Each of us can probably remember a funny, quirky, even magical thing we believed in or feared as children. Children are very imaginative thinkers, and they will almost NEVER talk about these inner thoughts. For the most part, we grow out of these thoughts and become happy, healthy adults.
However, children who experience overwhelming fears related to a very real event aren’t so lucky. Research shows that even one traumatic event has a lifelong impact on a child, down to their genetic level.
Alone with their Worries
Our childhood stories seem funny now, mostly because they are not grounded in reality. However, there are children in our community who worry about things that aren’t so funny, and that they can’t outgrow. For instance, when a child is trying to make sense of a parent’s illness like cancer or Lyme disease. At these difficult times, kids and teens are alone with their inner thoughts and silent worries.
Without context, children may believe they can “catch” their parent’s illness. They worry that mom’s hair will never grow back. They think that the hard hug they gave dad caused his cancer. And, remarkably teens worry more than children and are less likely to ask questions directly to their parents.
Family Code of Silence
Unfortunately, parents aren’t much help. Even highly educated parents say they don’t know what to say to their children, so they say nothing. Parents assume that if the children don’t ask, then they are doing fine.
Children can sense when something is wrong. But our reluctance to get support for them creates a chilling code of silence in families, leaving children on their own to fret.
There are over 5 million children in the US under the age of 18 living with a mom or dad who is fighting a serious or chronic disease. Without support, children may experience post-traumatic stress symptoms, feel unloved, withdraw socially and emotionally, and perform poorly in school.
Very little has been done to help these children…until now.
Hope for Families
Wonders & Worries is the first organization of its kind anywhere. Started in Austin, Texas, 17 years ago, Wonders & Worries provides professional mental health and coping support to children and teens to help them thrive despite a parent’s serious illness.
Specifically, Wonders & Worries:
- Provides one-on-one and group support to any child ages 2-18.
- Teaches parents what to say to their child, and how to keep their family thriving throughout the illness.
- Provides anticipatory grief support to families who will experience the death of a parent.
- Offers all services at no cost to families in English and Spanish
Our program is evidence-based and has proven results. We have helped over 8,000 individuals and families in Central Texas. We have a 96% client satisfaction rating and ongoing evaluations.
However, we know that we are only getting to a small fraction of families who need our help. We are currently piloting a helpline and teen app to reach those who cannot travel to one of our five offices. We are also developing virtual reality, online educational videos and therapeutic kits to send to family and friends.
You Can Help
We need you to share information about our services, including the helpline. You can refer families or go to our website to learn more about resources available to help them get through a very difficult time.