Emotional and Mental

Supporting a Grieving Child

As parents or caregivers, you want to do everything you can to support your grieving child. Here are some suggestions for you and your family to help a child following the loss of a loved one:

It is important for children to feel like there is an adult parent or caregiver who is healthy, balanced and in control. Children often worry about taking care of the adults in their lives. During a period of grief, it is essential for them to feel safe and supported and they can be the child they are. Parents should be open in expressing their emotions but should be careful about relying on their children for emotional support.

Grieving children need to know that there is a loving, caring adult who can help them manage their own emotions and behavior. Reasonable and consistent boundaries during a painful, challenging period of grief, can provide a sense of safety and support for the child. 

Children often feel like they have no control over what is going on after the death of a loved one. Giving them choices and allowing them to make even the simplest of choices can empower them, help them regain a sense of balance, and show them that you respect their decision-making abilities.

Grieving depletes energy. Make sure healthy, nutritious food is available. Plan meal times that are separate from grieving activities so they are comfortable for the family. Emotional distress can be dehydrating. Make sure there are plenty of liquids for your kids to drink. Avoid beverages with a lot of caffeine or sugar.

Normal routines, such as regular bedtimes, meals and chores, provide a safe, predictable environment for grieving children. Ensure this consistency, if you can, and it will help reduce their concerns over what happens next. 

Grieving expends a lot of mental, emotional and physical energy. It is important to make sure that your children are getting enough sleep.

Grief is hard and we all need to have a respite from it.  Children may not be comfortable with grief for long periods of time. It is important for them to continue to be able to play with friends as they did before. It doesn’t mean they’re not sad and they don’t care, Role Models Grieving children closely observe the adults in their lives. Try to be good role models for your children to help them learn to understand grief and cope with a loss. Listening  Private mourning becomes more open, healthy grieving when a child finds a trusted person in whom they can confide. The importance of having someone to talk to (not necessarily get advice from) cannot be underestimated.

Especially important for adolescents, we must remember that much of grieving is a private process. This may include emotion, reflection, contemplation, determination and memorialization. Remember to give reasonable privacy to your grieving teens.

For more information on how to cope following trauma, give Best Care EAP a call. Counselors are ready to help. 

To schedule your confidential appointment, call (402) 354-8000 or (800) 801-4182, or send an email.

Source: “Helping Teens Cope with Death,” a Dougy Center resource (pp. 25-26).