News headlines are increasingly filled with tragic stories of youth becoming violent because they seemingly are lashing out to their peers as a way of expressing their anger, which I believe is often a result of a significant change in their family.
While bullying is a recent issue in the public eye, it is an unfortunate problem that’s affected many for decades. Whether a child is the bully or being bullied, there is an underlying issue that the kids are suppressing and it is the responsibility of adults to become aware of it. In the case of Phoebe Prince, the 15-year-old student from Massachusetts who took her own life after daily torment, school administrators didn’t take action in controlling the bullying, even though they were aware of what was happening.
Working with school personnel for decades has taught me that they are often not comfortable or equipped to offer support for a grieving child or teen. When a child’s life is shattered, this child needs to gain control somewhere, so it is often manifested in the form of bullying behavior. Often times, and in the case of Phoebe Prince’s bullies, their actions led to violence and shows the need for the emotional support that Rainbows can offer.
Following are suggestions on how to have productive communication with vulnerable, grieving youth, all of which are included in my book, Healing the Hurt, Restoring the Hope:
*Make time to talk. Take initiative to start the conversation rather than wait for the perfect time. There is no perfect time. A great place with little distractions is the car. Keep the volume low and begin with important aspects in the child’s life like friends, sports, school, etc.
*Open the conversation with simple, direct questions. “How are you feeling about this?”
*Listen intently. When you pay attention, it makes it easier to pick up on clues that weren’t as evident earlier. You will be able to understand more of what the child is thinking or wishing.
*Encourage the grief-stricken child to tell you what he/she needs. Let him/her know that it’s OK to say “I need a hug” or “I am really upset. Can we talk?”
*Assure the child that healing takes a long time. Remind them that it is a process, and it is not something that can be done on a schedule.
* Nudge the child when he/she gets stuck. Remind them that they’re doing great.Tags: grief, hope
Great point! Lack of support can easily lead to bullying.
I’d like to add a couple of thoughts on dealing with a child’s grief.
When talking to kids, keep it short. Their attention span for grief can be disconcertingly short, so expect to have many short impromptu conversations over time.
Kids can still have new questions years later. The questions emerge along with their development and their capacity to understand death.
When a parent dies, kids often end up grieving the loss of both parents. The surviving parent simply does not have the emotional resources to be available in the way kids may need. It’s really helpful to have other family members, family friends, teachers, school counselors etc step in to offer support and friendship to a grieving child.
Thank you for your comment. I appreciate that you took the time to share your ideas and work. I agree that children need another source to talk to besides a parent after a loss. Itâ€™s important that they have a safe place where they can talk openly about their thoughts, fears and concerns.