School and COVID-19Sep 08, 2020
It looks like most schools in the United States won’t open as usual due to COVID-19. If they do, students won’t have the experience they are used to.
If school doesn’t reopen at all, kids will have to get used to not seeing their friends or teachers and adjusting to a new way of learning.
Although it’s easy to understand intellectually why this is happening, most people do not associate school closures as grief. But it is. Grief can be caused by the change in a familiar pattern of behavior.
Although school closures aren't what most people associate with grieve it most certainly is a grieving experience.
There are articles all over the internet talking about how resilient kids are and how they will adjust and bounce back. That may or may not be true, but I do know that children will have a greater chance of being resilient if they are allowed to feel their normal and natural feelings as they arise.
So, what can you do to help your kids with their grief?
If your kids think you are hiding your feelings, they will mimic your behavior.
If they see you intellectualizing your emotions, they will do the same.
If they see you being strong, they will try to be strong too.
When your kids talk about missing school, their friends and teachers, or activities that they were looking forward to, don't try to tell that it will be ok. Acknowledge what they say. And respond with something like “I know that’s disappointing isn’t it, buddy?” Then stop talking and listen to their reply.
You can even tell the truth about your feelings. If you’re disappointed or sad about school being closed, tell them. Telling the truth makes it safe for your kids to do the same. If you hide your feelings, your kids may get confused because they are receiving mixed signals between what they sense and see in your body language and what your words are saying.
While you can’t control what is happening with the school system, you can help your children to be emotionally honest and to avoid the hazards of hiding feelings.
Kids may be little, but they are smart! You are their role model and they will follow your lead. Give them the best tools to work through their grief by allowing them to experience their normal and natural feelings. When you do, you will be helping them learn skills that they will need for the rest of their lives.