By Erika Lacaruba, Mental Health Counselor with JCAC
The Emotion Your Child is Feeling is Grief.
How you Can Support Your Child using their Love Language
The past couple of months have been tough – am I right? I’ve heard this over and over again from my adolescent clients, and I want to share some insights that may help explain and guide you through this season.
Grief and Love Languages aren’t often things you hear about going together, but when it comes to connecting with upset kids, understanding how and why they communicate in the ways they do can create a calmer home for everyone.
Grief is universal – kids included. Many kids are experiencing grief right now due to their losses.
Loss of graduation ceremonies, peer interaction, teacher attention, ability to venture outside their homes, as well as their normal routine and structure being completely dismantled. For us adults, we know that this is just a rough ride that will eventually end, but for kids it may not be that clear. Much of their world is out of their control, and all of the sudden changes may have them spiraling right now, grasping for things they can control and trying to make sense of their sadness.
Grief comes in stages; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Often, we don't follow those in order, we can feel all of them in one day. There’s often some cycling happening somewhere in the middle, with some triggering events bringing kids back into the mix of things even when they thought they were content. Grief can be experienced by not only the traditional losing of a family member or pet, but also a beloved stuffed animal, their lack of ability to go to school, not seeing friends for the longest stretch they’ve ever experienced, or a number of other losses that many kids are experiencing right now due to COVID-19. Thankfully there are a ton of resources out there for understanding, explaining, and handling grief in children.
Parents are asking me “How can I help them?”
This is where Love Languages come into play. You may have heard about them through an Internet quiz, magazine, or even a couple’s counselor. They can not only be referenced for deepening an emotional connection amongst partners, but they can also be used to help us parents better tend to the unique needs of our kids. Our kids are expressive in nature, often times not fully understanding the ‘why’ behind their behaviors – their prefrontal cortex isn’t developed enough yet for all that abstract thought and self control, hang in there parents it comes eventually! Let this be a quick guide for breaking down what’s going on with our kids, and how we can help.
Hugs, high fives, squeezes, tickles, and holding hands are most preferred to any other form of praise or reward for these kiddos. Especially during an emotionally stressful time such as quarantine where this need may feel incessant from them, this is some kids’ way of expressing and accepting they are loved. Allowing for more hug breaks or hair braiding in-between meetings and classwork may help quell the seemingly constant hanging onto you that you may be experiencing.
Parents of any rock collectors, flower pickers, bracelet makers, or toy hoarders (even when they are broken beyond repair), this category is all for you. Feel inclined to pack on the stickers, unexpected snacks, hang all the fridge art, and try to work in some simple surprises to help keep them feeling loved in their own special way. Many surprises can be free and don’t involve leaving the house such as popping into their room to give them an extra shiny button that reminded you of them, or tossing them a piece of fruit with a smile on it to remind them you’re thinking of them.
Words of Affirmation
How many of us like hearing nice things? I would venture to guess many of us like compliments and reassurance. For some kids, this is their most important way of feeling supported. If your little one follows you around the house all day telling you they love you, has tea parties where all the guests compliment each other, and if the words alone of “you are so important to me” make them absolutely burst with pride, you just cracked the code to helping them feel secure and loved in any situation. Helping them share with you what specific phrases and themes they value most can unlock their quickest tear stoppers in moments of crisis.
Acts of Service
This is a tough one to tease out sometimes, but try to think of it as your child valuing kind gestures, not necessarily items, from you. This may come across as them asking you to do things for them that they clearly know how to do like tying their shoes, microwaving their snack, cutting the crust off their sandwich, making their bed – often things that may have you feeling frustrated with their lack of effort while you try to juggle working from home and childcare and could use all the help you can get. This may not mean they’ve regressed, just that this is how they seek out comfort and reassurance from you and aren’t exactly sure how to express that just yet.
How many times a day do you get asked to “look at this” or “watch me” or “play with me!” A thousand and one times since COVID-19 began? You aren’t alone! This type of expression may come across as your child being needy or hard to keep entertained, when in reality it may just be that they are stressed out or sad about things, and undivided attention throughout the day may help calm them down and reassure them that they are very loved by you.
Understanding your child’s Love Language may help you determine how to best keep them feeling loved, calm, and confident while all of us ride out this storm.
This may also be the key to helping recreate some of the losses they’re experiencing – such as missing a graduation ceremony, birthday party, vacation, or school-wide 5k. If you’re able to get in touch with what really speaks to your child’s sense of feeling wanted and loved, you’ll be able to show them in a million different ways that they are unconditionally loved and supported.
If you’re feeling like you need more support during this time, please reach out to us at Johns Creek and Alpharetta Counseling. We’re available 7 days a week to help our community weather any storm together!
Click Here to learn more about Erika LaCaruba
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Johns Creek and Alpharetta Counseling (#JCAC) is a warm and family orientated counseling practice in Alpharetta, Ga. We offer online counseling services in the states of Georgia and Florida. We offer in-office counseling service at our Alpharetta office which is conveniently located to serve Johns Creek, Milton, Roswell, and Cumming, Ga.
The JCAC Counselors specialize in counseling services throughout the lifespan! We offer play therapy, counseling for children, parental support, adolescent counseling, mental health services, couples counseling, premarital therapy, and individual counseling for adults.
To learn more about our practice, click here!
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