This guest post is from Kendra Williams-Calhoun, Unit Director at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Harlan County in Kentucky. It is second in a two-part series for Children’s Grief Awareness Day.
When we think about grief as adults, we tend to think about sadness, sorrow, pain, and suffering.
Think about all those emotions going through a young child and having to hold it inside, not knowing how to express it. When I think about grief, I think of being in a dark place where there is no chance of happiness. My thoughts on this changed last year due to my wonderful Club kids.
Last year my Club was blessed to be a part of the Be There Initiative, which has brought so much to our Club. During this initiative, I learned about Children’s Grief Awareness Day and immediately became excited to work with my youth. Grief is a topic that we never really discussed at the Club, although it was something our youth struggled with often. As a child, I can remember grieving with no outlet and feeling like I was going to explode with all the emotions, and I wanted it to be different for my kids.
So where do you start? How do you begin to talk with kids about something that seems so down and keep them interested? The answer- lots and lots of fun activities! Throughout the month of November, we allowed the kids and staff to participate in various activities to express grief. The kids really enjoyed that the staff were included because it showed them that it was okay to talk about how they were feeling. Below are a few successful activities from the month.
Activities for Children’s Grief Awareness Day
One of their favorite thing to do was our “In Memory” wall. We cut out hearts and allowed each member to put a name of a loved one they were grieving. This gave them a chance to open up and talk about the situation.
We created a HOPE Chain using various shades of blue strips of paper. The youth were given the option to write names of loved ones they would like to remember or messages of support to others.
Shades of Blue
We encourage all kids to wear blue to support the day. We passed out blue bracelets with our club name on them.
Family Fun Night
After having such a great response from the kids throughout the month, we knew that it was something that was lacking in the other environments our youth are in. We were doing our part to help, but wanted to do more. We decided to host a Family Night at the Club. The parents received handouts on how to help a child who may be grieving and how to communicate with them. We also passed out a resource guide so each family would have this information on hand. A counselor was there to discuss children’s grief and different ways to approach the topic. For the kids’ entertainment we had food, inflatables, games, and face painting along with the grief activities we held earlier in month. At the end of the night, each member received a certificate for participating in the Children’s Grief Awareness Day. The event was a huge success!
My kids really enjoyed bringing awareness to this issue. One child told me that it was a relief to talk about how she was feeling. I noticed that in all the activities the kids were surprised to see that others were feeling the same as them and with that realization, it wasn’t so sad anymore. The kids were enjoying sharing their feelings and laughing while participating in the activities. With the success of our event, I wanted to reach more kids than just my Club kids. After talking to our Judge Executive, the Club received a proclamation declaring November 17th Children’s Grief Awareness day in Harlan County.
I have become so passionate about bringing awareness to children’s grief. I’m excited to see my young teens that were inspired from last year’s event show such passion into making this year’s event a success. They have helped reach schools in our local community and encouraged them participate in a “Blue Out” to bring awareness. I hope that others can be inspired too!
Kendra has been with the Movement for 5 years. She loves making memories with her two children and scrapbooking.
For more information on how your Club can support youth who are grieving, check out the Be There initiative on BGCA.net. We also encourage Boys & Girls Club staff to listen to our Be There podcast series, now live on Spillett Leadership University.
Do you have a story to share with the Movement? Let us know in the comments or email at ClubXBlog@bgca.org and YOU could be featured on the Club Experience Blog!
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