Teaching Children How to Process Grief
Teaching Children How to Process Grief
Do you have children or know someone who does who are currently struggling with feelings of grief or anxiety? There’s a lot of literature out there to help adults process grief, but it’s a bit more of a delicate matter when it comes to empowering our children -- our leaders of tomorrow. In fact, many parents may have never even considered that children do, in fact, process grief when they are faced with the reality of challenges such as the coronavirus. By writing Momma, Can I Sleep with You Tonight?, Jenny Delacruz teaches the reader how to best console children by outlining the five stages of grief. While this is a very timely book for parents to read to their children, Momma, Can I Sleep with You Tonight? is great book for parents to have on their kid’s bookshelves even under more familiar circumstances.
In this interview with the author, Jenny Delacruz offers us insight into her writing process and how she was driven to write a book about processing grief for children.
Interview with the Author
Can you briefly describe what Momma, Can I Sleep with You Tonight? is about and what inspired you to write it?
Momma, Can I Sleep with You Tonight? is about a mom talking to her child about very real fears and big feelings. It’s important to know that kids deal with the stages of grief differently than we do. In fact, my youngest son was having difficulty sleeping on April 5th, and woke me up at 3:00am to talk about his feelings. Of course, afterward, he fell right back to sleep, and I was wide awake. So, I grabbed my phone and stayed up and wrote the book. I was pretty much done with the first draft when the sun came up. So, in a way, I thank my son for this book. After the main story, I provide parents with information about the five stages of grief and how to instill peace and safety in your home during social isolation, which is really important to do in order for children to feel safe.
Can you tell me about your YouTube channel?
Yes. It’s called StorytimeWithMsMelange. It’s a channel where I read aloud children’s books that have diverse characters and stories. As a mom of two biracial boys, it’s important for me to talk about their Filipino and Haitian heritage, while sharing books about the culture of others, history, and other important issues. Each video ends with a question to promote critical thinking skills.
How has your career helped you with your writing?
As a licensed professional counselor of about 10 years, I’ve specialized in working with children and families, as well as individuals who struggle with past trauma, anxiety, and depression. My counseling career has helped me in my writing because it has allowed me to realize the importance of promoting emotional intelligence and self-awareness for children in books. As a counselor, I have often observed how the books children read help them have a more meaningful understanding of themselves and the world around them.
How do you discuss grief/anxiety/fear with your children?
I discuss anxiety, fear, and grief through the tools of art and play. For example, when my sons are feeling big emotions like fear, I encourage them to draw their feelings and describe what's going on. I also encourage them to release any anxiety physically through sand play. I have also placed rice in a bowl and encouraged them to squeeze it when upset. This helps to calm their nervous system down and regulate their behavior. I believe if we make it a regular practice to check in with kids, they will become adults who are in tune with their emotions and concerned about those around them.
Can you discuss how the book is relevant outside the context of COIVID-19?
The book is relevant outside of COVID-19 because it helps children identify their feelings. For example, in one section the main character shares, “My stomach feels like it’s full of knots.” This is used to describe the feelings of sadness and anxiety. Throughout the book, descriptive words are used to help children build their awareness. It teaches parents how to instill hope, and it also helps children who may be experiencing major life changes.
Can parents use this book to discuss grief in a general sense?
Absolutely. In the story, a mother is comforting her son as he shares his major feelings through the stages of grief. These stages are denial, anger, sadness, bargaining, and acceptance. In the afterward section, tools and free resources are listed to help parents dive in deeper.
What advice would you give to parents who are struggling with homeschooling their children?
I would tell them to break tasks down into easy steps. It’s okay if a child does half an assignment and takes breaks. I would also encourage families to do what works for them. My oldest son is energetic so when I teach him sight words, we play sight words and tag. I also know of families who have to homeschool on the weekend because they can’t keep up while working. You have to adapt to what works best for you and seek support from your community. If we are all struggling, yet no one is willing to admit it, we all do ourselves a disservice. We need to support and encourage each other more than ever.
What else are you working on? Are there more books coming that we can look forward to?
I’m working on the second part of my children’s book series Friday with Ms. Mélange: Haiti. This will focus on what occurred in Haiti after independence. For those who are not familiar with the first book, it’s available to watch, read aloud, on my YouTube channel: StorytimeWithMsMelange.
Thank you for reading this interview. If you’re interested in checking out Jenny Delacruz’s book, click here. Happy reading!