VCPS Superintendent Johnson shared the following message with the students, families and friends of VCPS:
“Valley City Public Schools is providing our parents and guardians with information and additional resources that can be used to help support our students' mental health and grief. With the recent loss of VCHS sophomore, Landon Storly, our school and clinical counselors have continued to provide support for our students at VCHS. If you are in need of additional resources or have other questions on how to best support our students' mental health and/or grief, please do not hesitate to contact any one of our school counselors, school principals, or the district office at 701.845.0483.
VCPS will continue to make available our counseling hotline through Friday, May 19th. Please call or text 701.490.4078 and a school counselor or administrator will be available 24/7.
Thank you for continuing to keep our students and staff in your thoughts and prayers.
Helping school-aged children when a loved one dies
When you talk about death, use simple, direct words that help children understand at a level that is right for their age. Children are not adults. Keep the conversations short. You may need to say the same thing many times. They may ask the same questions often as they try to make sense of tough information. Children need honest information.
What does my school-aged child understand?
Children age six to twelve:
•Understand that death is final. May think of death as a person or a spirit, like a ghost, angel, or a skeleton.
•Understand that death happens to everyone and cannot be avoided (by age 10).
•Are often interested in the details of death and what happens to the body after death.
•May feel many emotions such as guilt, anger, shame, anxiety, and sadness.
•May have a hard time talking about their feelings. They may show their feelings through actions such as doing poorly in school, aggression, physical symptoms, withdrawal from friends, and acting “babyish.”
•Worry about who will take care of them. They may feel insecure, clingy or abandoned.
•May worry about their own death.
•May feel they are to blame for the death.
•Use honest words like "died" rather than confusing phrases like "gone to sleep." Explain that the body has stopped working or that the person can no longer do the things he could do when alive.
•Share your family's religious or spiritual beliefs about death.
•Let your child ask questions and try to answer them honestly and directly. If you don't know the answer to a question, help find the answer.
•Make sure your child understands that she is not to blame for the death and that the person who died is not coming back.
•Give your child lots of affection. Reassure him often that he will continue to be loved and cared for.
•Encourage your child to talk about his or her feelings. Suggest other ways to express feelings, such as writing in a journal or drawing a picture.
•Share your grief with the child, but do not overwhelm them. Express your emotions to encourage your child to share his or her own emotions.
•Encourage spending time with friends and participating in other age-appropriate activities.
•Tell your child that it is okay to feel happy and to have fun.
•Encourage your child to talk to an adult outside the family such as a teacher or clergy.
•Consider an age-specific support group.
•Speak with a grief counselor or other mental health professional if you are concerned about your child.
• Help them to understand that grief has a range of emotions and that his feelings may be different from those of adults.
•Explain that it is normal for the pain of grief to come and go over time. Times of intense grief will come when they are not expected.
•Keep routines and caregivers as consistent as possible. Set limits on behaviors.
Should children go to funerals?
Urge them to take part as much as possible. Let your child take part in the funeral service. They might want to make a drawing or a poem to place near or in the casket. She could select one of the songs or place a flower on the casket during the burial service. It helps children accept death and start to let go when you let them take part in the funeral. This is especially important for younger children, who may search for or wait for the deceased person to come back.
How do I help my child get ready to go to a funeral?
•Let her know exactly what to expect.
•Explain the meaning of what will happen.
•Talk with him if he is reluctant.
•Do not force her to attend if she refuses.
•Talk to him about your beliefs about life after death.
•Arrange for an adult your child trusts to stay with her during the funeral. This will make sure that someone will be there for them if they needs a break.
Memory building activities that help children cope
You can do these activities with your child or for them
•Make hand prints, foot prints or thumb prints of your loved one.
•Make a silhouette of the loved one.
•Decorate a memory box or a frame for a photo of the loved one.
•Put together a book of pictures or memories with the loved one. If a child does not have memories of the loved one, you can do the book for them.
•Make a collage that tells about the person who died or specific memories with the loved one.
•Make clay beads with each bead representing a memory.
•Decorate a memory rock for the garden
•Create a family quilt or a family tree.
•Build a time capsule with the whole family.
•Share photos of the loved one who has died and photos of all of you together.
•Display photos around the house.
•Place photos on contact paper for your child to carry around or play with.
•Tell family stories together.
•Sing songs or read books that your child shared with the loved one. Make up new songs or stories that include the loved one’s name.
•Let your child include their loved one in holidays. Let them make a Mother’s Day or Father’s Day card if they want and take it to the grave.
Be sure and pick up your May 12-14 Times-Record weekend edition to read stories like these and more. Purchase your paper copy of today’s paper at the TR office (146 3rd St NE, Valley City), local gas stations and grocery stores or an electronic copy by clicking subscribe in the top left corner of the www.times-online.com home page.