Helping Children Cope with Grief
Children, like adults, experience grief in many different ways, and each has his or her own pace of recovery. There are things that you can do to help a child through the grief process, which is important to do, as children often don't understand their feelings, and may need your help, guidance, and support to cope.
The most important thing you can do is talk with your child, and encourage him or her to ask questions. Answer their questions as simply and accurately as you can.
Talk with the child about your feelings, and encourage the child to express his or her feelings. Listen to what the child says and how (s)he says it. Is the child expressing anxiety, fear, or insecurity?
Help them explore and understand these feelings. Watch the child at play to see what he or she is expressing here, as well. Children will often express strong emotions by acting them out through play.
While we're on the subject of playing, consider providing toys and activities that help the child relieve stress. This can include modeling clay, finger-painting, playing in water, or other messy activities that allow them to express themselves and relieve tension and stress.
You may find the child wants to hit or kick things, or otherwise behaves aggressively. This is normal; encourage the child to express these feelings by hitting a pillow, stuffed toy, or a ball. This will allow them to express the anger and tension in a non-harmful way.
Reassure the child, letting him or her know that you're going to help him or her through this, and that you're in it together. You may need to repeat these reassurances several times, and you may also need to answer questions more than once.
It's important that you not become impatient with the child if this happens. You may want to spend extra time with the child when you're putting him or her to bed, and you may find that even children who haven't been bothered by the dark in the past suddenly want a nightlight.
Touch is a key component of healing, especially for children. Hold and physically comfort the child--you may find this comforts you during a difficult time as well.
If you're concerned that the child is taking a long time to heal, or isn't getting his or her emotions worked through even with your help and support, you may want to consider finding a counselor for the child. Grief counselors and other mental health professionals are trained in helping both children and adults through stressful times and working through their grief.