Children often need help understanding and expressing their feelings when someone close to them has died. Here are eight tips that parents can use to help their grieving children cope with death and loss.
Check in with your child: Remind them that you are there if they want to ask questions or verbalize their emotions. It is okay if your child doesn’t want to talk about their person who died.
Validate their feelings: Let your child know that it’s okay to feel all emotions at any point. Grief often comes in waves and looks different for everyone.
Model your grief: Express your grief in front of your child. This can help them understand and normalize that it’s okay to talk about their feelings.
Remember their person: Remind your child that it’s okay to continue to talk about their person and their memories of them.
Explore rituals: Ask family members if it would be helpful to find ways to remember the deceased person on special events, holidays, or anniversaries. Examples include sharing a story about their person or lighting a candle in memory of them.
Check in with their school: Inform the school staff and/or administrators who work closely with your child of the loss and encourage them to notify you of any changes in your child’s behavior. Consider connecting your child with the school counselor for an added layer of support.
Try to maintain a routine: Following a routine keeps things predictable and consistent during a time that can feel chaotic or out of control.
Give opportunities for choice and control: Offering even simple realistic choices in your child’s life can help them gain a sense of control. Examples include what they would like for dinner or picking a family activity.
For additional children's grief resources, refer to https://www.caredimensions.org/grief-support/childrens-programs/Childrens-Grief-Resources.cfm.
For any other questions, contact our Children’s Program at 855-774-5100.
About the authors
Samantha McCarthy, MS, CCLS, is Children’s Program Manager, and Sarah Bujold, MS, CCLS, is Certified Child Life Specialist for Care Dimensions.
In observance of Child Life Month, two Care Dimensions child life specialists provide seven tips for talking to children about death and dying. ...Continue reading
Since 1978, Care Dimensions, formerly Hospice of the North Shore, has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in over 100 communities in Massachusetts.