How Do You Explain To Your Children The Ambiguous Loss Of Part Of The School Year?

The psychologists proved ways to help your children understand ambiguous loss of any kind

Rituals have been that we look forward to the moments when we come together with families and friends in celebration of life’s’ accomplishments, to mark the beginning of new commitments, or even to say goodbye to our loved ones or our new norms. We are experts when it comes to throwing our caps in the air during graduation ceremonies, dancing at wedding parties, or even shed tone of tears during funerals.

However, in 2020 things are kind of taking a different toll all together; graduations, classes, meetings, and other forms of gatherings all taking place on a virtual. To some, it is more intense since the education is in a pose mode, end of grade/class parties have also been canceled.

Well, by now you might be asking yourself, why I chose the term ‘ambiguous loss’. This is a term coined by the University of Minnesota, Pauline Boss, to describe a substantial loss that is not recoverable. Some of these scenarios are loss of a loved one, missing one warrior in action in times of war. Ambiguous loss is also fit to describe what we are going through at the moment from all over the world. We all like to have a higher degree of certainty that we are lacking at the moment.

Being awarded your certificate in 2020 will not feel the same as it has been in the past years. With almost all the countries having closed schools from kindergarten to the tertiary level, and the passing over to the next level being virtual, students will not have the opportunity to say goodbye to their friends as it has been the norm. this is not the case to the majority of countries and especially the less developed including my own, Kenya. Education is at standstill and students, parents’, and teachers have to wait a while longer before they are sure of getting back to school.

But, how can families help in supporting children in response to the confusion of these endings? The team at has come up with some of the best suggestions:


1. Discuss The Ambiguity Involved At The Moment With Your Family

To cope with the ambiguous loss, it is wise to get to recognize that it is not possible to be in control of the situation or that we are not in a position to change what is already happening. When we understand this, we can easily adapt to the new norm of having to live virtually with people that have always been around us; extended families, friends or even teachers although being physically absent. We can all acknowledge that we are missing a whole bunch of the obvious things but at the same time embrace the new way of living.

It is more difficult for children to contemplate this ambiguity as compared to most adults. Families can help children by discussing and acknowledging the range of emotions they are experiencing during this time and touching in detail on possible outcomes. This includes the sense of loss that may come and give them hope for a better thing to come in the future.


2. Actively Engage Your Child In Decision Making

Often, we leave our children with a limited voice with the happenings with their lies. However, with all that is happening, we can allow them to help make decisions on their own regarding what to do with their free time during this period. This includes whom to talk to, how to organize their schoolwork at home, among others.

Take time to work with your child and understand some of the decisions that they can make on their own, take time to understand their strengths and their weaknesses. This is very important especially in moments of vulnerability where they will be in a position of focusing on what they can do.


3. Explore Prospects For Gratitude

Expressing gratitude is always associated with improved well-being, happiness, mental health, and stronger relationships. Parents can, therefore, come up with things that kids will be grateful for, even amid the pandemic and other unpredictable loss of time that may occur. As a parent, you can present light moments such as FaceTime with a school friend, and also showing gratitude towards others.


4. Approach Your Children And Yourself With Love

There are no written rules or blueprints on how to manage during this period. However, an easy-going touch of compassion and support is one of the best ways to improve your connections and build a sense of value and worth to those around you and especially the children.


As hard and painful as the times are, the beauty of 2020 is that we are all in this together. Due to this shared experience, we can look up to ourselves as well as others and build communities both inside and outside our homes to help us through during this time. May it be emotional, spiritual, or material support. We are all in this together.


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