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According to Alan Wolfelt, "When someone loved dies, children grieve. The most important factor in how children react to the death is the response of the adults who influence their lives. Caring adults - whether they are parents, relatives, or friends - can help children during this tragic time. Handled with warmth and understanding, a child's early experiences with death can be opportunities to learn about life and living as well as death and dying"
Remember, the first step in helping grieving children is to learn from them. The only way to do that is to listen carefully to everything they have to say. You can be a good listener if you:
When answering a child's questions about death and related issues, it is most important to give honest and factual information. You can refrain from certain details given the maturity of the child as long as the overall truth is being conveyed.
Children have a more healthy grief experience when they are included in some of the decision making. Respect your child and his opinions as a valuable member of the family.
Play is a healthy release for children of all ages. Younger children will also act out their grief through games. Observing and playing with grieving children can be very informative for adults.
Create an atmosphere around your children where it is safe (understanding, accepting, and nonjudgmental) for them to express any and all emotions, thoughts, and feelings openly and honestly. Show them that there is no such thing as having a wrong feeling or thought.
Looking at photos, drawing pictures, and writing down thoughts and feelings about the deceased are very helpful activities for adults and children alike. Allow your child to begin a conversation at any time about the deceased and the circumstances surrounding the death. Listen and be supportive.
This is one of the greatest needs of grieving children. Maintaining consistency in routines and activities will help to do this. However, be honest. Do not tell a child that you will never die. Instead, focus on your plan to be here a long time and all the things you do to stay healthy. Also, allow children to know of arrangements you have made in case of emergency and in the unlikely event of your death.
Bed time is one of the hardest times of day for anyone who lost a close family member, let alone a child. Tucking your child into bed, staying with him or her for a while, and even letting your child sleep with you can be helpful.
Your presence is the greatest thing you can give to a grieving child. Spending quality time with children can do wonders in helping them have a healthy experience with death.
Do not be afraid to express your emotions or cry with your children. Being open with them will encourage them to be open with you. It can also prove to be a powerful bonding experience between the two of you.