Parents do their best to shield their children from the harsh realities of the world. Even with forethought, however, parents can’t always protect their children from experiencing the pain of loss. Whether it’s the loss of a beloved pet, a childhood friend, or the loss of a family member, helping kids cope with loss is a journey parents will need to take at some point during the parenting years.
Here are some ways for helping kids cope with loss.
Share What They Can Handle:
Children have very big imaginations. They often imagine a scenario that is far scarier than the current reality. While you may think speaking openly to children about a pet or loved one’s illness and impending death will cause anxiety, not speaking with them actually cause more anxiety as they face the unknown of death alone. Just be sure to share facts and information that is age-appropriate. For instance, a 12-year-old may understand the concept of hospice care while a 5-year-old may not. With younger children, share the simple essentials of death and dying, answering questions with information that is age-appropriate.
Use Children’s Books:
It can be difficult finding just the right words to explain death and dying to a young child. At these times, children’s books about illness, dying and bereavement can be a tremendous help and can guide you in having developmentally appropriate conversations with young people. Having the topic a little removed in the book’s characters, can also make the conversation more comfortable.
Encourage Their Honest Feelings:
Loss can cause people of all ages to completely shut down emotionally. Emotional numbness is a form of denial. While it’s okay for a child to take some space after the initial loss, you will need to help them feel their feelings about it. Unexpressed emotions can lead to emotional and behavioral and physical challenges in the future.
Accept Their Honest Feelings:
Like adults, kids may go through a gamut of emotions from anger to sadness, guilt to shame. It’s natural and okay for your child to feel any emotion they may have. Let them know this and support them at every step of their grieving process. Parents are the leaders in taking the whole family through the journey of grief.
Call (626) 755-4059 for a FREE, 20-minute phone consultation. Let’s co-create a plan of healing for your family.