Helping Children Grieve Part 3: Practical ways for parents to help their children cope with loss

My previous posts have looked at helping children grieve and how a childs age and development can determine their reaction to grief. I will finish this by looking at some concrete ways in which we can help support our children through these difficult times.

 

Provide a safe place for them to vent their emotions. This can  be done through play, through drawing , through listening to or playing music or by writing a letter or keeping a journal. Writing (or keeping a blog) is a great way to help you make sense of all that is in your head, and can help to get your  feelings and emotions into some sort of perspective.

Allow children time to talk, ask questions and answer as truthfully as you can, in ways they can understand. Remembering that children process grief quite differently depending on their age and development.

Stick to as many family routines as you can. Children need to know that the world will still go on, despite the sadness and upheaval that surrounds them. Children thrive on routines and it is helpful for them to maintain a sense of stability and security.

Try and keep to most of your usual rules…whilst these times may require us to be more flexible with our rules and discipline, children are also quick to work out how to take advantage of situations. It is important not to fall into the trap of forgiving all sorts of behaviours because they are grieving. Trying to get them to talk will help them much more.

Try to do some fun stuff too. Let kids know that despite the grief, they are still allowed to find enjoyment and feel free to have some fun. Often a family holiday or weekend away can be a great way to reconnect with each other, rejoice in some good times and simply allow yourselves to “get away for a while”.

Share your own grief and don’t hide your own sadness. It is important that children are not kept isolated from the grieving process.

Give children the option to attend funerals as this can also help them make sense of  what is going on, and can help them understand a little better, that the person is not coming back. This is a personal decision and may also depend on the child’s age, but it is certainly ok to give your children that choice.

Inform childcare workers, schools and teachers if your child is dealing with grief. Children may respond differently around different company or in different places so it is important that other carers are aware of what they are going through.

Have a  keepsake or something for the child to remember the deceased person. A friend of mine suggeted this for my boys when our daughter died and it was a poignant way for them to remember her. They had a box that they put in her favourite toys, cards they had done for her and anything that reminded them of their sister. Yes pretty sad and not something that they needed to ‘play’ with everyday, but it was a nice way for them to help keep her memory alive.

So that’s it for now on helping our children grieve. Obviously a huge topic in itself, but I hope these last few posts have helped give you some insight into how we can best support our children through the grieving process. Thankyou all for your honest comments.

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2 Responses to Helping Children Grieve Part 3: Practical ways for parents to help their children cope with loss

  1. Susan, the Book Chook March 15, 2011 at 7:43 pm #

    I think literature can help kids cope with grief, and learn they are not alone in grieving. One book I think is excellent for this is Molly’s Memory Jar ( my review, http://www.thebookchook.com/2010/06/book-review-memory-jar.html) By sharing this picture book with kids, and even following Dad’s idea of adding a coloured ball to the jar each time we have a special memory, kids are gaining perspective on their loss.

    • Martine March 15, 2011 at 9:26 pm #

      Absolutely…thanks Susan. It can certainly help them if they are not quite ready to talk, but can also help become an effective tool for both parent and child to use as a springboard for discussion. Thanks for the review, will definately have a look.

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