For the second time this year, and the third time in three years, one of our little ones has suddenly and unexpectedly lost a parent. As we do our best to support them and help them pick up the pieces of their shattered sense of safety, we are led to reflect on how limited our influence can be compared to the power of family. No matter how caring and nurturing our community is, in no way can it provide the sense of total and unconditional love a parent provides.

We strive to be a second family to our students but in no way are we ever close enough to the real thing. We must keep our limitations in mind and approach the task of supporting our young ones with lots of humility. What we work at most is emotional safety. To this end, we provide a familiar place, with familiar people and familiar routines; we provide a staff of loving adults; we provide a space where hugs and embraces are part of the normal day; we offer activities that enhance students’ bonding; we keep our eyes open for signs of stress; we respectfully support our reactive kids; we emphasize consistency and encourage experimentation; and we work on self-awareness and self-control. Our approach to emotional development is designed to gently help our students become resilient and confident.

At this point, all our families need to realize that the fear of loosing a parent has been heightened for all our students, not just the ones directly affected. All of us need to be on the alert for signs of anxiety and need to be ready to help. We have a few resources on grief in the elementary school library under “Life Issues / Emotions” (orange label with half green dot) for students and on the parent resource shelf for parents another good resource is Peter Levine and Maggie Kline’s book  “Trauma-Proofing Your Kids: A Parents’ Guide for Instilling Confidence, Joy and Resilience.”

This is the time to support our families. This is also the time to celebrate the power of our own families. For the lucky among us who made it to Rendezvous last week, it is time to follow Snow Bear’s and Russell’s words of wisdom: time for honoring, time for gratitude.

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