Grief in all its Forms
Hello families of Wellington Counseling Group
No matter the content of a story these days, grief and loss are themes that seem to easily slip into the narratives of storytellers. Whether it’s a news anchor sharing the tally of the literal loss of life, or a concerned neighbor talking about being laid off, grief has a gripping presence. Grief is tangible as high school seniors process the realization and disappointment that is understandably intensified by the many missed milestones and rites of passage that have quickly slipped away from them. Capstone moments such Prom, graduation ceremonies, and even completing one’s last final exam of high school, can no longer be experienced as traditionally imagined. Grief also comes in Kindergarten-sized too, whether it’s the loss of playtime with peers, tackling literacy challenges with teachers, or even just having enough people around you to sit together in a circle (some things just don’t work virtually). Regardless of age or reason, a child or teen’s disappointment and grief are indisputably real and felt deeply, even if voice cannot yet be fully given to the experience. Though as parents we can’t control the present circumstances, we can undeniably make an impact by how we respond.
~Show up for the all the feelings
Without a doubt, it’s easier – and oftentimes more comfortable – to be present for kids when they are calm, regulated and happy. But it doesn’t take more than a few moments of parenthood to realize that young kids and teenagers have a vast emotional range. It is critical to show up for all the moments, not just the pleasant, predictable ones. Be available to listen to your children express their grief, anger, fear, etc. and give yourself permission to listen without offering any solutions. Seriously, just listen. Your presence and support in this way will be experienced deeply and can give all of you the opportunity to sit with the big feelings and connect around a very real, shared sense of grief and loss.
~Pay attention to sneaky feelings too
More time at home probably means more screen time in all its forms, and with that may come more isolation and disconnection from family. This is particularly important for teens who typically can manage their virtual schoolwork independently and are thus drawn away from the rest of the family for hours upon hours. Make it a habit to check in on teens regularly and maintain daily expectations for your child to exist outside of their bedrooms (and away from a screen). Complaints of being tired, bored or unmotivated might be masking other feelings that warrant more time together, deeper listening, and repeated opportunities to connect.
~Focus on why rather than when
After weeks at home, the weariness of restricted living has certainly set in and kids are understandably questioning when life can resume as normal. Though it’s tempting to offer a date, the reality is that it’s impossible to know. The message behind why we are staying home is just as important now as it was back in March. Continue engaging children in a dialogue about the very important role that every single person plays by staying home. Activating a sense of purpose in children can lead to a less abstract understanding and appreciation about why our daily experiences and environment have been limited, and why their continued role is ever valuable for the health of their community and their fellow human being.
Take good care of yourselves and loved ones. We will continue seeing you online until we can see you again at the office!
Allison Lobel, Psy.D.
Director of Child & Adolescent Services
Three great activities to keep kids engaged
1) Use this free workbook to help kids get in touch with their thoughts and feelings about coronavirus. Geared for children 10 and under, the prompts in the workbook can certainly be modified to facilitate meaningful conversations with older children.
2) Mother’s Day is just around the corner, so it’s a great time to have kids start making cards for the special ladies in their lives. With good reason to avoid shopping for Hallmark cards this year, have kids scavenge for various materials around the house to transform into creative uses. Think extra buttons, random tissue paper from shoe boxes, and plastic bottle caps.
3) Make an individual or family-based time capsule. I know, we all have a similar opinion of 2020 so far but giving kids the challenge to create a time capsule will offer a much-needed opportunity to consider this year beyond the coronavirus. Sure, the contents might encapsulate some of these last few months, but encourage children to look beyond that. Consider hobbies, favorite sports teams, recipes, photos that reflect your child or family at the current period. When life has progressed and we are well past the rebuilding and recovery phase of the pandemic, reflecting on the contents of the capsule might even spark some joy and reflections on one’s coping and resilience capacity.