Losing a loved one is a difficult experience for anyone, including children. As a parent or caregiver, it’s essential to provide support and help children cope with grief and loss. You may not know how to explain death to your children or even comfort them when grief arises. I have outlined different strategies to help children cope with difficult grief or loss.
Create a safe and open environment
Encourage children to express their feelings openly and without judgment. Let them know it’s okay to be sad, angry, or confused. Assure them that you are there to listen and support them. If they are very young, using a feelings wheel with them might be helpful when they are acting out or after they have calmed down. Helping them understand their feelings will allow them to articulate better what they are experiencing.
Be honest and age-appropriate
Use simple and clear language to explain the loss to children, considering their age and level of understanding. Avoid using euphemisms or vague explanations, as those terms can lead to confusion. Answer their questions honestly and be prepared for ongoing discussions as their understanding evolves. This may be difficult for you as a parent, considering you might be feeling strong, similar emotions.
If you think a therapist might be helpful in a situation such as this, reach out to our office to connect with us. We would be more than happy to help you all navigate through this difficult time.
Maintain routines and stability
Grieving can disrupt a child’s sense of stability and security. Consistency and routine provide a sense of normalcy during challenging times. Stick to regular schedules for meals, bedtime, and activities as much as possible. Remember to show compassion towards yourself and your child during this difficult time.
Provide comfort and reassurance
Offer physical comfort, such as hugs, holding hands, or sitting close to them. Reassure children they are loved and cared for, emphasizing that the loss is not their fault. Facilitate conversations around how they are feeling, what they think of the loss, or any other topics that you feel might be beneficial to process their feelings.
It also might be helpful to encourage expression through various outlets. Children may find it difficult to express their emotions verbally. Encourage them to express their feelings through writing, drawing, painting, or other creative activities. Play therapy can also be helpful for younger children.
Validate their emotions
Let children know that their emotions are valid and natural. It’s crucial to avoid dismissing or minimizing their feelings. Instead, acknowledge their emotions and provide empathy and understanding.
If your child wants to talk about their feelings at an inopportune time, gently acknowledge they are feeling big feelings, and tell them when you can talk about it. Hopefully, they will feel seen and heard in that moment, and you can address their emotions at an appropriate time for you.
Seek support from others
Encourage children to talk to family members or a counselor who can provide additional support. Support groups or counseling designed for children who have experienced a loss can be beneficial.
Every child copes with grief differently, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Tailoring your support to meet your child’s needs is crucial.
If you’re concerned about your child’s well-being or their ability to cope with grief, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor specializing in grief counseling for children. If you’re also going through a rough patch, consider family therapy as an option to heal through this tough time.