Death is a difficult experience no matter your age; and for children trying to understand it, it can be especially hard. As a parent, it’s important to know what avenues you can take to help them—such as signing them up for counseling. Recognizing signs of grief and speaking with your child will ensure they understand what’s going on and emerge from the experience stronger.
A Guide to Helping Your Grieving Child
1. Identifying Symptoms
Every child reacts to death differently. Yours may more noticeably grieve by crying or removing themselves, while others may play normally. Moods can often fluctuate. However, within these actions, there are tell-tale signs of depression, anger, anxiety, and guilt. If your child removes themselves from situations they usually participate in, or loses interest in hobbies, the grief may warrant counseling. This will give them an outlet to express themselves. Let them know it’s OK to be sad and that they haven’t done anything wrong. You’ll gain better insight into what they’re feeling.
2. Being Present
Children who have lost someone to death can have a lot of questions, and it’s important that you’re there to answer them. Often, they don’t grasp the permanence of death. Answer honestly, even if you feel the answers may make them sad. Also, be age-appropriate with your answers so the message is clear. If you have trouble explaining, counseling can be a valuable tool for conveying these ideas to them.
3. Dealing With Side Effects
It’s helpful to maintain routines if your child is overwhelmed with grief. They can find comfort in regularity, and you may as well. Ask friends and family members to keep them on track with after-school sports, play dates, and other activities they’re used to. However, never force them. If your child wants to sit and grieve with you, allow them to.
It’s not always easy to manage personal and family grief on your own. Counseling services can be extremely helpful, and the team at Fairbanks Psychiatric & Neurological Clinic APC can help. They’ve served Alaska residents for over 30 years, and specialize in a number of conditions, such as PTSD, mood disorders, and learning disabilities. They also offer diagnostic services, which you can explore on their website. Sally Caldwell, LPC-S, is now accepting Tricare® as an insurance, so call (907) 452-1739 to book a consultation.