This past week in my conversations during the Parents' Class Zoom meeting, with many of you, there was an underlying feeling of sadness. Even in the midst of your being grateful for so much as well as being mostly satisfied with how your families are coping with COVID-19, sadness was in your eyes and in your tone of voice.
The same is true for our children. This is week three of school closure. It is now apparent that this is not just an extension of Spring Break. I could say the “children are…,” but the truth is we “all are….” We are easily irritated, easily driven to frustration and anger, easily critical and blaming each other. Grace does not come easily.
We are all grieving life as we knew it a month ago. Every week, some wait to hear that school will resume and things will go back to the way they were. While others accept the “new normal,” hoping that we won’t really need a new normal. We want the familiar to return. We are going through the motions believing the way things were, will return.
But when change occurs, there is no return to the way things were. It wouldn’t be change if that were the case. Sadness signals the need to acknowledge that the relationship has taken a new direction, the situation has taken a turn, the goals shifted. I believe that the only difference between this kind of sadness and that of losing a loved one is the intensity. We go through the same stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These lessen with the passing of time.
So, when your kids (or you), are irritable, talking back, crying, being picky, fighting with each other, quieter than usual, or you see a change in their eating or sleeping habits, they are most likely grieving for what isn’t.
Here are some helpful suggestions:
- Listen to them. Name the feeling being reflected in their behaviors. “Tell me what you are angry about,” “It's sad when you can’t be with your friends. I know you miss them.”
- Allow time for them to handle the emotions. There is no fix for these feelings. Encourage them to read a book or watch a favorite, uplifting movie, or play with LEGOs as a means of calming.
- Encourage or even insist that they do something different before they escalate and cannot regulate their rising emotions.
- Draw pictures about what they miss, or how they feel. Kids are great at putting their feelings into colors, shapes or pictures.
- Send cards to their friends with jokes, or stories.
- Make bedtime a slowing down process: color together, work on a puzzle a few minutes, calming music, pleasant story. Read a chapter book to him.
- Set up a virtual scavenger hunt that includes some of their favorite things.
- Invent a new recipe and make it together.
- Look around the room and name five things that you see. Name four things that you would like to touch. Name three things you can hear. Name two things you can smell. Name one thing you can taste.
Each day look for one thing you have done well, one thing each of your children have done well, and one thing your spouse has done well. Keep it small. Keep it positive and genuine. It’s the small things that count the most right now.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Theresa Moore, LCSW, LPC / School Counselor
Ms. Moore entered employment at SAA with the challenge of creating the first counseling department in the history of SAA. That was 23 years ago. Today, the counseling department includes a learning specialist and is a vibrant center for learning and problem-solving. In addition to Ms. Moore's positions at SAA, she also is a private practitioner for individuals and families. She has served the San Antonio community for over 35 years with her counseling services, speaking and writing.