Most of us know at least one person who has had someone important to them pass in the last year. Even if we've experienced a loss ourselves, it's often difficult to determine how to comfort and support a friend who's grieving, as every loss is different. As both a therapist and as one who has experienced the loss of a close family member, I'll share some ideas of how to support a friend or family member through a loss.
In the first 2 weeks…
In the first 6 months…
After the first month of a loss, people are much less likely to check in with a grieving person. Unfortunately, this can be one of the most difficult times for a bereaved person, as they begin to settle back in to a "normal" routine again without their loved one. Periodically check in with the person to see how they're doing. Questions like "What's your grief look like this week?" help a bereaved person normalize grief reactions and process how this loss has affected his/her life to date, while questions like "How are you doing today?" can sometimes elicit shame about the grieving process.
6 months and beyond…
Avoid these unhelpful statements during conversation
If you're reading this as someone in the midst of the bereavement process, know you're not alone. Consider discussing some of these tips with your support network so they know how to best support you. What’s been helpful for you through the grieving process? Comment below!
Using praise is a great strategy to increase positive behaviors in your child. Research suggests that paying attention to positive behaviors rather than pointing out or correcting negative ones, can be effective in increasing positive behaviors. But why does this work and how do we give our praises the most punch?
Praise is effective because it gives children something they crave - our attention. Parental attention is like gold! Unfortunately, this sometimes means that when kids aren’t getting our attention they’ll do whatever it takes to get noticed - and sometimes that means by acting out. Children learn that behaviors like whining, bargaining and interrupting quickly grabs their parent’s attention in the moment, and because of this they learn it’s an effective strategy to “hook” their parent back in. When you give your child positive attention for good behavior he’ll be less likely to act out. The following are a few tips that I often share with families in my practice.
1. Use labeled or specific praise rather than vague, general praise. Research shows that labeled praise – "Good job sharing your toys!" works better than unlabeled praise "Good job!” - because it specifically targets a behavior. If you’re playing with your child and he hands you a toy, saying ‘Thank you!’ is nice, but saying “Thank you for sharing…it’s so fun to play with you when you share your toys” - is an even more powerful reinforcer. It increases the chances he will share again in the future with you and with others.
2. Catch them being good. It's easy to let good behaviors go unnoticed. Let’s say you walk into the room to find your two children playing with the toys nicely together. You may be tempted to tiptoe back out of the room quietly - after all it’s a great time to get some laundry done and you don’t want to say anything that will upset the dynamic. However, making an enthusiastic statement about the positive interaction you’re seeing can help reinforce the behavior - “I love seeing you two sharing so nicely together!” In another example, if you have to tell your child daily to put his shoes away when he gets home from school and one day he miraculously does this on his own - remember that praise will reinforce the behavior - “Thank you so much for putting your shoes away today without me asking!"
3. Use “positive opposites” to shape behaviors. This means paying much less attention to or completely ignoring the negative behavior (whining for example) and being careful to catch them displaying the positive opposite behavior - “thank you for using your big boy words to ask me!” Instead of noticing when she’s being rough with the toys, watch for and praise “I love your gentle hands.” Another example is to look for times your child listens and does what you ask and use praise like - “Awesome listening!” or “Super following directions!” If you consistently praise positive opposite behaviors you’ll likely see these behaviors grow.
4. Praise effort rather than outcome. I’ve taught many parenting workshops over the years and the question always comes up - do kids get too much praise? Making praise specific and labeled, and then praising effort and process rather than the outcome is a helpful guide. If your child brings home an A on their science project focus on the effort they put into studying - “It was cool to see how much fun you had working on that project!” - rather than the grade - “Great job getting an A.” This will help reinforce for your child that it feels intrinsically good to study and work hard on something, rather than putting the focus on the outcome.
5. It’s never too late to offer praise. Even though research shows that labeled praise is most reinforcing right at the time of the behavior, it’s never a bad idea to show your child later you appreciate something she did. When snuggling them into bed at night a comment like “I saw you sharing your toys with your little brother today and it made him so happy” - helps her learn how her behavior impacts someone else in a positive way - and makes it much more likely she will repeat that behavior in the future.
Using labeled praise can sound and feel awkward at first. Many parents I work with worry their praise will sound fake or insincere. But with practice, parents can learn to look for positive behaviors and a little labeled praise will go a long way to reinforce them. “Great job” will become “Great job cleaning up so quickly!” “Thank you” will become “Thanks for following directions so well!” Praise is a simple but effective discipline strategy that increases good behavior. Noticing when your child is displaying positive behaviors will help motivate him to keep up the good work.
I recently began cross-stitching as a hobby and method of self-care. I have little to no talent with thread and needle so it was, and still is, a challenge to get everything in place and operating smoothly. Nonetheless, I jumped in with the meager instructions that came with my kit.
This is how my first cross-stitch ended up:
I felt proud and accomplished to create something legible from scratch. But as I flipped from front to back, I found myself wanting to hide the disorganized chaos that was on the back as if it somehow took away from the artwork on the other side.
On social media, we typically choose to show only the finished and polished product of our lives and hide the mess and difficulties that happen behind the scenes. We only see the “put-together” versions of each other – the highlight reel. We’re often left feeling inadequate, “behind”, or just not as capable as those we follow.
I’m not here to tell you that social media is bad. As someone who lives far from her family and friends, it connects me with the people that matter to me and allows me to celebrate the milestones in our lives together.
I’m simply here to propose this question: What is your intent?
Why are you posting that picture of your vacation? Is it because you want others to make assumptions about your lifestyle? Or is it because you truly are enjoying yourself and want to connect with others?
Why are you scrolling through newsfeeds before bed? Is it because you’re looking to check in on your friends? Or is it because you’re lonely and trying to escape your daily life?
By asking ourselves what our intent is, we assume responsibility for the impact that social media has on us. It allows us to take ownership of who, what, when, where, and how we use social media. If your intent is positive and uplifting, go for it! If your intent is because you’re lonely and avoiding the present moment, maybe it’s a good idea to set some boundaries and limits.
Social media presents a sliver of our lives. That sliver couldn’t exist without all of the other slivers, just like my cross-stitch couldn’t exist without the threaded mess on the back. Now, it certainly could be neater and more organized, but I’m proud of it so who the heck cares?! My mess is mine to own and be proud of, just like you and your mess.