How to Help Your Kids Cope with Grief
While we want to protect our children from hardships, there will come a day when someone they love passes away. As parents, it is our job to help our kids deal with grief – even when we may be hurting too. Much of the way kids grieve and how you will handle their grief depends on a range of factors.
As Kids Health explains, “When a loved one dies, children feel and show their grief in different ways. How kids cope with the loss depends on things like their age, how close they felt to the person who died, and the support they receive.” Considering these factors, here are some specific ways you can help your kids deal with grief:
Provide age-appropriate information
Be direct with your children and tell them what has happened; however, you need to give age-appropriate information only. For example, a three-year-old does not need to know all the details, but he/she does need to be told that “Grandma died” directly. You should also avoid euphemisms for death, such as “We lost Granny” or “Uncle Billy passed away.” Children are literal and these types of saying cause confusion rather than healing.
Listen to them and answer their questions
Each child handles grief differently. Some children may simply need to express their feelings while others may ask a lot of questions. Either way, give them your full attention by listening to them and answering their questions.
Explain what the coming days will be like
If you plan to take your children to the memorial services, you need to explain what these events are and what they will see when they are there. Children need to be prepared ahead of time for these services.
Additionally, you may need to explain how the coming days will change because of the death of your loved one. For example, if the death changes your everyday routines, children need to hear what changes to expect.
Model healthy coping skills
It is hard to grieve when you are taking care of others, but it is imperative for you to grieve the loss of your loved one as well. Do not neglect your grief when taking care of everyone else’s. Instead, model healthy coping skills for your children. Allow them to see that you are grieving and hurting, but use your words to express your feelings. For example, you may say, “I’m crying because I am sad Granny is dead” to show children how to express feelings with words.
Read children’s books dealing with death
There are several children’s books that do a beautiful job of teaching children about death and how to mourn the loss of a loved one. This list of 64 children’s books will help you navigate how to explain deaths of pets, grandparents, family, and friends.
Keep your routine
Routines help children feel safe. As much as you can, try to stick with your routine. Some form of regularity will show your children that even though something sad has happened, they are still safe, and some things will stay the same.
If you feel your children are not handling their grief in healthy ways, please speak with your doctor. Your child’s doctor should be able to refer you to a therapist who specializes in grief counseling.