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Why Helping Grieving Students Heal Matters So Much (


The conflict between physical distancing and the human need for connection is one of the great challenges of the pandemic, according to Dr. Pamela Cantor, a child and adolescent psychiatrist. Cantor is the founder of Turnaround for Children, a nonprofit that translates developmental science into resources for educators.

Stress caused by loss of a loved one or even the loss of daily routines can trigger a hormone called cortisol, Cantor explained. When stress is chronic, cortisol can do long-term harm to bodily systems, including those associated with learning. But Cantor said that another hormone, oxytocin, can have a countering effect on the same systems.

And what triggers oxytocin?

Human relationships. In particular, relationships that are full of love, trust, attachment and safety. That’s why, Cantor said, educational settings that put connection at the center are the most successful.

“One of the universals about grief is that there has to be a place and a space for the feelings associated with loss,” said Cantor, the Turnaround for Children founder.

Marcus Harden, a former school counselor and school leader, said teachers can also provide those spaces by being intentional. Some of the activities he recommends include healing circles, mindfulness, journaling, and authentic check-ins.

But as more teachers get vaccinated against coronavirus and the Biden administration pushes for all schools to reopen, Harden said these efforts could be skipped in the rush to make up for lost instruction. “You can't treat it like a throw away, which we tend to do with any relational thing.”

To read more of Kara Newhouse's article, please click here.

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