Children grieve too, whether it is the loss of a grandparent, a parent, a classmate or even a beloved family pet. A child who is old enough to love is old enough to grieve.
The grieving process can be difficult and every child will grieve in his or her own way. This can come down to their personality as well as age. Knowing what to say and how to support children during this time may not be easy.
So what do you say, who should say it, what do you need to look out for and how can you help. These are questions many parents ask during this difficult time. But one thing is important to remember, no child should have to grieve alone.
Who Should Tell the Child?
Even if this person is grieving too, if possible, it should be someone who is very close to the child. It is okay if the person sharing this sad news is sad and crying, but be mindful not to be overwhelmed and not in control of emotions, as this will only alarm and make this difficult situation even scarier.
What to Say and How to Say It
The child should be told as soon as possible, within reason. The main consideration is that they do not hear this sad news unexpectedly from another source. There is no perfect time to share the news but make it in a place where the child is free to have whatever reaction they want to. It is probably a good idea to try and avoid a public place.
Children are curious so be prepared to answer questions about how or why the death occurred. Use direct language, trying not to go into too much detail. It’s best to keep explanations short, simple and direct and done in a calm and compassionate way. Children grieve too and process death much differently than adults do.
How Can You Help?
Experts agree that no matter what the age of the child there are certain guidelines to stick to.
- Follow their lead. It is better to let them ask the questions and then answer in the best and more age-appropriate way.
- Encourage children to express their feelings. Do not try and protect children by attempting to hide your own sadness.
- Don’t use euphemisms. Avoid phrases like “passed away, “gone, “we lost him”. Children tend to be very literal and may be confused by these words.
- Maintain normal routines as much as possible. Grief takes time but children benefit from the security of regular routines and knowing life goes on as normal.
- Remember the person who died. Don’t be afraid to talk about the deceased, bring up memories or mention a name. This will show your child it’s not taboo to talk about or remember them. It is also important to keep photos around.
The benefits of cuddling a soft toy have been proven to help in times of sadness. Soft toys offer warmth, comfort, and security which is often needed during the grief process because children grieve too.
Joburg-based psychologist, Tsholofelo Jood, says that stuffed toys are not just a cute toy: they are way more than that.
“Stuffed toys are psychologically important and were termed transitional objects by Dr. Donald Winnicott in 1953. The term transitional object captures how these toys give the child the opportunity to not solely depend on the adult caregiver for comfort and soothing.”
Stuffed toys are soft and cuddly for a reason: they are useful for kids to negotiate difficult challenges”.
The soft toys chosen in our children’s comfort box range promise to always be there with unconditional love, offer loyal friendship and supply a lifetime of unlimited hugs. https://foreverinmyheart.com.au/product-category/sympathy-hampers/childrens-comfort-boxes/
Grieving is a natural process and it takes time. If you feel your child is not coping or you are concerned about their behaviour you may need to seek professional help.