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The startling reality of when kids say ‘I’m fine.’

Perhaps one of the most important tasks we have as parents is to help guide and protect our children through the world.  We wish to see them thrive, keep them from harm and are constantly looking for ways to enrich their experiences and maybe engage in real conversations along the way.  The truth is that understanding kids and teens and the way that they think is both simple and complicated.  Sometimes they say what they mean and other times we are rebuffed from our efforts and are left to wonder what on earth is really going on inside their minds.

As parents, one of the most dreaded answers to hear from our children, when asked how they are doing, is “I’m fine.”  Because we have once walked in their shoes and navigated the difficult paths of growing up, we know all too well that “I’m fine” can really mean something else entirely.  Are they really fine or are they internalizing some deep seeded issues that they simply don’t know how to address or talk about?  Or are they attempting to protect us by deflecting the question and insisting that all is right in their world?

The answer is probably all of the above sprinkled in with a mixture of many other things that create the chaos in the mind of kids who are just trying to figure out their feelings and the changes that happen unexpectedly in their lives.  Being a counselor and an educator, I attempt to remind parents and caregivers who have experienced loss that they should remember that children handle loss in many different ways.  For many, they are angry and display acting out behaviors while others are more reserved or withdrawn.  The most important thing to remember, however is that children who present as not having a care in the world, or who smile and are filled with laughter does not necessarily mean that everything is fine.  We must find ways to reach beyond their protective walls and give them the support and presence that they need.

Enter Camp Good Grief, a FREE day camp held annually for children and teens ages 5-18 that have experienced a death related loss.  This therapeutic camp gives them an opportunity to express themselves and develop coping skills to handle their grief all within a safe setting that allows them to truly tap into and share feelings about their loss.  It is validating and it immediately shows them that they are normal and that they are not alone, and it is a chance for them to talk about their loved ones and make a purposeful effort to share and honor their memory.  Yes, some kids struggle more than others and there are those who on the surface appear to be “fine”, however, I would gently encourage all of us to consider allowing our children to engage in this experience.  What is there to lose?  By acknowledging their loss, we are giving them a gift of presence and we are nurturing the number of feelings that comes along with losing a loved one.

Held at the Opelika SportsPlex on April 14th, the 14th Annual Camp Good Grief has served our area children for years and continues to be supportive of grief and loss in the community.  Please consider giving the gift of Camp Good Grief to your children, even if they are saying, “I’m fine.”

To register you can call 334-502-0216 to ask questions or find out more information. (Registration deadline is April 3rd).