If a close family member dies, firstly, help your child explore their feelings and talk about their grief.
Try to set aside 15 minutes a day to play and talk with your child, where they can talk about their feelings if they want. If they do open up just listen, without commenting or giving advice -unless you really need to correct something. When you give a child air time, they often find it easier to process their thoughts and feelings.
If your child doesn’t want to talk, that’s fine too. If they need a hug, just hold them. If they’re struggling to open up about their feelings a good way to help them is to say how you think they’re feeling, say: ‘you looked a bit upset earlier.’ ‘You seem a bit down today.’
Children often feel guilty so although this may sound weird, do reassure them that the death wasn’t’ their fault. And that the person who died would want them to be happy.
Grief is different for every child. Some children may feel guilty for not thinking about the death all the time. Or find it hard to feel anything at all.
Just accept that’s how it is. And whatever it is, that’s ok.
Secondly, help your child come to terms with the death by going to the funeral and preserving their memories.
It’s really important that children are allowed to go to the funeral. If they can be actively involved in some way that’s good. And talk them through exactly what’s going to happen during the service.
You may even like to make a special memorial garden or a place in the house with photos that they can go to. Perhaps they could make their own memory or photo book, with their favourite photos and special things they remember? So they can keep their memories alive.
Finally, help your child deal with their loss with routines and planning ahead.
As soon as you can, get back into a regular routine at home for waking up, mealtimes, and bedtimes, because routines will help your child feel more secure.
Help your child plan what to do if they feel very upset or emotional at school.
Grief can be all-consuming at first, and even after a year will still hit your child in waves. Especially at Christmas, birthdays and special days. So make sure that you plan how to remember the person you’ve lost on important days. And gradually find ways for your family to have fun together again.
So the 3 tips to help your child, if there’s a death in the family are:
- Help your child explore their feelings and talk about their grief.
- Help your child come to terms with the death by going to the funeral and preserving their memories.
- Help your child deal with their loss with routines and planning ahead.
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If you need more than three tips on this – or you’d like to discover the secrets you need to have happy well-behaved, children – please contact me by clicking here. You can arrange a free 20-minute (no obligation) chat to find out if working with me personally (by phone, Skype or face-to-face) would help you and your family. Contact Elizabeth