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Grief: Helping Children With Grief


Table of Contents


Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.   Grief: Helping Children With Grief

Key points

Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  What do children do to express grief?
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  Why is it important for children to express their grief?
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  How to help a child during the grieving process
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  Where to go from here

What? - What is the medical information or key concepts related to the action?  What do children do to express grief?

The ways children express grief are usually different from the way adults express it. Children are not always able to use words to express their feelings. Instead, they often express them through behavior. Even children who are able to express themselves verbally may not always be able to express the many, sometimes conflicting, emotions they have. Children may:

How children express grief usually depends on how they perceive the loss (including death). Each child's perception of loss varies according to age and emotional development. In general:

Test Your Knowledge

  1. Children younger than 2 years of age can react to loss.

    1. True

      This answer is correct.

      Children younger than 2 years of age can react to loss. They cannot understand the meaning of losses, but they do react to changes, including losses. They know something is different, are sensitive to the feelings of adults, and tend to become more fussy than usual.

    2. False

      This answer is incorrect.

      Children younger than 2 years of age can react to loss. They cannot understand the meaning of losses, but they do react to changes, including losses. They know something is different, are sensitive to the feelings of adults, and tend to become more fussy than usual.


  2. Children often express their feelings through behavior, even when they are able to say what they feel.

    1. True

      This answer is correct.

      Children often express their feelings through behavior, even when they are able to say what they feel. Even children who are able to express their feelings with words may not always be able to express the many, sometimes conflicting, emotions they have.

    2. False

      This answer is incorrect.

      Children often express their feelings through behavior, even when they are able to say what they feel. Even children who are able to express their feelings with words may not always be able to express the many, sometimes conflicting, emotions they have.


Why? - Why the action is important?  Why is it important for children to express their grief?

The way parents and other caregivers help a child who is grieving often lays the foundation for how the child will react to losses as an adult.

It's important to help a child grieve, because:

Test Your Knowledge

  1. It is important to help children grieve because:

    1. They may have misconceptions, such as thinking that they caused the loss.

      All of these answers are correct.

      It is important to help children grieve because they may have misconceptions, such as thinking that they caused the loss. They may think they are being punished for something they did. Correcting any misconceptions may relieve a child's anxiety and fear. All answers are correct.

    2. They may have concerns that need to be addressed.

      All of these answers are correct.

      It is important to help children grieve because they may have concerns that need to be addressed. It is important for adults to listen to a child's concerns and answer his or her questions or concerns. All answers are correct.

    3. They may not know how to express their grief in words.

      All of these answers are correct.

      It is important to help children grieve because they may not know how to express their grief in words. Children who do not express their feelings may develop other problems, such as behavior problems or physical illnesses. All answers are correct.

    4. It helps them learn to grieve.

      All of these answers are correct.

      It is important to help children grieve because they may learn how to grieve effectively from others. All answers are correct.


How? - Learn the steps involved in taking action.  How to help a child during the grieving process

Before you try to help your child deal with a loss, examine your own thoughts and feelings about loss, particularly about death. Recall your first experience with loss. What helped you deal with it? What was not helpful to you? This is especially important if you experienced your first major loss when you were a child. Remembering your experience may help you recognize and understand your child's feelings. Also, the things that helped you may also be helpful to your child.

Tell other significant adults in your child's life about his or her recent loss. Child care providers, teachers, and school counselors may also be able to help your child work through his or her grief.

Here are some steps for helping children during the grieving process:

  1. Provide safety and security. To express their feelings related to loss, children need an adult who makes them feel safe and secure. Consider your child's personality and his or her comfort level in talking about feelings and concerns.
  2. Consider the child's emotional development. Consider the child's age and emotional development so that you can explain loss and death in a way that he or she will understand. Learn about the emotional considerations for children of different ages.
  3. Make a plan. Think about how and when to approach your child.
  4. Use an activity. Activities create different ways for children to express their feelings related to loss. Try an activity that fits your style and your child's developmental level. If one activity does not work, try another one. Some suggestions include the following:
  5. Evaluate the activity. Observe your child during and after the activity. What emotions did your child express during the activity? What emotions did your child express afterward? Talk with your child about these emotions. Let your child know that all feelings are normal. Clear up any misconceptions he or she has.

Practice one of the activities above in the presence of another adult. After the activity, ask the adult to tell you how effective they think the activity was for your child.

Test Your Knowledge

  1. An activity, such as drawing, may help a child express his or her grief.

    1. True

      This answer is correct.

      An activity, such as drawing, may help a child express his or her grief. Try an activity that fits your style and your child's developmental level. If one activity does not work, try another one.

    2. False

      This answer is incorrect.

      An activity, such as drawing, may help a child express his or her grief. Try an activity that fits your style and your child's developmental level. If one activity does not work, try another one.


Where? - Other resources and organizations that can help you take action.  Where to go from here

Now that you have read this information, you are ready to help a child who is grieving.

Talk with a health professional

If you have questions about this information, take it with you when you visit your health professional. You may want to use a highlighter to mark areas or make notes in the margins of the pages where you have questions.

If you would like more information about helping children who are grieving, the following resources are available:

Organizations

Caring Connections
Phone: 1-800-658-8898 help line
Phone: 1-877-658-8896 multilingual line (toll-free)
Phone: (703) 837-1500
Email: caringinfo@nhpco.org
Web Address: www.caringinfo.org
 

Caring Connections, a program of the U.S. National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), seeks to improve care at the end of life. Caring Connections provides free resources, including educational brochures, advance directives and hospice information, and a toll-free help line for people looking for quality end-of-life information.


KidsHealth for Parents, Children, and Teens
Nemours Home Office
10140 Centurion Parkway
Jacksonville, FL 32256
Phone: (904) 697-4100
Web Address: www.kidshealth.org
 

This website is sponsored by the Nemours Foundation. It has a wide range of information about children's health—from allergies and diseases to normal growth and development (birth to adolescence). This website offers separate areas for kids, teens, and parents, each providing age-appropriate information that the child or parent can understand. You can sign up to get weekly emails about your area of interest.


Support Group

Rainbows
1360 Hamilton Parkway
Itasca, IL  60143
Phone: 1-800-266-3206
(847) 952-1770
Fax: (847) 952-1774
Email: info@rainbows.org
Web Address: www.rainbows.org
 

Rainbows is an international organization that offers peer support for children and adults who are grieving a death, divorce, or other painful transition in their families. Groups are led by trained adults. This organization provides an online newsletter, information, and referrals.


Credits for Grief: Helping Children With Grief

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Sidney Zisook, MD - Psychiatry
Last Revised October 17, 2011

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