By Tara Dale, LISW-S
Happy New Year and hello, 2021!
2020 was a challenging year for all of us but we made it through it! As we all begin to look forward to positive changes in the New Year, some children may experience some sadness and possible grief over losses from the past year. Losses can take many forms, such as loss of a loved one, suspended in-person school learning, cancelled activities and events, missed time with friends or not being able to visit a local park or zoo. Grief is normal and can’t necessarily be “fixed.” Everyone grieves in their own way and each person can learn how to cope with their grief effectively and build resiliency for the future.
Kids can show their grief in various ways including behavioral changes, mood changes (increased anxiety, sadness or anger), changes in sleep or eating patterns, and possibly with physical discomfort (stomachaches, headaches). There is no time limit for grief although there are helpful ways to support your child while working through their grief.
Be there to listen, provide support and reassurance to them. Encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings. Let them know their feelings are normal and allow them to express those feelings and cry, if needed. You can also help them brainstorm ideas for additional coping such as, finding new ways to reconnect as a family, expressing themselves through artwork, engaging in physical activities (such as yoga, sports, or going for a walk or run), listening to soothing music or writing in a journal. Normalcy can provide comfort when other areas of life feel out of control. So, encourage them to do their best to keep up with their normal routine.
If your child needs additional support, it may be helpful to seek counseling services. You can talk to their school about school-based services, search for local counselors/therapists at psychologytoday.com or call Cincinnati Children’s Psychiatric Intake Response Center (PIRC) at (513) 636-4124. If your child has experienced the death of a loved one, Fernside is a local non-profit organization that provides outreach, support and education to children during the grieving process. Fernside can be contacted at (513) 246-9140 or at fernside.org. If you have an immediate safety concerns for your child, you can always call 911, bring them to the nearest emergency department or call the PIRC for guidance.