Helping your child through grief
Death is a common theme in television, however experiencing grief firsthand can be confusing and difficult for kids. How they deal with loss also depends on how close they were to the person and what support they receive.
As a parent you want to protect your child from the pain of loss and help them feel safe and supported. However, our first responsibility is to have our own emotions in check so we can be attentive and create appropriate boundaries.
There are also other types of loss, like moving house or school, or losing something precious to them. Regardless of the severity of the loss, dealing with these emotional moments can be an opportunity to connect and teach your child about caring and communicating their feelings. Encouraging them to express their feelings can also help them to build healthy coping skills that will benefit them as they get older.
It is always important to tell your child the truth about the situation. Hiding information from them can lead to mistrust and reluctance to turn to you for support in the future.
Keep the language you use simple. To minimise confusion avoid making abstract statements. Keep the language age-appropriate and clear. There are also some wonderful books on bereavement available to assist.
Kids are naturally curious, so when they express their concerns, be patient, accepting and responsive. Emphasise that they are not alone and will be supported for as long as they require. Also be aware of their behaviours, as they can’t always communicate their feelings in words. Common reactions could include fighting, mood swings, self-blame, fear of being alone and physical complaints like stomach aches or headaches.
Sometimes holding a ceremony can be helpful for them to express and acknowledge how they feel. Planting a tree, lighting a candle or collecting keepsakes are a few ways they can participate in saying goodbye to a loved one.
You may not consider your own emotions and feel this is best to protect your child or be a strong role model. By modelling that you are also sad and explaining your feelings can also help kids to understand their own feelings. Providing authentic support and coping skills will also help them deal with future loss more easily. Along with maintaining a regular routine and helping them feel normal and grounded throughout the grieving process.
If you would like to learn more about understanding and supporting your child’s development, please contact us on 9334 0111 or firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange to talk with one of our experienced Family Workers in a confidential setting.