Children Grieve Too

Children Grieve Too

Posted on November 25, 2014 by Ladybug Child Care Center

“When is my mommy coming home from heaven? I’ve been waiting and waiting.”  -Question asked by 5-year-old whose mother has just died

The old adage that children don’t experience grief as deeply as adults is just that, old. Grief is a normal and natural reaction for children experiencing divorce, separation and loss. However, children are often the “forgotten mourners.” There are many reasons for this. Children’s needs are often overlooked in the emotional turmoil, as the adults around them are trying to find a new normal in the middle of chaos. Sometimes adults think that by not confronting the issue, they are shielding the little one from the pain (this does not work). And sometimes adults think that children don’t understand death, and therefore aren’t affected deeply by it.

When a child is experiencing a loss, it is important to tell them the truth, answer their questions, and to say “I love you” often. Before having a conversation with a child, plan what you are going to say. Also, it is important to be age-aware when talking to them.

Adults can help children express their feelings by:

  • Listening
  • Helping them find words for their feelings
  • Letting them be honest
  • Acknowledging their feelings
  • Clearing up misunderstandings
  • Setting the record straight
  • Being patient
  • Reassuring them

It is important that children do not grieve alone. Sharing stories and reminiscing is a good way to help a child with their grief. Reading a book together is another great way to start a conversation with a child as they work through their grief. With older children, a car ride where no one is looking the other in the eye encourages conversation.

While grieving is normal, the following behaviors are red flags:

  • Sleep problems
  • Poor concentration
  • Trouble at school
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Self-injury, cutting or eating disorders
  • Frequent angry or violent outbursts
  • Withdrawal from loved ones
  • Refusal of loved activities

These are indications that something more serious is going on and professional help is needed.

Loss is a normal part of life, and unfortunately, no one is immune from it. Sharing your loss with others helps us deal with it. Children are no exception.

Filed Under: Tips for Parents