13 Tips to Support Grieving Children and Teens
Children’s Grief Awareness Day is Thursday, November 18, 2021
In Arizona, 1 in 13 children will experience the death of their parent or sibling by the time they reach adulthood (Judi’s House Childhood Bereavement Estimation Model, 2021). So today, in recognition of Children’s Grief Awareness Day, we are sharing 13 tips to consider when supporting grieving children and teens. Grief is the normal and natural response to loss or change, such as the death of a loved one or the diagnosis of a serious medical condition.
- Listen; give them opportunities to share how they are feeling about the loss they have experienced.
- Talk about the person who has died or is sick; share memories, stories, or photos as you are able. By doing these things you give children permission to share their own memories and feelings.
- Remember, it’s important to remember that grieving children and teens want: To understand what has happened when a significant death or diagnosis has occurred, and to be able to express their feelings.
- Be honest and clear; Explain the circumstances using age-appropriate language and let the child’s questions guide what else to share.
- Avoid using euphemisms when someone dies, such as “passed away,” “lost,” “crossed over,” or “went to sleep,” as these can confuse children.
- Answer their questions; sometimes you may have to answer the same question over and over to help them make sense of what is happening.
- Children may respond to grief in several ways, including emotional reactions, physical reactions, cognitive reactions, behavioral/social reactions, and spiritual reactions. Characteristics of grief can be similar within particular age groups, but everyone still grieves differently. Read more about these various grief reactions in the Childhood Grief brochure.
- Admit when you don’t have an answer; saying “I don’t know” is OK! And, find the answer for them when possible.
- Offer consistency in routines to create predictability.
- Provide physical outlets to release energy and big emotions.
- Be flexible in your expectations at school and home because grief takes tremendous emotional and physical energy.
- Instead of saying “I know how you feel,” consider saying, “I’m very sad too.” Similarly, instead of saying “You’ll be okay,” consider saying, “Your thoughts, feelings and reactions are okay just so long as you are not causing harm to yourself or others.
- Remember, grief is not linear. There is no timeframe; each individual person has their own unique grief journey.
These tips have been pulled from Tu Nidito’s brochure, Childhood Grief: Tips for supporting children grieving a serious medical condition or the death of a loved one. For FREE printed copies of this brochure, please contact Tu Nidito at (520) 322-9155 or [email protected].