Children see loss and death in different ways
as they grow and develop. Tailor your help according to your child's age and
How you learned to deal with loss will
affect how you help your child. Think about what helped you when you lost
something as a child.
Don't try to keep grieving a private affair.
Ask child care providers, teachers, and school counselors to help your child
express his or her feelings, concerns, and misconceptions.
How to help a child during the grieving process
Before you try to help your child deal with a loss, examine your own
thoughts and feelings about loss, particularly about death. Recall your first
experience with loss. What helped you deal with it? What was not helpful to
you? This is especially important if you experienced your first major loss when
you were a child. Remembering your experience may help you recognize and
understand your child's feelings. Also, the things that helped you may also be
helpful to your child.
Tell other significant adults in your
child's life about his or her recent loss. Child care providers, teachers, and
school counselors may also be able to help your child work through his or her
Here are some steps for helping children during the
Provide safety and security. To express their feelings related to loss, children need an
adult who makes them feel safe and secure. Consider your child's personality
and his or her comfort level in talking about feelings and
Use an activity. Activities
create different ways for children to express their feelings related to loss.
Try an activity that fits your style and your child's developmental level. If
one activity does not work, try another one. Some suggestions include the
Read books or watch DVDs. Books and DVDs can help children understand the concept of
loss and death. Ask a librarian about books and DVDs for children your
child's age. After reading the book or watching the DVD, talk with your child
about the story and especially about his or her feelings.
Make up stories.
Storytelling lets you and your child change what
happens in the story. Your child can change sad and gloomy feelings to more
positive ones that provide warmth and comfort.
Draw pictures. Drawing pictures of feelings may be easier than talking
about them. Ask your child to draw a picture of what is happening to him or
her. You can also draw a picture of what is happening to you. After finishing
your drawing, explain what you drew and ask your child to explain his or her
picture. You can use drawing pictures along with storytelling to help your
child deal with grief.
Play or act. Acting
out feelings through play can be very helpful for some children. You can use
stuffed animals, puppets, or other toys to act out what is going on. Sometimes
it is easier for a child to allow a favorite stuffed animal to speak for him or
her; it may be easier for a young child to talk with the animal, either alone
or with an adult present, than to talk directly with an adult.
Evaluate the activity.
Observe your child during and after the activity. What emotions did your child
express during the activity? What emotions did your child express afterward?
Talk with your child about these emotions. Let your child know that all
feelings are normal. Clear up any misconceptions he or she has.
Practice one of the activities above in the presence of
another adult. After the activity, ask the adult to tell you how effective they think the activity was for your child.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerSidney Zisook, MD - Psychiatry
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