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SCU’s innovative loss and grief education program expands with 3rd edition launched


Sharlene King
2 October 2015

The third edition of an innovative loss and grief education program, developed by researchers at Southern Cross University, was launched last night (October 1) in Sydney by the National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell.

Since its launch in 1996, the Seasons for Growth program has been adopted across five countries with about 200,000 participants.

Originally developed for young people aged six to 18 who experienced death, separation and divorce in their families, the success of the program led to the creation of further versions for adults dealing with loss and for parents helping their children cope with grief. It has also been adapted for use within Indigenous communities (Seasons for Healing) and to aid recovery after natural disasters (Stormbirds).

The program’s author Professor Anne Graham, director of Southern Cross University’s  Centre for Children and Young People (CCYP), said the program’s strengths-based approach built on peer support, is a key element of its success.

Drawing on the imagery of seasons as a learning tool, children come to understand change and loss are part of life, while developing skills in communication, decision making and problem-solving, which help restore self-confidence and self-esteem. A trained adult ‘Companion’ helps facilitate the learning.

The latest edition includes beautiful artwork, contemporary music composed around the program’s themes and various learning options using new technologies.

Professor Graham said Seasons for Growth had been rigorously evaluated in Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland and Scotland, with children consistently reporting the program decreased isolation, enabled them to talk about their feelings and access support and strengthen their communication with family.

“The launch of the third edition of Seasons for Growth is timely and significant given current evidence about the extent of change and loss many children navigate not just through death and divorce but also as the result of being in out-of-home care, being a refugee, having a disability, living with domestic violence and living with mental illness or drug addiction,” she said.

“A lot of our research at the Centre for Children and Young People points to the vital role of relationships and recognition for children’s wellbeing. The program has utilised such research in building an approach that conveys care, respect and valuing of children and of their capacity to adapt to stressful events when appropriate support and guidance is in place.”

The program is sponsored by Good Grief Ltd, a not-for-profit organisation that works collaboratively with the University to ensure the program continues to develop on the most up-to-date research concerning children’s wellbeing.

The program is offered in government and non-government primary and secondary schools and a range of community-based organisations across Australia and internationally.

Photo: Professor Anne Graham (centre), director of SCU's Centre for Children and Young People, with (right) National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell and (left) Sr Monica Cavanagh, congregational leader of St Mary MacKillop's Josephite Sisters who are sponsors of Seasons for Growth.