Grief is a complicated emotional process for everyone, irrespective of their age. However, taking a teenager or child through the reality of death is one of the most challenging experiences for a parent. It is difficult to know how to help your child during this time, let alone finding the right words to use.
Sometimes parents may think that their children don’t understand what’s going on. The truth is that most children are aware when death occurs.
The concept of death is all around us, often depicted in various ways through encounters children have or things they watch on television. But when the experience comes closer to them, it’s often much more difficult to deal with.
As a parent, it is difficult to protect your child from bearing the pain of loss but you can provide comfort and help him or her feel safe. You should also note that children grieve differently. However, there are common signs that most of them present when faced with death.
They include the following:
- Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
- Lack of interesting in engaging in normal activities
- Regression to younger behavior
- Changes in school grades
- Lack of interest in playing with other kids
Below are some of the ways you can help your child or children deal with grief:
1. Apply creative expression
As mentioned earlier different children react to death differently. This means that you have to be creative in the way you try to help your child. While there are those who may prefer to openly discuss the loss, you should also come up with creative ways of helping them to adjust to the new reality.
Some children may express their emotions by listening to music, playing with dolls, drawing, painting, or even writing daily journals. Try to meet your child where they are and recommend other ways if they still don’t feel comfortable to talk.
2. Be straightforward
When talking about death, avoid using a euphemism. Children are very literal in the way they interpret what they hear. For example, telling them a loved one has “slept” may be confusing to them. It is better to use words that are clear in terms of meaning to help them cope well.
3. Get an opportunity to foster relationships
When children lose people who meant a lot to them, it is a chance for them to strengthen relationships with those left behind. They are usually in a confused state and need someone that can support them during grief. Sometimes they may find comfort in a friend or kin who underwent the same situation recently.
4. Discuss an afterlife
Talking about the afterlife can be very beneficial to a child who is grieving according to psychologists.
If you are a religious family, this is the perfect time to share the idea of life after death. Try to comfort the child by assuring them that a loved one has not died but is resting with the angels in heaven.
Even if you are not a religious person, you can still use the concept of the afterlife to build feelings of comfort in your child.
5. Stick to routines
Children find a lot of comfort in routines. If you have a tight schedule that prohibits your ability to oversee a routine, try to get relatives or friends who can help keep the child on as normal and structured of a routine as possible. As much as grieving is important, it is also important to make your child understand that life has to move on.
In a nutshell, it is not easy to take a child or children through a grieving process. But with a bit of creativity you can comfort your child and prevent grief from affecting them long-term.