative mind. Gabriel and his friends were shocked to hear that over 200 homes were scheduled to be demolished to make way for the railroad that would take zealous foreigners and well-off folks from the cities to the stadiums, and those who were going to be forced to move and have their neighborhoods destroyed could not even afford to buy tickets.

The worst thing is that whole communities and families would be torn apart, the children would have their local football court demolished and old friends would no longer be able run, laugh and play a few games of football together on those warm weekend afternoons. However, Gabriel wasn’t just going to stand by and let some rich old men deny him his right to a fulfilling childhood.

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The Blog that was Mightier than the Sword

Instead of idly standing by, Gabriel took a camera and went around the neighborhood, documenting the damage that these supposedly glamorous efforts to show off in front of the world had really done to the hard-working low-income Brazilian neighborhoods. He and his friends showed their disdain for the flawed system as they played football on the concrete blocks that had replaced their football field, and ran around the railway tracks that had cut through their neighborhood.

The people were lively and kind-hearted, they still enjoyed watching the games and rooting for their countrymen on the TV the big games unfolded miles away. The children were all of firm spirit – they laughed, they played football, they teased each other and had fun amidst the building material. All of this went on Gabriel’s blog, and he showcased the true nature of these people, and the effects that this clumsy demolition project had on the community.

There was no Hollywood magic, no marketing ploy, no privileged rich white celebrity doing a tear-jerking voice over – these were proud people, good, intelligent and mentally strong children who just wanted the world to understand what was happening under everyone’s noses, so that something could be done about it.

The efforts of local children helped open the world’s eyes

Gabriel interviewed, among others, a brave young boy named Wesley, who had started a project to help the local kids. It is a very memorable experience, to see this little boy talking about all the problems like crime and drugs, his brother’s death being a result of drug abuse, and how the government should have invested more money into building up these communities and providing the children with football fields, better education, fixing the sewage problems.

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The boy is young, but Wesley’s eyes glimmer with a wisdom of someone four times his age, and his eloquence is born out of experience and a grim determination to improve the lives of his friends and neighbors. He organized regular football practice on a humble local playground and tried to use sport as a means of keeping kids on the right path.

Taking a page out of Wesley’s book, Gabriel organized local events for the kids, where they could watch, movies, eat popcorn and have fun for free, so that they didn’t have to turn to the violent and self-destructive lifestyle that so many people in these neighborhoods end up turning to.

The Lesson that Gabriel has Taught Us

It is too often that we see children from poor neighborhoods in developing countries get denied some of the basic children’s rights that people in the West all take for granted. It’s not just about Brazil and a single event like the FIFA World Cup, in countries like India a lot of children simply do not receive the adequate quality of education that would allow them to choose a different path, make a career for themselves, break the cycle of poverty and give back to their community.

Among these children there are talented storytellers and bloggers like Gabriel, gifted athletes, young scientists and doctors, creative artists and savvy businessmen – they just need to be allowed to express themselves, find their calling in life and attain their true potential. We would be wise to spend more time talking to our children and actually listening to what they have to say. Children can take initiative and they don’t always need someone else to tell them what’s best for them.

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Because the youngsters of the world see things for what they truly are, unburdened by politics and hidden interests, they can often point us to what is really wrong with the system, and help us take steps to fix these problems.

Featured photo credit: Gabriel_mic_1000 via elsvandriel.nl

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Published on August 13, 2020

The Effects of Divorce on Children No Parents Should Ignore

The Effects of Divorce on Children No Parents Should Ignore

If you are parent who has gone through divorce, this article is not intended to make you feel guilty. Instead, the purpose is to help you recognize the effects of divorce on children in order to face them in the best possible way.

If there are problems or issues with your child as a result of the divorce, there is hope. There is help available. The first step is recognizing any effects the divorce has had which caused your child to have social, emotional, physical, or cognitive issues. Behavioral issues are the most common signal that your child is not coping well with the divorce situation.

Some kids go though divorce and are not adversely affected. Even in situations when things are very tumultuous during the divorce, a child can appear unaffected. There are other children who are traumatized and exhibit emotional and/or behavioral problems when their parents’ divorce has been calm and amicable. It goes to show that the a child’s reaction to divorce greatly varies from one child to the next.

A 2014 study cited that, in evaluating three decades of research, children are statistically better off emotionally, mentally, and physically if their parents can stick together, stay married, and work through their problems[1]. The only exception to this is if abuse is present.

However, it doesn’t always work out that way. Divorce is a reality in our culture and world today. Therefore, we need to be more aware of how a divorce may affect our children, recognizing signs if there are any issues with your child, and then getting them the help that is needed. It is difficult to help a child with a problem if you don’t first recognize that it exists.

