New Survey: 64% of Parents of Grieving Children Report Mental Health Tops Physical Concerns Amid Pandemic

One in Five U.S. Children Mourning a Significant Loss; That Number is Rising Amid COVID-19

WESTPORT, CT – Aug 27 2020 – (NGO Wire) 

One-in-five U.S. children mourn a significant death by age 18 and those numbers are rising. COVID-19 is a “bereavement multiplier” leaving even more children coping with loss. As the COVID-19 back-to-school season gets into full swing, nearly seven in 10 (64%) parents and caregivers of grieving children reveal that their children’s mental health – and their own (39%) ─ is their top concern, ranking higher than fear that they (35%) or someone they love (44%) will contract COVID-19, and the fear of financial losses (29%).

Parents’ focus on mental health versus physical health comes even though 65% surveyed know someone who contracted Covid-19 and 36% know someone who has died of the virus. This according to a survey by Experience Camps, a national nonprofit that builds awareness of childhood grief as a serious issue and runs programs for the one in 14 U.S. children who have lost a parent, sibling or primary caregiver. The survey was conducted to inform the type of support the nonprofit is providing children and families during the transition back to school.

Although dealing with grief alongside the anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic can be overwhelming, 83% of parents have seen their child using coping skills learned from their grief experience to help them successfully navigate the pandemic.

“The children we surveyed report that, even though it was virtual this year, our program made them feel happier, more confident, and less alone. The majority also are using their ‘grief skills’ to support others during the pandemic,” said Sara Deren, CEO, Experience Camps. “The survey findings are a testament to the potential for strength in adversity, if kids and their families receive the long-term support they need.”

Grieving children are especially vulnerable to a range of negative outcomes such as increased anxiety, depression, and risk of mortality, and fundamentally alter[ed] access to economic security and, in turn, the success and timing of their transition to adulthood.[1]

COVID-19 is likely to leave at least 1.7 million Americans mourning the death of a close relative. In the past five years, Experience Camps program participation has grown 188% and its waiting list has jumped 500%. This year, applications were up 23% percent from 2019, despite the cancellation of traditional summer programs.

“Grief changes the trajectory of a child’s life. The only question is how,” said Deren. “After more than a decade and 430,000 hours with grieving kids, our team can confidently report that expressing grief is essential to helping childhood carry on.”

According to Serra Falk Goldman, the mother of a child grieving the loss of his father and sister, “The secret to surviving grief is to acknowledge it and talk about it. My son uses the grief skills he learned at Experience Camps and is open and willing to share his fears and tell people how he is coping. He revisits grief at each developmental milestone, and when things are especially hard, he knows to take a walk or play with the dog or do something that makes him happy. Resilience is a muscle, and the more you exercise it, the stronger you get.”

As a result of the pandemic, more children are grieving and all children must grapple with overwhelming changes to school, play and homelife. Deren said, “Grief skills can be powerful tools for all children as they mourn losses due to the pandemic – whether a death or a loss of predictability and security.”

NOTE TO EDITORS: Grief experts from Experience Camps and children and parents they serve are available for interviews.

About the survey

The anonymous survey included 135 parents or caregivers of children between the ages of nine and 17. The survey was not exclusive to families who have experienced death due to COVID-19. The survey was fielded over 10 days, concluding August 10, 2020.

About Experience Camps

Experience Camps is a national nonprofit leading the fight against unresolved childhood grief. It provides no-fee, clinically informed camp and other programs for kids who have lost a parent, sibling or primary caregiver, and resources and advocacy to benefit many more. Since 2009, Experience Camps has empowered thousands of children with the confidence, skills and support to move forward with their lives, with 90% of participants reporting higher feelings of self-esteem and less loneliness in their grief. Experience Camps’ goal is to double the number of children it serves by 2024 so that all grieving children can experience a life rich with possibility.


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