Now that it is known that our school campus is closed for the remainder of this school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are hearing from some of our families about a sense of sadness from their children. Even though we have launched our distance learning program that includes video conferencing features, our students miss the physical presence of their teachers, their peers, and their extended community. We are sad too! As we all grieve the loss and change in the world, it’s important to remember that even when children seem extraordinarily resilient, it’s important to check in on their emotional life and provide support. 

We wanted to offer a few ideas for helping children cope during this trying time.

 

Take Time to Grieve

It’s okay for everyone in the family to sit with sadness and to model this behavior for children. This is an unparalleled time that they are living through. Taking a moment to be sad and not feel the need to pretend otherwise is a good life skill to learn. After your child has expressed their struggle, work to help them find their own coping strategies. 

Movement for children is very helpful now too. Young children, in particular, express themselves through their bodies — so let them jump, run and be loud. This is also an appropriate time for children to express anger and sadness in their conversation, story and art forms. This can be encouraged in ways that feel right or your child. For example, an older child may find comfort in journaling about their experiences during this important time in history.

 

Many children live very much in the present. As such, it can be difficult for them to visualize a future that may look different than what is immediately before them.


Offer a Broader Perspective

Being at home for short periods is a gift. We all look forward to breaks from our commutes, more time with our families, and cozy days on the couch. Help children remember and identify the benefits of being at home. Help them see the balance in life now and always — yes, there are disappointments, but there are also joys. 

Many children live very much in the present. As such, it can be difficult for them to visualize a future that may look different than what is immediately before them. You may want to remind your child this is temporary and that things will return to normal.  Children may need to hear things that we as parents take for granted. Things like: “You will go back to campus in the fall, you will see your friends again, extended family get-togethers will happen again too.”

 

Regroup and Reschedule

When discussing a return to normal, it will make sense to review what normal specifically looks for older children. They will want to know… what will not be experienced, what will be experienced later and what will continue on as scheduled? While adults may be sorting the calendar in their minds, and understanding that this situation is both unprecedented and temporary, our children may need to literally sit down and specifically grieve what is being forever missed and understand what will return to their lives soon. 

 

Now may seem like not a time to make plans, but we all need something to look forward to!  

 

This will be particularly helpful for children who are in grades 5 – 8. While an event on the family calendar may seem one of many, for a seventh-grade student, the missed Renaissance Faire, for example, is a missed event that was talked about in both fifth and sixth grade.  This event might not be replicated or reimagined in the coming school year. And your seventh grader will want to know and will want to grieve this in their own way. May Day as we typically know it will be missed this year and this also may feel like a deep loss for your child. 

It’s important to take a moment to acknowledge and grieve losses like these.  It is also important, however, to help the child understand all the things that will not be lost!

Waldorf students will be uniquely able to weather this storm because their classmates and their teachers will return again, as expected, next year.

 

They will be able to pick up where they left off so to speak with the same classmates and a teacher who understands the work they have done in school and at home. 

Many things can and will be rescheduled. So, check with your class teacher about missed birthday celebrations and how those will be honored as an example. Will the class play be performed next year? Perhaps it will!  We will, for example, be planning a special way to celebrate and honor graduation, so let your eighth grader know this too.

 

Moving Forward

Now may seem like not a time to make plans, but we all need something to look forward to!  

Assure children that summer fun is likely still upcoming — small gatherings with a friend or two will likely come again. There will still be fireworks on the Fourth of July. You’ll see family members again soon. And the next school year will come as well with all it’s predictable scheduled activities, festivals, and traditions.  

To help move forward, you can have your children participate in making the “new normal” for the next few weeks. Sit down together and check in on how they feel about the routine. Perhaps it’s time for a small switch up. Should the family plan a movie night? A game night? Weekly calls and letter writing times?  Now’s the time to find new joy amidst the difficulties. 

As the French writer, Alexandre Dumas once said, “Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future… all human wisdom is contained in these two words, Wait and Hope.”