Losing a loved one is difficult for most children. On top of that, the way a child deals with these kinds of losses can impact how they deal with grief as an adult. There are certain things parents, guardians, teachers and others who are close to the child can do to ensure a child properly copes and recovers from the grief of losing a loved one. This ensures that helping children cope with grief will develop mechanisms that will endure into adulthood.
How to Answer Children’s Questions When Grieving
Children often have a hard time processing the death of a loved one, and naturally, they often have questions. This step in the coping process is very healthy, although it is important to handle the situation appropriately and ensure children receive the right answers in the right manner.
The following are eight useful insights into how to properly answer questions about helping children cope with grief.
Avoid Nonspecific Answers
One of the most common mistakes we make as adults when helping a child cope is shielding them from the reality of the situation. Children are often smarter than adults give them credit for, and they usually know when an adult is trying to specific answers to their questions.
Rather than withholding information or providing indirect answers, give specific answers to all questions the child asks. Giving nonspecific answers may lead to increased fear and anxiety, whereas direct answers help establish trust and a communicative relationship between the child and adult.
It is essential to ensure the child knows that the death of their loved one is not at all their fault. One way to make sure they understand this is by being direct with them about what happened. For example, if the child’s loved one died from a heart attack, explain to them that they passed away from a heart attack, explaining how a heart attack happens in the simplest terms possible.
Always be Honest
Many adults feel the urge to obscure the full truth to protect their child’s feelings. While this may work in the short-term, it can create serious developmental concerns as the child grows older and realizes what actually occurred. Adults should be completely honest when letting the child know that their loved one passed away, emphasizing that it is not the child’s fault.
Remember to be Compassionate and Loving
Children need to know that they are not alone in the situation. The best way to let a child know they are okay and that are not going through the grief alone is to be compassionate and loving.
Of course, the easiest way to do this is to assure them you love them every chance you get. It is also helpful to check up on them often and ask how they are doing. Even if they seem bothered by all of the attention, letting them know you care will help them through the process.
Speak in Ways That They can Comprehend
While it is important to be direct and honest, it is also essential to speak in a manner that the child understands. Most children are not going to understand complex medical terms. When they ask questions about how their loved one died, it is important that they can understand what has occurred.
Allow Them to Grieve Appropriately
The grieving process is natural, and it is important to allow children to grieve in their own way. Since children cannot verbally express themselves as well as adults, they often gravitate to other methods of grieving, such as a change in behavior or through self-expression, like drawings. While it is important to be there and monitor their grief, it is also encouraged to let them deal with the situation in a way that is natural for them.
Observe Their Grieving and Engage Them Often
More than the words we say, simply being is often the most important aspect of helping children cope with grief. Encourage them to spend time with you and other family members, and engage with them on a personal level to ensure they are okay. By doing so, they will be more comfortable confiding in you in the future.
Share Your feelings With them
One of the worst things children may feel during the grieving process is that they are alone. One way to let them know that you are in it together is by opening up to them about how you feel. By letting them know how hard it is on you as well and expressing your own feelings, the child will feel that their feelings are valid and that they are allowed to express them however they need to.
Reach Out to Harbor Light Hospice to Learn More
To learn more about the grieving process for children and how you can help them through the difficult time, get in touch with our professional team at Harbor Light Hospice. Harbor Light Hospice has experience counseling people through the grief process that occurs after the death of a family member, and can guide you through the steps that will come next so you and your family members can be prepared and work through things together. Contact Harbor Light Hospice for any questions or to seek out help with your family member.