Since March 2020, our lives have halted to a near standstill. COVID-19 has upended our way of life, and students feel it just as much as the parents stuck at home.
We know parents have become teachers and transitioned to home offices – if they are lucky enough to have a job. However, students are suffering — and some are suffering in silence.
High school seniors lost graduation. All students lost the end of their school year. They lost the normalcy of their routine, their community and, for some, their sense of belonging.
It is normal for students
and parents to struggle in the midst of an unprecedented situation. The future
is uncertain, and we are collectively grieving the way things once were.
Is this grief?
It may seem strange to label
our current feelings as grief, but that’s exactly what it is. Allowing grief to
become part of our COVID vocabulary can help parents and students find ways to
cope with losses effectively.
Before learning to cope,
it is important to understand what happens in our brains when we experience
Dr. Lisa M. Shulman,
neuroscientist and professor of neurology at the University of Maryland School
of Medicine, studied the way the brain responds to grief. She notes the areas of our brain in charge of
danger perception, emotion regulation and memory kick into overdrive during
With our brains working
harder than normal, Shulman says, “Triggers in our environment, such as daily
reminders of loss, may repeatedly activate the body’s fight-or-flight response.”
This overactive response leads to trouble sleeping, nightmares, overthinking
and hypersensitivity to our surroundings.
In the midst of
stay-at-home orders and disruptions to our sense of security, those
environmental triggers are all around us. They can be something as small as
watching the news.
If day-to-day life seems difficult, even in
the mundane of staying home, finding healthy ways to calm down our brains is
Healthy coping mechanisms for parents and students