The First International Symposium on Replacement Children held in The Netherlands – a great success

Many participants were moved, some even to tears, and all therapists, psychologists, counsellors, parents, grandparents and adult replacement children who attended this Symposium held on 30 November 2023 in Zaltbommel (in The Netherlands) felt enriched in their understanding of themselves and their clients.

International Symposium on Replacement Children - 1
Photo courtesy of Annelies van den Brink-Leune. Used with permission.

Ard Nieuwenbroek, a well known Dutch author and Contextual Therapist, presented his new book, co-authored with Judith Kimenai, to 160 participants. The book is entitled “Elviskinderen Begeleiden”, which translates from Dutch into English, as: Accompanying Elvis Children out of the Shadow of a Disappeared Sibling. (An English translation is expected to be published.)

Elvis Kinderen frontcover

The book in Dutch can be ordered here.

The term Elvis Children is a new term for replacement children, in memory of Elvis Presley whose twin brother had died at birth but it is also an anagram of the word “live”, a replacement child – a child to live.  

International Symposium on Replacement Children - 2
Photo courtesy of Annelies van den Brink-Leune. Used with permission.

Kristina Schellinski, Co-Founder of the who is a Teaching Analyst, Psychotherapist and Supervisor in Switzerland  and Author of Individuation for Adult Replacement Children (2019) called this Symposium the beginning of a movement, of a wave of growing consciousness about the issues faced by replacement children and their parents.  You can see the presentation of Kristina Schellinski below..

Bram Bakker spoke of the effect of the loss of children across generations and how psychiatry has overlooked the effects of the trauma caused by the loss of a sibling, too often silenced by shame or taboo.  

Claudine van der Sommen told her personal story as a replacement child and lit candles offering love for her brother who had never been talked about but whose death had overshadowed her life and adult relationships, even with her own children. 

As one participant praised the event:

“I listened, often in tears, to the symposium on Elvis children…I am my parents’ fifth child. The first three children died after living for a short time. I have had various therapy, coaching, pastoral care, and immersed myself in all sorts of things in my life. But this symposium and this book feels like the last piece that completes the puzzle. Just hearing about this symposium will give many people recognition and recognition. I am suddenly feeling really seen.”