Home Page Helping Children and Teens Cope with the Death of A Loved One

 Helping Children and Teens Cope with the Death of One Loved 

  1. Be aware of what you yourself are feeling; have some safe ways of expressing your feelings with children and teens away from them.
  1. Provide ample time and a comfortable physical space to listen.
  1. Respect whatever unique ways children and teens express their feelings; know that their expression is likely to be intense, brief, and repeated.
  1. Listen, be present and listen more.
  1. Arrange some physical methods for children to express their feelings.  Examples: clay, paints, journaling, tearing of old magazines, blocks, etc.
  1. Do not overload children with information; answer only the questions they ask.  Be patient when they repeatedly ask the same question(s).
  1. Offer appropriate choices for decision-making.  Death may bring feelings of losing control.
  1. Answer children’s question(s) with simplicity and honesty. “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer.  Describe death and dying in literal items.
  1. Remember that young children will generalize and associate about important people and emotions.  Example: if a sibling died in the hospital, then hospitals are likely to hold certain fears.
  1. Know that a child will grieve cyclically – at each new developmental level he or she will relive their loss as they continue to integrate the loss into their life at new stages.
  1.  Observe that a child grieves as part of a family, and the entire family structure has shifted.  This may mean a change in roles and an additionalloss to their grief.
  1.  Respect, encourage, and honor a child’s and teens feelings, whether they are fear, sadness, guilt, anger or love.  These are natural feelings that help the child and teen process, integrate and heal from the loss.
  1.  Grief is ongoing.  Grief never ends, but it does change in character and intensity.
  1. Plan ahead for birthdays, holidays, and other special days.
  2. Let children, teens, adults, and friends know that you care.