Becoming a school health counselor (school nurse) was the best career of choice for me. I love children. Children are so precious, so innocent with no agenda. Children are just the way they are. My heart bleeds with them when they are emotionally distraught, feeling pain clearly mirrored through their eyes. Our disheartened students are not necessarily hungry for food but thirst for empathy, kindness and understanding. Listening to their stories with compassion is an initial start in establishing rapport and developing a bond. Listening to them conscientiously empowers kids with dignity and they matter.

My student care management was based on achieving the students' best potential. This was fulfilled best by handling each child as a whole person in all developmental areas: academic, psychological, emotional, social and physical well-being. I worked diligently with all members of the education team. Serving as a school health counselor has fulfilled a deep meaning and purpose in my life.

Lately, we have had a series of violence and ferocity winding up in tragedy and massacre of schoolchildren and teachers, murdering celebrants of Independence Day, causing one 2-year-old looking for his parents not knowing that his father shielded him from stray bullets. The heart-wrenching incidents continue to cover our news media. We ask ourselves, where did we fail, what is our plan in lowering these despicable crimes. How to protect and keep our school and the public more secure and safe.

One common factor stood: The perpetrators had gone through childhood grief trauma of losses in their family unit. In some they were victims of being bullied at school and neglected at home.

You and I deal with problems every day. We find a solution and move on. Many around us are not so fortunate. Their problems are not so easily solved. I refer to those who are dealing with changes in their family unit: death, divorce, separation, incarceration, military deployment, abandonment, or any life-altering crisis and painful transition. Nearly half of our school-age children on Guam and other parts of the universe live in single family homes. Many others reside in dysfunctional households.

At times children are so battered and neglected that each year that passes by their frustration, anger, anxiety, loneliness, sadness and confusion escalate. They start displaying vehement and vicious behavior mentioned in their drawings, journals, social media, actions and attitude. Unfortunately, even with their cry for help and expressions of violence no one has captured the intensity of their pain and fierce intentions. Then one day, the perpetrator has come out in forceful rage hurting innocent victims. Studies show that grieving children bereft of expressing their emotional uncertainty and confusion will be at a high risk of teen pregnancy, alcohol and drug consumption, unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, lured to join gangs, failed relationship and suicide.

It is easy to suggest that our schools can and should do more. I wish it was that simple. In fact, our children and often their parents too, need help of a more personal nature. They need someone to talk with when their family unit is in turmoil and crumbling to pieces. Our children declining in their outward thoughts and actions need support during this most crucial and critical period if they are to adjust and become contributing members of society.

Rainbows for All Children Guam is an international 501(c)(3) not for profit research-based peer support group for children who are going through life-altering crises. Rainbows was established to assist children, adolescents and adults who are grieving a significant loss of a loved one: death, divorce, incarceration, military deployment, abandonment, life-altering crisis and other life painful transition. A comprehensive grief support curricula and services provide group sessions lead by a certified Rainbow facilitator. Students navigate their feelings of loss, process their emotions of grief, foster camaraderie and a sense of belonging, self-confidence and self-esteem. More importantly they realize they are not to be blamed for what happened in their family. Their transformation of healing is so eminent such as: improved relationship with classmates, friends, and school personnel and their families. They start to smile again, participate in school activities with positivity, and academics start to soar. The road ahead is full of sunshine, with streams of hope, happiness and well-being. Rainbows is a free resource for our hurting children.

For the past 35 years, Rainbows on Guam has assisted over 25,000 students and families without local funding. LifeWorks volunteers have saved many lives from the brink of despair. The generous support of our beloved private sector has heard our plea and continue to sustain our mission and advocacy all through the years. Thank you so much.

Marie Virata Halloran is a registered nurse and Rainbows for All Children Guam/LifeWorks Guam executive director.


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