Kids and grief are a challenge at times. Chris Chaplin is a child and family therapist that works in a Portland, Oregon school. He talks to Dr. Gloria Horsley about kids needing support and acceptance above all when experiencing a loss. A lot of understanding is required to process the loss, and there are a myriad of ways they may need to express this. Many times, kids don’t know the best way. Our roles as an adult is helping children grieve, and identifying the challenges kids face.
Specifically, Chaplin recommends for young children to find their own ways to heal. Adults often think talking is critical, and it’s not necessary for all kids. Children use play-based expression, artwork, and a number of forms of creativity. Chaplin recently attended a workshop on songwriting, where he learned that dedicating a song to the person the child lost can be a great tool. There’s also drawing, coloring, or any other avenue that’s not necessarily speaking. Pushing children to talk can make them shut down.
Adults vs. Children
Adults are more prone to wanting to talk, especially women, and it’s easy to project those needs onto children. Plus, teachers don’t necessarily know how to work with grieving kids. They weren’t trained in this field. It’s something that Chaplin wants to start working on, providing support to teachers. Those in the mental health field like to think they understand grief, and it’s certainly a human experience, but “mental health” alone doesn’t make an expert in grief.
Chaplin continues to work in schools, targeting elementary schools in the area. However, he’s quick to point out he has a lot to learn. There’s no one best way to heal or grieve, and every experience is unique. Working with children sets them up for a future as an adult griever.