This article is help you better identify behavioral problems that may stem from unprocessed emotions associated with a divorce.

You can do all the right things, meaning you get the child counseling, keep them out of the adult issues, and share parenting duties amicably, yet the child can still have behavioral issues. Therefore, even if you have checked all the boxes and done all the things to protect your child during the divorce, you should still be aware of the potential for problems with your child as a result.

Every child is different. You can have two children in the same household, and one appears to process the divorce fine, and the other has apparent behavioral issues that arise as a consequence of the divorce. This is not uncommon. It is because every person is different and unique, as is their ability to cope with stress, anxiety, and major life changes.

There is no guilt needed or shaming involved. If you are divorced, you are not alone. In fact, you are part of a growing cohort of people around the world. With the high number of divorces in countries around the world, and children being affected, we need to prepare ourselves with information on the effects of divorce on children and learn to recognize when our children need help.

How Children Think About Divorce

Kids don’t think logically. They lack the world experience and knowledge that adults possess. This means that when things like divorce occur, they may not have logical thoughts about what is happening to their family.

There are children who will think it is their fault, or that if they act better or try harder that their parents will stay together. Not all children will think this way, but many will have thoughts that are not logical, rational, or healthy.

It is imperative that adults have conversations with their children so that the child knows that the divorce and situation is not their fault. Parents should have a cohesive plan on how to talk to their children about divorce. Dr. Kevin D. Arnold, PhD, explains that parents should help their children process the emotions they have about divorce:

“Parents desire to shield their children from pain, let alone want to cause their babies to suffer. But, suffering happens. Divorcing parents have an opportunity to teach their children how to handle pain effectively. In every dire circumstance exists the chance to learn and grow; parents who use divorce as one such chance can help their children learn this fundamental truth.”[2]

It is not about protecting our children from the divorce, because if divorce is imminent, then it is a reality of the child’s world. The key is helping children effectively navigate and process their feelings and emotions as they go through this major change in their family.

Sadness and Other Feelings

For children, one of the most common reactions to divorce is sadness, according to Dr. Lori Rappaport[3]. Children will cry and often act sad as their parents go through a divorce. This sadness can sometimes lead to depression, and those signs should be identified so that professional help can be be sought.

Such signs can include loss of interest in activities, inability to sleep, sleeping too much, suddenly having problems with academics, fighting, or getting in trouble at school for behavioral issues. There are other signs as well.

Some children will actually feel relieved that their parents are getting divorced. In many homes where divorce occurs, there is a high level of emotional conflict. The children of high-conflict parents will often feel relief that the arguments and conflict will be coming to an end in the home.

Likely, there is usually a mix of emotions. They feel sad and relieved. They can experience these feelings back and forth over time as they process the divorce, which usually takes years.

Many children of divorce will also feel frightened because they don’t know what their life is going to look like in the future. Their future is filled with uncertainty. They also will feel angry that their family is changing and that they may have to make major life adjustments, such as a new home or a new school.

It’s normal for children to have these emotions. What is not the norm, and requires intervention, is when children have behavioral issues that affect the way they function in daily life.

At What Age Are Kids Affected by Divorce?

Kids are affected by divorce at any age. Even adults who have their parents divorce later in life can be adversely affected. According to Dr. Rappaport, even babies and toddlers can be affected by divorce. The separation from one parent when they have to go to another parent’s home can cause separation anxiety for a baby or toddler.

Knowing that anyone at any age can be affected by parental divorce means that we must not exclude children when assessing the effects of a divorce. Just because they are old enough to understand does not mean that they automatically have the coping skills to adjust in a healthy and appropriate manner.

The same is true for young children. Just because they are young and do not fully understand what is going on does not mean that they won’t be affected. Major changes in a young child’s routine because of divorce can cause them distress, which can result in things such as regression.

Signs That Your Child Is Not Coping Well

When a child is not coping well with their emotions associated with a divorce, it will typically be seen in their behavior. What they don’t express in their words will usually come out in problematic ways. Their behavior will change, and it is for the worse when they are not coping well with the divorce.

It is normal for a child to have emotions, thoughts, and feelings about divorce. It is common for children (research shows between 20-50% of children of divorce have maladjustment) to have behavioral issues because of divorce. However, behavioral problems and maladjustment are signs that a child is not coping well and that professional intervention, such as counseling, is needed.

Below are some of the more common behavioral issues that arise in children when their parents are going through a divorce and they are not coping well. These are not the only behavioral issues that can present, but are some of the more common.

