All the talk these days on the news is around school — will it begin this fall or not? It was one thing for school to end super early — like even before Spring Break — but quite another to not have it start this fall. Could this be a possibility?
Leadership in America says the schools must reopen, but are leaving it to the States to figure out how to do so safely. Is it safe? Many states are saying no completely or yes to some modified type of schedule other states, and others are going to let school open as normal and deal with the consequences later. It’s all really confusing, especially for the children.
Here’s what I think is important — no matter where you live or what you have decided as a family to do to move forward with educating your children this fall — grief is a major part of this process. Making space for grief as your children learn what is going to happen with school this fall is very important. You may eventually come up with an exciting plan for your kids, i.e. homeschool or additional innovative resources for them to take in that are cool — but there is no doubt that your children are experiencing a major loss in their lives.
If you are questioning if this is true or not, think back for a moment to your own childhood and what school meant to you. My guess is it was a lot more than learning. It was your friendships, teachers, mentors, classroom antics, lunchroom escapades, after school activities, sports, laughter, hanging out and being whatever you are as you are growing up — away from your family. The freedom school affords kids from their home environments cannot be underestimated and it has been – up until now – a critical part of childhood and growing up.
For now, this is being lost to kids. You can try to sugarcoat it and make it as positive as you want, but I think a step before moving into this terrain is growing space and capacity to allow children to discuss all that they are losing, missing, angry about as decisions are made for the fall. Helping children embrace these feelings is not only important for this moment, but it models for kids that it is OK to feel grief when something is lost. One does not need to run to an emotional space of positivity which may deny the very real feelings of anger, grief, and sadness.
Parents sometimes have difficulty embracing these feelings for themselves. However, helping children grieve what is lost is critical at this moment. If your kids go back to school, but not all their friends are there because some parents kept their kids at home, this is loss. If your kids are going to learn on-line all year, this is a huge loss. If your kids are going to go to school on some days and not others, this is loss.
This time is unusual, uncomfortable, and difficult. Help your children make space for grief that they are feeling to move through to a place where what is positive can be genuinely felt without it just being a pretend mask of being OK with what is a significant loss in their lives.