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  • Writer's pictureerinwalter

Students Grieve too..

September is upon us, and for many kids and teens, it means a fresh start as they return to school. It's a time filled with new notebooks, exciting classes, seeing old friends and the promise of new adventures. But for some, this September is different.

They've experienced the death of a loved one over the summer or earlier in the year, and their heartache is a little heavier as they embark on this journey without that special someone to wish them luck.

I wanted to take a moment to share six tips on how we can help these children and teens cope with their grief during the upcoming school term.

As you read through them, please think of your child as you know them best and how you could incorporate this suggestions into your life.

Be Open and Honest:

First and foremost, create a space where kids feel safe to express their feelings. Grief is a rollercoaster of emotions, and it's crucial to let them know that it's okay to be sad, angry, or confused. Listen actively without judgment. What you are feeling is not what they are experiencing. Encourage them to share stories about their loved one, keeping their memory alive. Set individual dates or schedule in time with your children, whether it is dinner with them, a Starbucks date or do something they enjoy; ie concert, event or sporting activity. Giving them that curved out quality time means a great deal to them.

Stick to Routines:

Returning to school can provide a comforting sense of normalcy. Dr. Alan Wolfelt advises us to maintain consistent routines at home and school as much as possible. Predictability can be a soothing anchor during turbulent times. Calendars, schedules on the fridge or visible on the wall, or a joint digital google calendar on their cell phones for them to see what is happening each day gives everyone in the house a knowing where everyone is.

A death may cause a feeling of uncertainty, seeing a calendar allows for a bit of control back into their lives.

Create Special Memories:

Help children and teens find meaningful ways to honor and remember their loved one. Create a memory ritual, like lighting a candle, planting a tree, or going to event that had meaning for their loved one. These activities can provide a tangible connection to their lost family member and offer solace when they need it most. Allow for conversation around this, your adult ideas may not be what the children/adolescences have in mind at all.

Honestly, I have seen some incredible suggestions come from the 8 years when given the opportunity to speak up.

Seek Professional Support:

If you notice that your child's grief is overwhelming and persistent, don't hesitate to seek professional help. Grief expert Andrea Warwick recommends reaching out to therapists or counselors who specialize in grief. They can provide valuable support and coping strategies tailored to your child's needs.This does not mean you are not doing a great job, it simply means that you are building a team of support around your child as they grow with their grief at each age and milestone. Grief experts like myself have several years of professional experience as well as some personal life experience which we can draw from.

Encourage Peer Support:

Peer support can be incredibly beneficial for children and teens navigating grief. Dr. Wolfelt suggests encouraging your child to connect with friends or classmates who have experienced similar losses. They can lean on each other, share their feelings, and find solace in knowing they're not alone.

Please with cautious DO NOT compare a divorce with a death of a parent. It's not the same and should be treated differently. Kids want to be with other kids, whether it's returning to dance, hockey, the arts or an after school program they want to be with their peers.

School Connection:

Connecting with the school staff and sharing that a death has occurred in your family only helps the teachers support your child.

Youth don't want to stand out, if the parent or guardian reaches out to the teacher it breaks the awkwardness the child may be feeling heading back to school and they don't have to retell their story.

Take a deep breath, supporting children and teens with grief as they head back to school in September requires patience, love, and understanding. As the adults, we can provide the vital support these young ones need as they navigate their grief and continue their educational journey.

Remember, we're here for them every step of the way. Creating and establishing a trust bond with our youth is essential as they grow up.

Lots has changed in their world and yours, remember to lean on your village of support.

You are not alone.

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