MASK UP, School’s On!

Changing leaves, the sound of football, smells of cider mills and cooler temps are typically the signs of Fall as children prepare to return to school. This year with the presence of Covid-19 and the many safety measures added to the school supply list, it may bring up more fears, worries and questions than families have ever experienced before. How do you prepare for something we never had to do before? Parents and caregivers are filled with doubts, unknowns while challenged to make the safest and most practical decision for families.

The good news? We are all in this together! And whether your child or teen is schooling remotely, attending face to face or a combination of these choices, it is important to know you are not alone. There is value in remembering this. And take each step with the knowledge that we are “doing our best” with what we have at the moment. When we know more or have more experiences, we can revisit our choices. The key is to make a choice and move forward. Doubt and worry don’t help, they hinder us from forward movement. And when worry and doubts become bigger than the belief that we will get through this, remember we are together.

The Grieving Student and Family

Returning to school for children who have experienced a death in their life involves mixed feelings, especially if the death has been recent. Many times, they do not want their peers to know as they do not want to be seen differently or have a friend bring up the death at school for fear they might not be able to manage their emotions. How we grieve is an individual response. It is important that the school be mindful of the emotional needs of each student. This is now compounded with the new dynamic of the pandemic, social distancing, a lack of social support, and may be inadvertently overlooked by the teacher or school.

At SandCastles, we believe it is important to respect others and their need for space yet to be mindful it is important to “check-in” regularly. Having ways to keep the communication open is essential especially when going through something new and as significant as the loss of a loved one. As a family, consider ways to have open dialogue with choices to maintain daily dialogue for your “emotional school supply” list.

Some ideas are:
➢ Family White board – each person leaves a daily feeling and/or question communicator as a means of “checking in”
➢ Journal share – just between the adult and the child; leaving questions, thoughts or feelings in a special spot where each one can privately include their journal entry and respond
➢ Family group texts – emojis, GIFS, pictures or words to communicate daily; use for a morning check-in and a nighttime check-out
➢ Family game nights – so many options, from retro games like Candy Land to Escape Room in a box; a time to just be together and have some fun

Whatever your family decides, the idea is to stay open in our communication and not judge how we may be feeling. Grief can bring up feelings in ways we never experienced before, it is helpful to know this is our grief and there is nothing “wrong” with us. Be careful not to allow the busyness of school and all that is being asked as a family, to divert us from communicating as a family about our feelings in grief.

This assignment may be one of the hardest ones you have ever been assigned. There will be holidays, birthdays, “firsts”, shared joys and many grief moments to accept. The more we can share what’s on our heart the easier it becomes to be with our loss and each other. Keep your heart in front of the mask, show up and express your care for each other and be sure to keep that “emotional supply list” handy as the school year progresses. Pencils need sharpening after use, keep refining what you learn as you sharpen your understanding of what you and your family need to heal your hearts, one day at a time.

Lizanne Chisholm, LPC

Clinical Coordinator

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