To a family who suffers the loss of a loved one, the grieving period can be a rollercoaster of confusion, emotions, chaos, and changes. This can be a trying period for the children who may not have the mental or emotional capability to cope with the loss. Yet sometimes, the children’s emotions can easily be overlooked as they may be expected to recover from their grief quickly or the adults themselves could be struggling with their own emotions.

Here are some ways we can provide adequate bereavement support to our children:

Be open and truthful when informing our child about the situation. This will allow them to trust us, and be more willing to approach us if they need help. However, as a child’s age affects how he/she processes information, we would need to adopt age-appropriate ways of communicating with our children.

By understanding and accepting their emotions, we will be better able to extend patience and a listening ear to them when they ask questions or exhibit seemingly irrational behaviour. We can also encourage them to express themselves non-verbally, through writing, drawing, etc. Importantly, remind them that they are not alone in dealing with their waves of emotions, and that we are grieving together and supporting each other as a family.

Monitor their behavioural changes. This will to help us deal with the situation promptly and discover if something is amiss. There are, however, some common reactions that should be allowed expression over a period of time, such as denial, mood swings, complaints of physical ailments, etc.

In the midst of the instability caused by the loss and grief, implementing or maintaining an everyday routine helps bring back stability into our children’s lives. Besides, being engaged in other activities may also help take their mind off the grief.

Feel free to express your own emotions. By doing so, and especially in age-appropriate ways, you are able to teach your children how to understand and express their own emotions. However, refrain from a strong demonstration of your emotions, which you may wish to do so in private with your own support group as this could have a negative impact on your child instead.

Recommended resources:
"Coping with bereavement" by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH)
Living with Grief” by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH)
"Age-to-age guide on how to talk to your child" by Parents.com

Tags: Parent-Child Relationships /Child Development /Family Issues