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Parenting Tips When Dealing with Grief

stressed parent struggling to cope when siblings are fighting

Grief is a complex emotion that affects both children and adults. But its expression changes with age. Adults practice grieving rituals and seek closure and support for their loss. This helps them move on with time. As parents, we are responsible to help children with their expression of grief so they can also accept and make peace with the loss.

Here is how you can support your child through grief.

Understand the Grieving Process in Childhood

Children grieve differently than adults. You may see that they don’t sit with their emotions for long. You may see playful childhood behavior even in the face of loss. This emotional response is natural for children and it’s for their emotional health.

Play helps children navigate tough emotions. Simultaneously, it protects them from getting overwhelmed.

They may show varying emotions around death. These can be depression, anxiety, anger, and guilt. You may also see regression in their behavior. Examples include increased dependence on parents, potty accidents, and disrupted sleep.

All these are normal signs of grieving. With appropriate support, the child should grow out of this phase eventually.

Help Them Express Their Emotions

Play is one form of expression children use. Other forms include talking, drawing, and storytelling. You must be present when they are ready to express themselves.

Sometimes, it will start with questions. Be prepared to answer these questions about death, the absence of loved ones, and the permanence of some losses. Answer directly in simple terms. Avoid confusing terms like gone to sleep or passed away.

You may also want to initiate the conversation yourself. Use stories to start talking and hear what they have to say about the story or their loss. Note that they may not benefit from unsolicited information. You can skip details about death and the grieving process unless they ask you about these details.

Ask about their feelings and thoughts and acknowledge them. Express your emotions so they know their emotions are natural and common during the grieving phase.

Say Goodbye

For adults, funerals offer an opportunity for closure. Take them to a funeral if they wish to go. But if you think the experience is too tough for them and they show no interest in attending, you can help them with closure with milder goodbye rituals.

They can participate in an activity that was favored by the deceased. Or you can sit in a family gathering and share stories about the dead. It will be comforting for them to know that even after death; people keep living in the hearts and minds of their loved ones.

If you are religious, you can use the concept of the afterlife to ignite hope in their minds for a reunion.

young girl feeling sad sat on bench by herself

Answer to Their Anxieties

The death of a family member invokes fears among children who might question if the remaining members will stay with them or not. They may ask you if you will stay with them. Assure them that you will probably live with them for many years.

Seek help from close relatives so they can make the child supported, loved, and cared for. Tell them no matter the situation, they will always be loved.

Take Away

One way to ease their fears and depression is to give them a sense of normalcy through the routine. Keep their schedule similar to the one they followed before the death. Enlist support from friends and relatives to prevent your grieving from interrupting their routines.

Routines allow children to remain grounded in the present moment instead of getting carried away with the grieving process.

Stick to Routines

Children may find death confusing and overwhelming. You can help them navigate this complex process by supporting them with the expression of their emotions and being with them. They need extra care and attention from you at this crucial moment. Be open, direct, and available for them to make the transition easier.