Caring for grieving children

Supporting grieving children can be challenging, but it's important to be honest, listen to them, and seek additional help if needed. Grieving is a natural and healthy part of life, and it's okay to grieve in front of your children.

Remember to take care of yourself so that you can take care of them. It’s important to make space for your own grief, while also supporting your children through theirs. If you feel like you need to talk about your experiences to another adult, don’t hesitate to reach out to your support network or a grief counsellor.

Be honest with your children, where age appropriate

Children deserve age-appropriate, honest, answers to their questions, even if the news is bad. As tempting as it is to shield them from pain, they are generally better off knowing the truth now (rather than finding out from others, or learning later in life), and being able to trust you.You don’t have to go into additional detail, be guided by their questions.

Surround them with love and support

Allow people who love and support your children to be present. Say yes when people (that you trust) offer to take the kids off your hands for a bit. This can be helpful for both the child and you.

However, keep in mind that being around other families where both parents are present may bring up emotions and may be confronting for them.

Understand each child's grief is unique

Just like adults, children's reactions to grief are unique. You may find that each of your children react and cope differently. If they are school aged, make sure their teachers understand how they are processing their grief and what extra support they might need.

Listen to them

Children will have a good understanding of when they are ready to return to school and their extra-curricular activities. Some may find the routine of their regular activities helpful, so encourage and enable this where you can, without adding too much pressure.

Take care of them

In moments when you feel like you are failing, remember that you are the most important adult in their lives, and they love you. Take care of them, hug them, love them, make sure they brush their teeth and feed them, even if it's cereal for dinner for a little while! It's also important to remind your children that they are safe and protected, and that you are too.

Maintain their routine and connections

Children need routine, so try to keep their days as normal as possible.

If you’re finding it hard to meet commitments, don’t be too proud to ask for help from those you trust. For example, carpooling with a parent you know to extra-curricular activities.

Keeping your children engaged and in contact with their friends and the activities they enjoy, if they’re up for it, can help them cope. But also let them know they have the freedom and space to opt out if they choose.

Seek additional support if needed

If your child needs additional support, it can be very beneficial to seek counselling for them, either individually or as a family. It might be easier for them to share their feelings with a neutral person. There are also many books about grief, written for children, that may help facilitate conversations and help with their understanding of what is happening.

It's okay to grieve in front of them

Grieving is a natural and healthy part of life, and it’s alright to grieve in front of your children. This will teach them that emotions are a healthy part of life. Holding yourself together too much in front of them may teach them that emotions need to be held in. It’s also important to talk about their parent who died; share stories and talk about them in order to help them preserve their special memories.

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