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Regression

This behavior is more often seen in younger children. For example, children who are already potty-trained will begin having accidents or wetting their bed at night. They may resume thumb sucking or other babyish behavior that they had previously outgrown. Regression is a sign that a child is not coping well with the situation and some professional help may be needed. For younger children, play therapy can be helpful.

Developmental Delays

Children who have been achieving their milestones normally and then begin to exhibit delays should be assessed. For example, a baby who sat up and crawled at a normal age of development, but who is now clingy and not walking at 24 months should be taken to their pediatrician for assessment.

Needy Behavior

Young children who cannot express themselves in words will often show behavioral indications when something is bothering them. For a child going through divorce, some forms of neediness can be normal. They want to spend more time with their parents when they get time with them. They may cry more frequently when they transition from home to daycare or from one parent’s home to the other.

When it comes to the effects of divorce on children, parents need to be aware of the neediness behaviors that can arise. If they become disruptive to daily life, then a child psychologist or counselor may need to be consulted. They will have some solutions and be able to assess a family’s unique situation. Parents must recognize that extreme neediness is not normal, and help should be sought in such a case.

Temper Tantrums or Outbursts

Temper tantrums are normal for children under the age of five. In fact they are quite common for 2-3 year olds. However, in some cases where a divorce is happening, the tantrums become far more frequent. For children over the of five, they can regress and begin having temper tantrums once again. It is an indication that their situation is overwhelming them, and they are having difficulty coping.

For older children, such as teens, they may have emotional outbursts. These outbursts can be characterized with screaming, yelling, obstinance, and a lack of logic and rational thought while they are in this state.

If these behaviors are present outside of the normal age-appropriate temper tantrums, then counseling or professional help should be sought for the child so that they can learn to process their feelings and emotions in a healthy manner.

Getting in Trouble at School

Children who have previously not been trouble makers at school and then begin a pattern of getting in trouble with authority should not be ignored. Their behavior is a way of acting out for attention or as a channel for their emotions. They may be feeling angry about their parents divorce.

When asked about the divorce, they tell their parents they are fine and that everything is okay. They don’t know how to properly express how they are feeling, and they instead repress their emotions. Then, when things get tough at school, they act out by kicking the child’s chair in front of them or pushing their classmates.

They do these behaviors as a channel or avenue for them to get out their anger. However, this is not a healthy way for them to process their anger towards the divorce. They should be taught by a professional how to talk and process their anger appropriately.

Fighting With Other Kids

Along with getting in trouble at school, some children will turn their anger, rage, and stress into aggressiveness toward their peers. They may get in fights and conflict with friends or classmates when, previously, this was never an issue.

Parents should help these children by getting them the help that they need to understand that their feelings are normal and they can talk about it instead of bottling up the anger and then allowing it to explode on others.

Eating Issues

When some children don’t cope well with a divorce situation, they can develop eating problems. For teens, this can be a legitimate eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. For younger children it can even manifest as avoidance of food or extreme picky eating that can lead to an eating disorder such as ARFID (avoidant resistant food intake disorder). This can be one of the most dangerous effects of divorce on children as it can lead to serious health issues.

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Parents should be aware of their children’s changed behavior, and especially eating patterns that may be detrimental to the child’s health in the long term. For some children this can also include binge-eating. They don’t express their feelings in words, and instead they eat to find a sense of comfort. This can lead to health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure if the behavior becomes severe or pervasive over a long time period.

There are treatment programs and counselors that can specifically help if eating problems begin to manifest as a pattern of behavior. Parents must be vigilant and aware of the eating habits of their children, especially when major life changes, such as a divorce, are happening. It is easier to treat such a problem earlier, before the behaviors and habits become ingrained.

Sleep Issues

Children of divorced parents can experience insomnia. They can also sleep too much if they are becoming depressed. Their sleep routines should be consistent from one parent’s home to the other so that they don’t develop disruptive sleep problems. If a child does display significant sleep issues, then a pediatrician’s help should be sought for advice.

Risky Behavior

It is normal for teens to experience some sort of rebellion. However, if that rebellion turns into the form of drug use or running away from home, then professional help must be sought. Risky behavior is a cry for help. Their cry for help should be met with love, care, and a desire to get them the help that they need.

Drop in Academic Performance

Academic performance can fluctuate. However, a severe plummet in grades and academic performance should not be ignored. For example, a child that goes from straight A’s as a motivated student and then drops down to all C’s in one semester’s time is likely having issues coping.

Their academics may be suffering because they are depressed, or they can no longer find the ability to concentrate during class. Parents should help their child, not only with tutoring and academic help alone. The emotional state of their child should be addressed with counseling.

There are likely underlying emotional issues happening when their parents’ divorce, and a significant drop in their academic performance indicates they are not processing their emotions correctly, as it is impeding their academic life.

