Helping Your Child Grieve

LOVE, SUPPORT AND HONESTY MEAN EVERYTHING TO A GRIEVING CHILD

One of the most difficult emotional strains on anybody is the death of a friend or loved one.

As a mature adult you’ve learnt to deal with the different stages of grief and how to express these both emotionally and socially. For a child, emotional maturity has not been reached, so the ways a child deals with death and the ways they express their emotions vary tremendously.

Helping your child grieve
EXPLAINING DEATH TO A CHILD

Factors such as age and their stage of development play a large role; however a child’s perception of death is shaped in most part by your reactions and responses.

Talking to children about death does not have to wait until an emotionally charged event like the loss of a loved one. Parents can use day-to-day experiences such as finding a dead bug or animal to explore children’s understandings and engage in discussions about death.

HOW TO HELP GRIEVING CHILDREN

Social support for children is crucial following the death of a loved one. Allowing your child to see your own pain reinforces to them that it is okay to be sad, while at the same time letting them know that you are there for them too. With support, your child can make good adjustments and manage grief in their lives.

Helping your child to grieve:

  • Ensure consistent routines and a sense of stability
  • Handle changes in behaviour with understanding
  • Prepare for a surge of separation anxiety or increased clinging behaviour
  • Prepare for sleeping problems, as well as the desire to sleep with parents or siblings
  • Use concrete details to describe death and answer questions honestly
  • Talk and listen to children – what are their fears or concerns?
  • Use play, drawing, writing and other expressive activities to enhance understanding and work through feelings
  • Introduce age-appropriate books on death and dying
  • Avoid treating death as a taboo subject
HELPING OTHERS

Before a funeral, describe what to expect, what role the child can play, roles other people will play, how others will feel and behave, and how the child may feel throughout the day.

While grief is normal, persisting grief reactions are not. If symptoms interfere with any aspect of normal functioning they need to be addressed. If you have any particular questions, please ask Dr Cathrine and she will personally answer any concerns you have.