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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

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