Suicidal Thoughts

Suicidal thoughts, and especially any suicide attempts, require immediate intervention and help. When someone expresses that they want to die or that they want to kill themselves, these words must always be taken seriously.

There are some teens and pre-teens who “attempt” suicide as a cry for help. Their intention is not death, but instead it is to get their parent’s attention. Unfortunately, some of the “attempts” are successful and result in death. This is why words of wanting death or to commit suicide should always be taken seriously.

You may think that your child would never follow through, but they may do so simply to prove their point, and will, unfortunately, in some instances, be successful. If you have a loved one who has exhibited suicidal behavior or has threatened suicide, there is immediate help via the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Self-Injury

Professionals are becoming increasingly aware of self-injury and self-mutilation behaviors in teens and pre-teens. Teens tend to hide these behaviors and will cut themselves in places that are less visible, such as their upper thighs or stomach. However, some are more apparent and obvious with their behaviors.

Either way, immediate help should be sought if you have a child who is harming themselves. They are not coping with their mental and emotional stress in a healthy way. Self-harm or self-injury can include cutting, carving into their skin, burning themselves, pulling out their hair, and more.

If you think your child may be harming themselves, they need immediate help. Please go to the Crisis Text Line if you want more information about how children inflict self-harm or if you believe your child is harming themselves. You can reach out to immediate help via that website.

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Incarceration

When teens or pre-teens start getting into trouble and get themselves arrested, it is a cry for help. Don’t ignore their bad behavior and chalk it up to them just being a teen. If they are experiencing the divorce of their parents, this behavior can stem from emotional turmoil that has gone untreated. Even if they did receive some counseling previously, they may likely need help and intervention once again.

Somatic Issues

A common sign of distress in children when they are having emotional problems is somatic issues. This usually exhibits in the form of repeated headaches, stomach pains, or other physical ailments. They can be real or imagined.

Often, the emotions drive the pain or physical ailment to become real. For example, a child may complain of stomach pains daily, especially when they have to transition from one parent’s home to the other. What may begin as an invention in their mind can become real as the body responds to the stress and unresolved emotions in problematic ways.

If your child has repeated physical complaints, such as headaches, stomach pains, or other issues, do not ignore their complaints.

Helping Your Child Become Emotionally Intelligent

Emotionally intelligent people are able to express their feelings and process them in a healthy manner so that they don’t repress emotions. Repressing emotions often leads to behavioral problems, such as those discussed previously.

We can help our children learn to become emotionally intelligent by teaching them how to talk about the way that they feel. It is often a learned behavior that does not come through instinct alone. Children should be taught how to appropriately talk about and process their feelings and emotions.

There are many ways parents can teach their children to express their emotions in a healthy manner[4], including:

  • Help your child identify the name of the feeling they are experiencing.
  • Talk about healthy ways of dealing with emotions, such as talking things out and deep breathing exercises.
  • Be a nurturing connection to your child so that they feel that they can come to their parent when they are experiencing heightened emotions.
  • Resist punishment when they are acting out of emotional turmoil; instead, work to help them talk about their emotions and feelings.
  • Have your child practice talking about their feelings, and praise them when they talk and express themselves.

It is not easy for parent or child to go through the a divorce situation. Parents should be aware of the emotional turmoil that their child is likely going through, so they can encourage them to express it through healthy dialogue and conversations.

The Help Available for Children of Divorce

There are counselors, psychologists, therapists, and play therapists available for help to your family. You can simply google the area where you live and “divorce counseling,” and you should find qualified professionals near you.

Divorce Care 4 Kids[5]is a support group program with curriculum designed to help children ages 5-12 whose parents have gone through divorce. There are groups that facilitate this program all over the world. The programs tend to be low cost or, in some cases, free.

Do your children need DC4K? Here is what they say on their website about their program:

“Your kids probably feel scared, sad, and confused after your divorce. They know you have been hurt deeply. As a result, they may hide their feelings because they are worried about your happiness or because they do not know how to express their feelings appropriately. DC4K helps them process those feelings and gives them tools to communicate better with you.”

Final Thoughts

Many children process through divorce without serious problems. However, we can never be sure which children will have issues in handling a divorce. When parents are able to identify behavioral issues and problems that arise during or following a divorce, they can help their child get the help that they need.

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Behavioral issues tend to be an indication that the child is not properly processing their emotions. Hope is found in providing the help that your child needs. Being their support system to help them talk about their feelings is helpful, as is seeking professional counseling when behavioral problems arise.

More on the Effects of Divorce on Children

Featured photo credit: Joseph Gonzalez via unsplash.com

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