When we lose a loved one, we, as adults, know that grief will come. We know there will be pain, and there’s a good chance we have already gone through it before. We have the coping mechanisms to help us through the loss and pain that comes with it. Children may not have had the experience before, or they may be too young to have normal healthy coping skills yet. As adults, we will need to help and teach them to grieve.
Here are ways to help a grieving child.
1) Take Care of Yourself
This may seem like an unusual way to start since we are talking about helping children to grieve. But it is an essential first step. We need to come to terms with our own grief before we can help someone else. Exercise, eat healthily, talk to people, stick to regular routines, and take care of your own needs, and you will then be equipped to help a child.
2) Be Honest With the Child
Discuss the painful event with them honestly. Be direct and do it in an age-appropriate way for the child. Be honest and answer any questions that they may have. Children will need to hear the truth from someone they love.
3) Actively Listen
Let the child share stories about the person. Let them talk about the pain they may have in their heart from the loss. Let them ask questions and answer them in the best way you can, but always be honest with them. If you can’t answer a question, simply say, “I don’t know.”
4) Acknowledge the Childs Grief
You need to recognize that the child will be grieving. But be careful not to impose your own grief onto the child but allow them to grieve in their own way. It is normal for children to feel many emotions. They may feel sad, angry, depressed, and even happy. They will move in and out of these emotions as the day progresses. At times, they may be super upset, and they may be happily playing about in the next moment. They have short attention spans. If you are unsure of how they feel, then spend time with them, playing and talking and sharing stories about the person.
5) Be Creative
Give the child something to do, like coloring, drawing, or other arts and crafts projects. Let them express their feeling through arts and crafts. They can also express their emotions through music and singing, musical instruments, or playing games.
6) Maintain Clear Expectations
Keep firm rules and boundaries consistent. Children thrive on rules and order and like to know what is expected from them at all times. They especially cling to security through tough times. They may also use their pain as an excuse for bad or inappropriate behavior. Even though times of grieving, children need to have firm expectations and boundaries. This will actually help them through their grieving because they will feel loved and protected. They need to learn, and they must be accountable for their behavior no matter what the situation is.