Let me share with you the story of a third-grade student we will call Juliet.
Juliet's teacher, Mrs. Lastimoza, referred her to the nurse’s office for stomachache and headache. Her teacher also wrote in her note to the nurse's office that Juliet was a bubbly, smart, respectful student but has changed to being withdrawn.
Mrs. Lastimoza was also Juliet’s second-grade teacher the year before. Once a very task-oriented and helpful student to her second-grade classmates, Juliet had become easily agitated with classmates that she previously hung out with. Also, she stopped performing well academically.
One day, the teacher asked Juliet to help her carry light school materials. Juliet said “No” and walked away. Mrs. Lastimoza was in disbelief. After some discussion with the student, the teacher sent the child to my office.
When Juliet came in, I asked her open-ended questions. She stayed quiet.
I asked her questions pertinent to her complaints of stomachache and headache. She nodded for affirmation and shook her head if it was negative. She had no fever. I told her gently, we could talk but if she’s not ready, she could read some books instead.
To my surprise, she replied, “Thank you.” I attended to three other students and when I went back to paying attention to her, she looked at me with expressive eyes that spoke.
Soon, she opened up and shared she was deeply disturbed about her parents’ separation.
Her parents had decided she would stay with mom and her brother Junior would stay with their dad.
She sobbed. I held her hands and reassured her. Tears started clouding my eyes, too. Kids are so helpless and powerless when their parents make life-altering decisions for them.
Parents sometimes make their decisions without fully realizing how children will experience stress and anxiety which can build up through their adulthood.
Juliet had asked me to please talk to her parents. And so I did.
During our meeting, I explained to her parents what was going on with Juliet.
I shared how much their upcoming separation was affecting Juliet. They both said they did not realize how much it has affected Juliet because when she was with them she seemed fine.
We had a good, healthy conversation. I made it clear that I am not there to patch up their relationship. But as a nurse and parent, I shared my thoughts about the family situation.
I shared that if they saw any light of love at the end of the tunnel, then their relationship may have a chance to survive and may be worth saving. I emphasized that both must commit to help make it work. I referred them to a wonderful therapist.
When Juliet and her younger brother Junior saw both of their parents in school, they were delighted. The kids gave their parents tight hugs.
With forgiveness, both parents can survive the various challenges in their relationship. With spirituality, they could build a nurturing environment for their children. Being a good parent is not an easy task; it comes with deep obligation and responsibility, but it can be done!
Marie Virata Halloran is a registered nurse who is certified in grief and death studies. She is also the Rainbows for All Children Guam/LifeWorks Guam executive director