How do you help children and teens cope with grief? Let’s talk about several ways to help when our kids are suffering great loss.
What is Grief?
Grief is a normal and natural response to a significant loss of any kind, whether it’s a family separation or divorce, a big move, or the loss of a loved one. Loss is more intense when the child has a close relationship with the person who died, such as a parent or sibling. However, this is not always obvious from a child’s reactions.
What Does Grief Look Like?
- Grief is complicated and looks different for everyone; not everyone grieves the same way.
- Many people bounce around typical stages of grief, which may include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
- Regardless of where your child is in the grieving process, you may notice changes in their behavior.
How Younger Kids are Affected by Grief
- Younger kids may not understand what is happening, or their moods may change drastically (from playing and laughing one minute to anger or tears the next).
- You may even notice changes in behavior related to their eating or sleeping.
- Some potty-trained kids may start having accidents, or some kids may start sucking their thumb again when they haven’t in months.
- A child’s grief may seem to come and go.
- A child may rarely verbally express his or her grief, which is normal.
- Your child may also re-experience the intensity of the loss as he or she grows up.
Older Children and Grief
- With older kids and teens, you may notice that they initially don’t want to believe or refuse to acknowledge what is happening.
- They may withdraw and isolate themselves, or you may notice them acting more irritable or angry. They may begin to struggle with anxiety attacks.
Understanding How Children and Teens View Death
Knowing how children understand death at different stages of development is helpful. It varies by age and often changes as a child develops emotionally and socially. Other factors also influence children’s reactions. These can include personality, previous experiences with death, and support from family members. Remember that children do not move abruptly from 1 stage of development to the next. And features from each stage may overlap.
How Long Should Grief Last for Kids and Teens?
- Everyone processes and reacts to grief differently, and it is normal for feelings to change daily or from moment to moment.
- We can’t predict what it will look like or how long it will last.
- It’s essential to be understanding and patient with your kids and know there isn’t any right way to deal with loss.
- “One of the most important things to know about grief is that there isn’t a quick fix,”
Talking to Kids about Grief
How do you help children and teens cope with grief? Know that it’s completely OK not to have all the answers, but here are a few tips for talking with your kids about grief.
- Ask open-ended questions. Instead of making assumptions, ask them what’s on their mind about the losses they’re experiencing.
- Talk openly about grief. Help them label their true feelings and recognize that grief is normal.
- Acknowledge their feelings. Even if you don’t fully understand how your child feels, it’s essential to acknowledge that the way they feel is natural and let them know it’s OK and normal to feel that way.
- Offer reassurance. Sometimes kids have trouble understanding loss and may incorrectly blame themselves.
- Reassure them that they had nothing to do with it and they are not responsible for what happened.
- Avoid minimizing or dismissing. Instead, genuinely acknowledge their feelings and help them manage them with the tips below.
We invite you to find the love and forgiveness that God offers through His Son Jesus Christ. He is the source of true hope and eternal life. Please watch the Great news Video on this page to find out more.
If you need help in dealing with grief and loss and would like to connect with someone who can help, please fill out this form and one of our awesome team will contact you. God loves you and we care.