May 02, 2022
For many students, Mother's Day will be different this year. It's been estimated that more than 167,000 U.S. children have experienced the death of a parent or caregiver due to COVID.
Mother's Day always has the potential to trigger grief responses. This year - with more children grieving and many experiencing greater anxiety in general - it is important for educators to be mindful of the ways they introduce activities about special holidays such as Mother's Day and Father's Day.
As an educator, you may know of students who have experienced the death of a parent or caregiver. However, it's impossible to know the full array of losses facing every student.
The following tips may help create a more positive experience for students who are facing a variety of circumstances.
- Introduce activities thoughtfully. Consider deaths, incarcerations, deployments, and other separations. Keep instructions broad for inclusion. Example "Tomorrow we're going to do an activity for Mother's Day. Some of you may not have a mother who is alive or currently living with you. You can focus on memories of your mother or pick a person who is supportive and important to you." Maybe even adapt the activity to keep it inclusive - perhaps revising the templates with "Mom" on them.
- Reach out to students you know who have experienced a death. Approach students privately and let them know of your plans. If able, offer them an alternative activity.
- Understand grief triggers and have a plan. The trigger response may be mild or intense and troubling. Work with the student to develop a plan for when grief triggers arise - whether it be private time with a teacher or counselor to talk, or a moment to themselves in a safe space such as a library, nurse's office, or hallway. Perhaps develop a signal or phrase that doesn't draw attention of other students but communicates that the grieving student is overwhelmed and needs support.