September’s around the corner and that means it’s back-to-school. Navigating this traditional yet unfamiliar life event can come with additional uncertainties and emotional responses for youth grieving the death of someone in their life.
If you are a grieving youth, remember that it’s normal to experience a range of emotions such as sadness, anger, confusion, and even happiness. It’s normal to worry about how you will concentrate in class or what you will say to your classmates when you see them again. These emotions and thoughts might feel really big right now as you are in a period of change and transition, but know that these are normal.
If you’re a parent or guardian who is supporting a grieving child or youth who is heading back to school, it’s also important for you to understand the wide range of emotions that the griever will feel. You should also recognize that children and youth may be yearning for a return to normalcy, which is completely normal; they may still grieve while demonstrating excitement, happiness or joy about returning to school, their classmates, and their regular activities. Acknowledge everything your child may be feeling and know, it’s all OK.
As we prepare to go back-to-school, there are some tips and tricks to help make the transition a little easier and more manageable. Encourage grieving children and youth to:
- Identify a safe person who they can express their thoughts and feelings to about going back-to-school. This might be a parent, coach, neighbour, or someone else.
- Establish a routine that provides them with a sense of stability and predictability. Consistent routines, before and after school, can help children and youth feel more secure during times of change.
- Communicate with trusting teachers, school counselors, and administrators about your child’s situation, only if they feel comfortable to do so. They can offer support and make accommodations if necessary.
- Identify a “safe word” with a teacher or peer. Using this word can be helpful for when your child needs a break in school if their grief feelings feel too big and hard to manage.
- Bring a comfort or connection item to school that your child can keep in their backpack, desk, or pocket. Having a special item can help them feel connected to their person and remind them of special memories they shared together.
Remember, transitions can be hard and they can come with a variety of thoughts, feelings, and emotional responses. This is normal! As youth head back-to-school, look for the helpers, connect with trustworthy people, feel all the feelings, and take it one day at a time.