Tips for Talking to Children About Grief
By Helen Fitzgerald
- Stay physically close to your children. Hugs and cuddling are in order.
- Be honest but limit their exposure to grim news on television.
- Reassure them of their safety. Ask what they need from you
- Keep communication open between parent and child.
- Be a good listener.
- Talk about feelings and provide outlets for expression: drawing, writing, as well as talking.
- Share your own feelings and let them offer help to you in your depression and grief.
- While there is plenty to worry about, keep adult fears for other adults.
- Ask if children are hearing words they don't understand. Explain the meaning to them.
- When they ask difficult questions, it's OK to say you don't know the answer.
- Some examples: Why? Is he still alive? Did she suffer? Why didn't God protect him? Answers should reflect your own beliefs, be truthful, and geared to the child's age level.
- If a child asks a question that really throws you, simply say: "That is a really good question. Let me think about it for a while." Or ask the child what he or she thinks is the answer. This may lead to a good discussion.
- Watch for physical symptoms or unusual behavior: angry outbursts or total passivity.
- Maintain daily routines as much as possible.
- Try to spend extra time with your children such as reading him stories, or playing games before bed.
- Protect their health; try to see they get appropriate sleep and exercise.
- Watch for symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, possibly reflected in recurring nightmares, or intense anxiety over a period of time.
- Give children something positive to think about, some reason to carry on in spite of the terrible losses that you and they have endured. Example: the way the whole country has become united in grief.
Content provided with permission from The American Hospice Foundation.
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This content was last modified on: 08/26/2008