Supporting children through grief: Tips and strategies

Supporting children through grief: Tips and strategies

Supporting children through grief

Grief is a complex emotion. It’s not the same for everyone and it can be particularly hard for children to understand, much less navigate. While death and dying are not an uncommon theme in cartoons and animated films, children who experience loss personally often find it confusing. Parents, guardians, and caregivers cannot shield the little ones from painful emotions such as grief, but there are ways to help them better cope with their feelings.

Understanding children’s grief

Unfortunately, children are sometimes the “forgotten grievers”. They are too young to grieve, you think. Or their grief wouldn’t be as intense as an adult’s. In reality, what you may not realise is that children may not communicate their sorrow verbally. Their moods may instead be unusually erratic. For instance, playing happily one moment and then crying out of the blue.

It’s also common for children to display regressive behaviours, like bed-wetting, when the person they lost is someone close to their heart. A child may not be openly sharing about their loss, but that doesn’t mean they are not feeling it.

Provide a safe and supportive environment for children to express their feelings

Since many children find it difficult to communicate exactly how they feel, one of the most important things you can do is provide a safe and supportive space for your child to express themselves. You could start by encouraging your child to draw how they are feeling or by looking through photos of your departed loved one together. Reading age-appropriate books on death and parting is another great way to get a conversation going.

Supporting children through grief

A literary resource you can consider is Where Did Grandpa Go?, co-written by Darren Cheng, CEO of Direct Funeral Services and a certified psychotherapist. The illustrated book tells the story of a grandpa preparing his grandson for the inevitable goodbye.

However, be prepared for your child to ask the same questions over and over again. Although it can be frustrating to explain that Ah Ma is not coming back for the umpteenth time, continue to be open to your child’s sharing. It’s completely OK to let your child know that you need a break now and will attend to them later.

Engage in routines

Children find comfort in familiar patterns and activities. They feel more confident and less overwhelmed when things are predictable and under their control. That being said, it’s not always easy for families to stick to their usual routines during the bereavement period, especially when the person who passed away was the child’s main caregiver. But the idea is to maintain normal routines to the best of your ability. Simple things like leaving for school at the same time as before can be helpful.

Seek support and guidance for yourself

While it’s important to be available for your child, do not ignore your own grief. Get help from friends and family if you need to. There are also various professional resources and support groups that bereaved people can reach out to. Remember, your well-being is equally vital and taking care of yourself helps you to take care of others.

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