Our kids are struggling. Online schooling, loss of playdates, lack of interaction with elderly extended family and our own increasing anxiety as parents — there have been so many losses in the past year. Your child may have experienced the loss of a loved one or may have had to move in the midst of the pandemic. Whatever that has looked like for you and your family, there are some simple things you can do to ensure your child has a safe space to process his/her losses. You are the expert of your child. More than anyone else, you have the ability to soothe, comfort and help your child through these losses and transitions. Here are four simple ways to help your child process his/her grief.

Provide Language for the Feelings of Loss

It’s OK to take an educated guess about what might be bothering your child: “It seems like you’re sad or maybe even angry that we can’t go see Grandma and Grandpa this year.” 

Validate and Normalize the Feelings

One of the best things we can do as parents is to validate our children’s feelings as they experience them. It gives them credibility and helps them to trust that what they are feeling is not only real but normal. “I can see that sadness. I have felt sad too that we can’t go see them.” For children who are in the midst of transition and loss, it can feel frightening to have more emotions present than what they are used to feeling. A child can feel guilty because they feel sad about missing one person or place while also feeling excited and happy about going somewhere new and experiencing new things. This is completely normal, and it is important for parents to be able to identify their children’s feelings and ensure them it is OK to have these feelings.  

Is There More? 

Become curious about what your child might be trying to tell you or share with you. Taking 20 minutes to sit on the floor and play with your child or sit at the table with your teenager might not seem like a huge feat, but ensuring you have these moments of intentional connection with your kids creates safety so they feel they can open up to you when they need it most. 

Create Safe Spaces for Your Children to Process their Emotions

Sometimes the simplest of practices are the best. 

  • Journal – Give them a notebook of their own to decorate and use as a landing place for whatever they are feeling. They can draw, write, or doodle whatever they are feeling. 
  • Exercise – When our bodies hold too much stress, one of the best things we can do is to exercise. Help your child by getting them outside if possible or doing something indoors too (jumping jacks, Youtube has TONS of activity videos for kids, etc.). 
  • Schedule a weekly time when you and your child come together specifically to talk about whatever he/she wants. If they are younger than 9 or 10, make it a playtime and allow them to lead and direct that time together. In play therapy, we say, “Play is the child’s language, and toys are the child’s words.” You can learn a lot about your child when you spend these moments with him/her. 
  • Find a good counselor. If you are struggling to connect with your child, find a trusted counselor to give your child an additional safe space. 

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