When Death Strikes the Family It Can Be a Motivator for Change

sunny Working with children who have lost or are in the process of losing a family member is heart-wrenching but also liberating.

There are very few moments in life when a topic as complex as death can elicit true, gritty emotion, which, if nurtured in the right direction, can lead to real change for the better.

Our culture shies away from discussing death openly. In fact, I fear we fear it. In our deepest of truths, though, we all know that death is a part of life. It will happen, and it’s our job as educators to help children and their families appropriately cope with the reality.

As I work with more and more kids whose academics are suffering because of a death of a parent or a loved one, I realize that in their darkest moments a change for the better can occur. They have witnessed something most children will not be exposed to, and it can rock them to their core negatively or positively. The path of these two choices on how to view death is clearer. It’s our job as teachers and parents to offer guidance on how to use this tragedy as a platform, a motivator, for taking smart chances and making smart choices.

Every one has a different reaction to this shared loss and goes through the steps of grief in their own time: some engage in anxious, controlling behaviors trying to put the pieces of the world they once knew back together again, and others shut the world out for fear of feeling powerless. Kids are smart though and they have a sixth sense about these things, especially when they’re younger. We don’t need to “baby” them by sweeping a loss under the rug. Instead, death should be a conversation starter– a place to begin talking about how they want to shape their life and their time. What can they do each day to honor the one that is no longer here?

Most recently, I worked with a student whose parent was dying of cancer. The school allowed her to make up a class because her focus was elsewhere, and rightly so. She had a fighting spirit and worked hard on her projects, essays, and tests. Her resilience was a beautiful, joyous glimpse into her future as a prolific writer, a career I’m sure she will be recognized for soon. Although she passed her class and will graduate, there was a sadness behind her smile. Instead of letting it debilitate her though, she chose to use this gut-wrenching experience as a springboard for her life’s work. Sometimes death is the moment that makes us grow from children to adults, and that’s okay.

Death can be a motivator. It makes a family stop, put their routine on hold, and contemplate the moments shared with each other. It makes all of us reevaluate the meaning of our days,  and it should make us move forward to bring greater meaning to our tomorrows.

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder of Terry Tutors and Creator of the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

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When Life Hands You a Lemon Moment

LemonadeMy students inspire me on a daily basis; their resilience is magical. When I stop and think about it, it really is quite amazing that a child can have a really rough hour, afternoon, or even a whole day but then somehow wake up the next morning, put their feet on the ground, and a smile on their face. I wish adults could remember to do that too, myself included.

Just the other day, I woke up with the dreaded laryngitis. The seasons have changed and with it comes the annual flu. This year, however, I’m not at liberty to take a sick day–those days ended in exchange for my name on the company door. So when I had to text all of my scheduled clients and tell them I was unable work with them due to the fact I literally could not speak, it made me sad. I had a “Lemon” moment.

See, I truly love what I do, and as such I enjoy waking up every morning to get my day started. I walk out the door with a mission: to help my students gain confidence in their academic and life goals. When I don’t get to do that, it bums me out! It got me thinking,  “That’s what it must feel like to be a kid again.” Kids generally love the freedom of just being a kid, and it bums them out when they can’t do what they love. Kids, however, are much better than adults at taking their “lemon” moments and turning them into something better, something magical. I am constantly amazed at how my little students who struggle in reading, writing, or just sitting still long enough to listen my instructions can take these challenges and view them through a different lens. Yes, they have their “lemon” moments but they are quicker than their older counterparts to rebound and get back to the business of being a kid. Lemons be gone! Lesson learned.

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Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

Pet Children

pet childrenPet Children: our furry friends who are part of our families. They are our alarm clocks and our best friends. It’s a wonder how they always know when we’re sad or sick and carefully hop up on the bed to snuggle, keeping us warm and toasty when we feel that the world has forgotten us. Our love for them is real. That’s why when they pass on it’s harder than we may have anticipated. We experience many of the same emotions when a human member of our family goes, but sometimes we may trivialize our pet’s passing because we never fully acknowledged their status as members of our families. It’s okay to cry, be sad for a little while, and even have a memorial to remember them. Our Pets are our Children.

I often wonder if the reason our kitties, doggies, fishies, hamsters, guinea pigs, and the occasional bunny grow up too fast and move on too fast is because their lot in life is to teach us about our own. When I was a nanny, the family fish passed away and the five-year-old cried and cried. We had a funeral, said a few comforting words, and then she asked that ultimate question: What happens when you die? Careful not to overstep my boundaries I deferred to her Mom but later on that evening she asked me again, and I gently explained as best I could that, “All living things are here on this earth for a purpose and Fishy’s purpose was to love you. I think Fishy will always love you no matter where he is”.

The passing of a pet is a genuine chance to look inward, remember those that have gone before us, and cherish the moments we have with those who are still here. They teach us about love, loyalty, compassion, kindness, comfort, and forgiveness; there is certainly nothing trivial about those lessons.

Dedicated to Dana and Sam: Proud Pet Parents of Kitty Kona, who gently passed away in the early morning hours on April 14, 2013.

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