Children are experiencing grief during COVID-19 pandemic

an a beautiful kid is crying
Posted at 4:31 PM, Apr 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-20 16:31:09-04

NORFOLK - You may have noticed your children are experiencing sadness, anger or denial during this pandemic. Child experts at CHKD say they are likely experiencing the stages of grief over the loss of big life events like prom and graduation.

“I think the most important thing for parents to realize, is this is all a normal part of grieving,” explained Michele Tryon, a CHKD community outreach coordinator and parent educator. “It’s not really helpful to just try and happy them up. The only way through grief is to experience grief.”

In her recent blog for CHKD, Tryon outlines these stages of grief:

· Denial – “I can’t believe this is happening. It doesn’t affect me. The virus isn’t anywhere near us. I’m not old.”
· Anger – “My parents and other adults are overreacting. It’s ridiculous that I can’t see my friends.”
· Bargaining – “Okay, I’ll stay indoors for two weeks, then that’s it.”
· Despair- “I don’t know when this is going to end. I’m experiencing the grief of what is happening now, but also anticipating all the things that I might have to miss. Things will never go back to normal.”
· Acceptance – “Despite what is happening, I can do something every day to feel better and find new and creative ways to connect, while I wait it out.”

“If we allow them their sadness, it doesn’t make the sadness bigger, it actually makes the sadness smaller because they feel understood and validated and that it’s okay to be sad,” Tryon explained. “They’ll work through that and then maybe get to a place of acceptance because they feel like we understand that this is hard for them.”

Tryon said explaining to children that they’re experiencing grief can help put everything in perspective.

“If they haven’t experienced grief before, maybe they aren’t even sure what they are experiencing. It feels very confusing to them,” she said. “When we give it a name, that helps them manage it.”

Tryon encourages parents to maintain some type of routine and expectations.

“We can slack off a little bit, but we really do want to keep structure in the home. We do want them to do their schoolwork. We do want them to have expectations for chores or things that need to get done,” she said. “It sounds funny, but it actually helps a child feel safe if they have expectations.”