Dadline: Children might need help dealing with emotions over the possible losses of sports, proms and more. – Roanoke Times

Posted: March 22, 2020 at 4:42 am


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Maddie Glover hopes that William Byrd High Schools scrimmage on March 10 wasnt the last high school tennis match she ever plays.

Joe Francis landed the leading role of Quasimodo in Patrick Henry High Schools performance of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, only to see the play close after opening night.

The curtain is being held for William Fleming High School Colonel Theatre Companys spring play, Jesus Chris Superstar, which was supposed to debut next week, but wont.

Medical experts have determined that children are perhaps the least-affected population during the coronavirus outbreak. Thats great news, but just because theyre healthy doesnt mean theyre not affected in other ways. The cancellations and postponements of significant life events plays, sports seasons, proms and possibly even graduations are weighing on their minds. The mental and emotional impacts of those cancellations are difficult to quantify. But trust me, impacts are real.

As I write this column, no school system in Southwest Virginia has canceled a graduation. Still, the possibility is on the minds of many high school seniors.

Im a planner, so I have definitely thought about it, said Maddie, an 18-year-old senior at William Byrd.

Shes also an athlete, and she doesnt know if her last year of high school tennis will be played, a season when she could be the top-seeded player on the Terriers team.

Was my last game a scrimmage and I didnt know it? she wondered.

Sure, the health of children is more important than whether sports are played or a spring concert is held. That doesnt mean the loss of those events doesnt hurt. It hurts a lot. Some of these events are the only times a child will get to participate, or they are the last chance to be on a team with your pals. Grown-ups should think back to their own final baseball seasons or school plays, and imagine what the loss would have felt like had the rug been pulled out at the last possible minute.

It hurts.

This is going to be a real life-event that these kids will remember, said Kat Mills, a Blacksburg mother whose 12-year-old daughter, Ida, is slowly coming to terms with the fact that her all-county band concert has been canceled, as has her Governors School math competition. Not to mention her dance lessons, her class trip to Richmond, her National History Day presentation and the band trip to Carowinds.

Mills knows that all those events are not nearly as important as the health of her family. If canceling concerts means her child stays safe and disease-free, so be it.

Still, to a child, the emotions elicited by the loss of exciting, anticipated activities can feel like grief.

My 12-year-old seems to be going through Kubler-Ross Stages of Grief, Mills said. Weve had denial, anger, today some sadness.

Thats how emotions have unfolded at my house, where my eighth-grade daughter wonders if her softball season will happen. First, everything was postponed for two weeks, which isnt too bad, really. Then, the experts started talking about shutting things down for two months or even longer. Acceptance of the bad news has come incrementally.

How will kids handle more bad news if it comes their way? Probably the same way their parents will, said Tara Mitchell, a licensed clinical psychiatrist for pediatric and behavioral health at Carilion Childrens Pediatric Behavioral Medicine.

The hard part, and this matters a lot, is how parents respond, Mitchell said. If parents get upset or really angry, their kids will follow suit.

Anger and bitterness, like a virus, can spread.

Parents must avoid just fueling anger and frustration, Mitchell said. If [children] hear parents vent, then these kids talk to other kids and spread the agitation.

As with everything else that involves parents, children and tense situations, a teachable moment exists.

This is a good opportunity to work on the fact that we cant control everything and focus on the things we have control over, said Mitchell, a mother of two who is also dealing with cancellations of gymnastic meets and baseball tournaments. Try to reduce anxiety and work on our flexible thinking.

Parents are learning, too.

We need to find out what kind of life skills can we teach kids from a life-event that none of us have ever had to cope with, Mitchell said.

I have seen some fellow parents lash out on social media over the cancellations of their childrens big days ball games, shows, spelling bees and more. I understand the frustration. Its not helpful, though. The focus needs to be on what families can do once the worst of the pandemic has passed. Can some events be rescheduled? Can some sports seasons be extended or replaced by joining summer leagues?

Joe, the Patrick Henry ninth-grader who got to play Quasimodo all of one night, holds out hope that his schools show will go on, eventually. Three more performances were scheduled.

Im grateful we got to do it once, Joe said. William Fleming hasnt gotten to perform their show at all. I wish we could have done it more. But its out of my control at this point.

Thats the proper and mature response.

Joe also laments that his band couldnt perform in the annual Noteworthy Music Festival, which would have been this weekend.

Maddie wonders about the William Byrd prom, which has already been moved from March 28 to April 18. Shes also a mentor to a fifth-grader at a local elementary school. Has she spent her last day working with that child? What about the seniors-versus-faculty games or Senior Day or the annual Burrito Run, when students and teachers run a 1-mile race after devouring Chipotle burritos?

Will any of it happen?

Like Joe, she has the wise reaction.

In some ways, its comforting to know its out of my control, she said. It kind of stinks, but theres nothing we can do.

If your children miss any of the big events they have been looking forward to, nows the time to start thinking about how to replace those events, or hold them in a different, if reduced, way.

Value all the work they put into something, Mitchell said. Parents are frustrated and concerned, too. Kids mimic how we respond. Maintain hope so as not to get too discouraged.

Kids are resilient. They will get through this like most of us will. Kids might even have a better attitude about their predicament than their parents do.

Its a perfect time to get some spring cleaning done, Joe said.

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Dadline: Children might need help dealing with emotions over the possible losses of sports, proms and more. - Roanoke Times

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March 22nd, 2020 at 4:42 am

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