Helping Children Cope with Death

thoughts and feelings. Reassure children as they bring up their fears. However irrational their fears may seem, attempt to view them in terms of a child’s development. A child can usually accept explanations when he/

A child will reprocess their grief

feelings at each developmental level in their lives.

she knows there is adequate support from a parent or caregiver. Responses to fears that are direct, simple, and clear, accompanied by touching and holding, are the best responses. Understand that children frequently substitute feelings they can handle for those they cannot. They may giggle or laugh at things that are not funny. It is important to view this behavior as adaptive coping. No matter how comfortable a child becomes with an age-appropriate explanation of death, he/she will reprocess the experience and his/her feelings about it at each developmental level, throughout his/her lifetime. As a child matures, he/ she will need additional information about the deceased and the circumstances surrounding the death. The child will need additional time, space, and opportunity to grieve and grow. Spend Time Playing Together Children often communicate their deepest feelings through actions. It is best, therefore, to respond to their feelings with actions. Parents and caregivers may support their children by taking time to sit down and play with them, not guiding the play, but allowing them to express whatever they want through the use of toys. Responses like, “Your doll got angry when his Daddy left,” and “Your doll is crying in the bed. What is she sad about?” are affirming and encourage children to work through their grief.


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