From the Superintendent's Seat:
When Your Child’s Friend Needs Comforting
Dr. Carole G. Hankin
Children are very often a contradiction in terms. While they can seem to be oblivious to what is going on outside their lives, they can also be extremely empathetic when someone they love or care about is in pain.
As parents, we tend to want to shield our children from the many different types of pain that is all around us. But when loss strikes your child’s best friend, or even just another child in school, we have to be prepared to help them sort out their feelings about what has happened, and also give them some guidance in how they can help to give a friend some much-needed comfort.
When a student in our schools loses a parent or a sibling, the news travels quickly and teachers and administrators immediately try to reach out to that student and to all the students who are close to that child. Even if your child doesn’t want to discuss it, you may want to offer them some extra cuddling time and tell them that you are also saddened by their friend’s loss.
Children cannot help but worry that if something so wrong could happen to their friend’s parent, then it could also happen to their own. If you can, assure your child that your health is good, or if an accident was involved, that you promise to always be very careful. Once the initial shock has passed and you have done your best to calm your child’s fears that he or she will suffer a similar loss, your child is likely to worry about how to talk to the friend, what to say, what to do. Acknowledge that your child’s feelings of hesitation and discomfort are normal, but encourage them to get past them and try to put their friend’s feelings first. Tell them that we remember acts of kindness from others long after our pain subsides.
The simplest words are always the best in expressions of condolence. Explain to your child that no matter what, their friend could be very sad for a long time but that they can help by showing kindness and sympathy. “I’m sorry,” is always the correct thing to say. A hug, a hand squeeze, and keeping their friend company or sitting together at lunch or recess can be the best comfort a child can give to their friends.
In the event that a close friend of your child’s suffers a loss, you will want to give your own comfort to that child and his or her family. A policy of “Justin is always welcome to join us for dinner, etc.” will be appreciated by your child and his or her friend and will set a model of example on how to extend kindness to others.#