The death of a loved one may be the first time your child has to deal with grief. Whether it's a family pet, grandparent, or even just a close person to him or her; it can be heartbreaking seeing your child in such bereavement. As parents, we wish we could take away the pain and struggle our child endures. However, how they learn to deal with grief from a young age can help lay a solid foundation of coping techniques needed as the child grows.
People in mourning may show various characteristics, but symptoms of children can be troublesome as they may not understand the full circumstance surrounding death, or be able to discern how they are feeling biologically and psychologically. Grief Counselors, social stories about death for kids, as well as informative resources for parents are all ways to help you guide your child through this difficult time. Thus, there are 10 Ways To Teach Your Child About Grief.
Connecting is important especially when you first break the news to your children about a loved one passing away. Connecting is not just verbally communicating but to be present and receptive to your child's views, emotions, and understanding. It is important to use a caring approach while using short and direct words to break the news.
While connecting, give your child enough time to fully understand what the situation is. Be open to answering any questions. Children may not realize the permanence of death, depending on their age, so patience is crucial during this time.
9 Help To Label Emotions
Children are generally familiar with basic emotions like being happy, sad, and angry. However, grief can bring forth a combination of basic emotions or new emotions your child may not be familiar with; like anxiety, confusion, and so on. It can be helpful to aid your child label the emotions, then to relate to those emotions making the child feel like their mental state is common rather than feeling isolated and abashed.
A parent can explain the 5 stages of grief to their children: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Depending on the age of the child you may need to explain the stages in easier words for the child to understand, however letting him or her know what to expect regarding emotions may help promote a healthier outcome for your child's mental state.
Depending on the temperament, age, and understanding of the child while he or she grieves, it can vary greatly how the kid will react. Younger children generally don't understand the circumstance, school-aged children may be more likely to be upset and weepy, and teenagers may be more likely to express their grief through anger.
When we think of comfort, we think of hugging and showing affection to whomever we are trying to support. However, sometimes the most efficient way to console someone is through acceptance and patience. Having an empathetic heart towards him or her during a grievous time will allow your child to express their emotions in a supportive and accepting environment.
7 Share What To Expect
Sometimes grief can be complicated for a child because of the anxiety of the unknown that comes with mourning a death. Not only can emotions cause confusion, but since this could be one of the first times your child deals with a loss, their minds may imagine wild scenarios further leading to disorientation.
You can quiet those fears and doubts, if you are honest and share what to expect with your child. If you give your child a lot of notice and time to process what future outcomes will be, anxiety can lessen greatly.
Although the permanence of death can be difficult for a child to understand, you can reminisce about all of the positive memories your child spent with the passed loved one. Children have an easier time keeping someone alive in their memories, as their time spent on earth is a much shorter duration than say his or her parents.
Reminiscing can be looking at photographs, videos, or allowing your child to keep a sentimental item that belonged to the person who is being mourned. Even though it is beneficial to encourage your child to feel the range of emotions associated with grief, they can find relief by remembering happier times or hearing funny stories of the loved one.
5 Give Your Child A Role To Play
Especially if this is the first time your child has had to deal with the death of a loved one, he or she may feel a bit lost in what is expected on their part. Depending on the age of your child, it can be helpful to give your kid a role to play to give some sort of direction of how he or she could contribute. Perhaps it could be allowing your child to read a poem at the funeral, choosing pictures to use as a display at the memorial, or helping to distract the younger children that will be there to mourn as well.
Providing some sort of structure and purpose for your child during such a painful circumstance can be a reassuring feeling while distracting them because they have a job to do.
4 Use Distractions
Acknowledging that when death occurs, family members are engrossed in preparing arrangements, travelling, and commitments while trying to manage their own feelings of grief. Despite the chaos, a parent should be mindful that children need a chance to channel expression and feelings. Using a happy distraction, no matter how brief yet consistent, can help them to be conscious of their perception and mindful of the scenario.
Distractions for children can be easy self-care activities like going outside, getting creative with crafts, or going for fun festive activities that give them a mental break from heavy feelings.
3 Give Your Child Time
Duration of grief can vary greatly from person to person, and children are no different. Some are more resilient than others and that's okay. Strength can be shown through tears, repetitive inquiries on the subject of death, and occasional emotional outbursts. Parents profit from really getting to know their child through character development. Since children are at such a moldable age, parents can target specifically on what triggers are, effective coping mechanisms, and predictable quirks that the child may demonstrate.
Support and acknowledgement of your child's emotional and mental state can be an essential component of your child's duration of grief. Giving him or her time to effectively transition through the stages of grief, whether it is independently or with the assistance of a grief counselor, builds on various skill sets needed for when the child matures into an adult.
2 Take Time For Your Own Grief
While a child struggles through the first encounter with grief, parents still need to take time managing their own emotions. We want to stay strong by modelling to our children how to get through such a hard time, but we can end up regressing in our own mental and behavioral state that can have devastating and long-lasting effects.
Essentially, communication and self-care practices can aid in healthily processing mournfulness. Everyone has associations to the past one that requires diversified coping stages. Since we all mourn distinctly, taking the time to reflect on your own needs demonstrates to your child what separate coping styles look like but are acceptable nonetheless. Recognizing the fact, parents should try and refrain from using drugs and alcohol or dangerous activities as a way of avoiding their emotions.
1 Acknowledge There May Be Some Regressions
Emotions can play a big factor in our bodies that sometimes involuntary regresses to unfavorable outcomes. Especially in younger children, bed-wetting and tantrums are some regressions a parent can expect while their child mourns. In school-age and adolescent children they may revert back to behavioral quirks or defiance projections.
Patience and consistency to remain a degree of normalcy in routine can help regulate back some of those regressions. With a gentle and understanding outlook, parents can help his or her children recover from a temporary retreat in skill or progression. Ultimately, the unconditional love a parent has for the children is the strongest tool one could use as a way of helping the child learn about grief.