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Tips for Guiding Children/Teens as They Deal With Grief

  • Be available to the child/teen.
  • Listen (with your ears, eyes, and heart).
  • TOUCH (say, “I care. I am here if you need me.”).
  • Face your own feelings of loss and grief. Share them if you like.
  • Be open and honest with feelings. Create an atmosphere of open acceptance that invites questions.
  • Encourage expressions of grief (talking, writing, painting, yelling, etc.).
  • Acknowledge the reality that grief HURTS! Do not attempt to rescue the child (or yourself) from hurt.
  • Provide appropriate places to express grief.
  • Provide a quiet, private place for whenever the child needs to be alone.
  • Respect the child’s need to grieve. Almost anything can trigger grief.
  • Understand that priorities can change. What you think is important may NOT be considered important by the child.
  • Realize that grief causes difficulty in concentrating. Children often experience a shortened attention span. Schoolwork is often affected.
  • Set realistic goals with the child concerning his/her behavior, school performance and homework. Help the child create his/her own routines.
  • Maintain a daily routine if at all possible. Continuity becomes as safety net for grieving children. The continuity of attending school daily, being required to perform certain tasks in and out of school and having a social routine provides children with some security and sense of stability in a topsy turvey world.
  • Temper your expectations with kindness and understanding.
  • Do not isolate or insulate children from grief. Grief is a NORMAL and NATURAL REACTION TO LOSS (of any kind).
  • Understand that other losses often accompany great loss. A change in residence, caretaker, school or peer group all add to the grief experience.
  • Try not to single out the grieving child for special privileges or compensations. He/she still needs to feel a part of his/her peer group and should be expected to function accordingly.
  • Help the child find a supportive peer group.
  • Help the child’s friends learn to be supportive.
  • Become part of a caring team by establishing lines of communication with everyone involved with the child. Keep each other informed about the child’s progress.
  • Understand grieving children are often “busy” with the tasks of establishing a new identity. WHO AM I NOW? becomes a major concern. Family roles may change as well as identities.
  • Know that grief lasts far longer than ANYONE expects. It may take months or even years before a child displays signs of the full impact of a family change.
  • Have resources available about grief, loss and change.
  • Understand that children and young people will continue to deal with the losses/changes they experience as they grow and mature. They will NOT GET OVER IT, but they will learn to GROW THROUGH the grief and discover that LOVE NEVER GOES AWAY.

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