Let Kids Grieve Their Losses over COVID-19

My oldest is a 5th grader and was looking forward to his last class trip…now he’s home tripping over his little brother’s Legos. He was excited about his end-of-the-year band concert…now he’s getting to the end of his rope dealing with his siblings purposely annoying him.  And he was ecstatic about his final season of Little League Baseball…now he keeps waiting for the final day of this quarantine…but who knows when that will even be!

My husband and I will be celebrating 20 years of marriage in July, and we were planning a trip to celebrate.  We haven’t gone on a trip together since our 10 year anniversary and we were really looking forward to a getaway together. But now…who knows?

I’m sure you’re seeing some loss in your own life too.  Last days of school, graduations, birthday parties, play dates, park time, going out to dinner, going anywhere as a family!  It’s crazy.

Here are three things we can all remember here…
1. There are so many other people dealing with deeper levels of loss especially those who have actually lost loved ones to COVID-19. (This sad reality always helps me to keep things in perspective.)
2.  Even so…It’s OK to be sad about the loss we are each experiencing. It’s OK to grieve the losses that none of us were prepared for.  It’s actually healthy to take time to grieve any loss.
3. And we have to help our kids grieve their losses too.

It’s truly hard to know at this point how all our kids are taking this. But be prepared. Just know that kids will have many emotions wrapped in one big complex emotional ball bouncing around your house.

One minute, they may be just fine, but then they think about missing their friends at school, and they will explode on you or their siblings for seemingly no apparent reason.

Here are few tools from the Teamwork Parenting Approach to help…

The Detective Tool in the Teamwork Parenting Approach reminds us that we can’t always take our kids’ emotions at face value. Remember that anger isn’t really anger. It’s often just fear and sadness disguising itself. Do our kids have a lot to be afraid of right now? Yep. A deadly virus, no doubt. Do our kids have a lot to be sad about? Yep. No school, no friends, no play dates, no outings. Everything is different for them. And it’s hard. They are experiencing a lot of loss too.

So remember to look more closely at their anger and ask them to talk out their fear or sadness or draw pictures of what they are going to miss. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about what they are sad or scared about. Talking it out helps get the fear or sadness out a little each time which will greatly help with their ability to control their emotions later on. They need to know we understand…we get it.  Be extra patient here.  We are here to help them through this tough time. That’s what families do!


The Emotional Coaching Tool reminds us that even though we can be detectives to help our kids uncover the fear and sadness fueling their anger, it’s also our job to not only help them identify their emotions (“I can tell you’re feeling very frustrated.”) but also coach them through their emotions (“When you feel so frustrated, what’s a healthy thing you can do?”)

A critical part of coaching our kids and teaching them how to handle their emotions is to give them alternatives…provide them with tools they can use instead of allowing their anger to come out in aggressive, inappropriate ways. One thing we’ve found helpful is to review our “Calm Strategies” at breakfast each morning.

Last night my kids had a sleepover together and stayed up and watched movies, so we knew they would be tired today (Note–tiredness…also something that fuels anger—have your kids been staying up way too late these days too, by the way?), so we gave them 5 things to do if they feel angry.  In fact, we wrote these down and taped them to the wall where it would be visible.

  1. Go to room and get some space.
  2. Wash face in the bathroom.
  3. Go punch on the punching bag.
  4. Go outside and shoot hoops.
  5. Find a way to be helpful around the house.

You can come up with your own list that meets your kids’ and family’s needs, but the point is to be proactive and give them tools and options so they know what TO DO instead of just being told what not to do.

We are all experiencing some sort of loss these days. Take time to mourn it and help your kids do the same.  But I also encourage you to take time this week to write down everything that you have gained too (besides the #quarantine15 lol).  Sit down with your kids and have them add to your list to help them focus on the good things about this time together too. And maybe with the positive things in mind, they won’t get quite as frustrated when they step on that Lego!

Lord, you bring healing to the brokenhearted. You lead us to peaceful waters. You restore our souls. You refresh our minds. In all circumstances, we can find joy. We ask for your joy today in our homes, in our hearts, and in our world.

Here’s to building better families together–
Christine

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