Guest blog – Children Grieve Too: Supporting Children Through Grief is Important for their Success
posted on December 16, 2017 by Jade Richardson Bock, Children's Grief Network
As we near the Youth Development Tour, The Center for School Leadership will host a series of guest blogs from Positive Youth Development leaders in New Mexico. Click here to RSVP and learn more about the Youth Development Tour.
Positive Youth Development helps kids find their strength, their gift, and their story.
– Jade Richardson Bock
Grieving kids are in every classroom, in every school. 1 in 20 children in the United States will experience the death of a parent before the age of 18. Others lose siblings, grandparents and close friends. Children grieve differently from adults. They cannot grieve alone, and because of this their grief is often misunderstood by those who try to help them. Unresolved childhood grief becomes a problem for our whole community as it can manifest as life-long struggles with anxiety, substance abuse, criminal activity, depression and more.
They learn that they may not have control over what happens to them, but they do have CHOICES in how they respond.
However, bereaved kids usually don’t want anyone at school to know what happened in their family. Often kids explain the unexplainable to themselves by making up stories in which they are the villain. These secret, shameful beliefs have nearly every grieving kid believing, “It’s all my fault.” When we inadvertently teach kids that bad things happen to bad people, bereaved youth begin to believe that they are bad people, a sentiment that can follow them for the rest of their lives.
Positive Youth Development helps us turn that story around. We catch kids being COMPETENT. We show them what we see – that they are able to inspire and support others, both peers and adults, with their brave, strong hearts. That even though they are each a unique snowflake, they are still snowflakes, and their journey through the heartbreak of loss and all of the subsequent blows bereaved families suffer (loss of income, loss of home, loss of pets, loss of school) CAN be survived.
When grieving kids get the opportunity to tell their story, without shame, they can be honest about their experience in the world.
Positive Youth Development helps kids find their strength, their gift, and their story. As Fred Rogers said, “If it’s mentionable, it’s manageable.” When grieving kids get the opportunity to tell their story, without shame, they can integrate their trauma. They learn that they may not have control over what happens to them, but they do have CHOICES in how they respond. This helps them develop and grow their CHARACTER– their personal sense of right and wrong – another tenant in Positive Youth Development.
Bereaved youth are at risk for all sorts of negative outcomes. At the Children’s Grief Center of New Mexico, they learn that they are not alone, and that their experience has value. We create opportunities for kids to handle hard things, and to develop strengths that will serve them as they face adverse situations for the rest of their lives. These practices are critical not only in grief work, but in schools and organizations that work with children all across the country.
When we support our children, we help them achieve the Long Term Success goals, as described by Kenneth Ginsburg in his book, Building Resilience in Children and Teens as less fear-based decision making, “others focus”- a sense of giving back, building resilience through experience, demonstrating the ability to cope, and becoming more likely to create connection in communities.
Isn’t that what we want for all of our children?
Jade Richardson Bock is the Executive Director of the Children’s Grief Center of New Mexico. To learn more, visit www.childrensgrief.org.
On October 20, the Center for School Leadership will host a Positive Youth Development Tour, centered around the theory that high levels of learning requires high levels of social and emotional to support. Join us! Click here to RSVP.