It is never easy to lose a loved one, but it can be even more difficult for children to understand and cope with grief. Many adults don’t know how to properly talk to their kids about death and loss, which can lead to even more confusion and pain for the child. With this in mind, we want to discuss some tips for helping children to understand grief.
Why is it Important to Help Children Through Grief?
Aside from the obvious emotional turmoil that grieving can bring, experts say that unresolved grief can lead to physical health problems later in life. Children who haven’t had the chance to process their grief are also more likely to have difficulty in school and social situations. It’s important to give kids the tools they need to deal with death and loss in a healthy way.
How to Help Children Through Grief
Talk Openly – The most important thing you can do is talk to your child about the person who died. When doing so, use simple language and be as honest as possible. At all times, encourage your child to ask questions and share their feelings.
Often, we think that children are dealing with grief well when actually they simply don’t understand what’s happening. If we avoid talking about death, they may make up their own stories to fill in the gaps, which can lead to further confusion and anxiety. With better understanding, children can get some form of closure rather than allowing emotions to fester unresolved.
Make a Memory Box – A memory box is a special place where kids can keep mementos of the person who died. These can be things like photos, letters, poems, cards, or small items that remind them of the person. Having a place to keep these things can be very comforting for children. Whenever they want to feel close to the person, they can revisit the box.
Explain the Importance of Headstones – Do your children know why we have headstones? This can be a confusing concept for children, who may not understand why people need a tombstone or marker. While you don’t need to explain the difference between double upright headstones and flat headstones, you should explain that a headstone is a way of remembering someone who has died. It’s a physical representation of that person’s life, and it can be a place for people to visit and reflect on the person’s life.
Talk About What Happens to the Body After Death – Depending on the age of your child, you may want to talk about what happens to the body after death. This can be a difficult topic, but children need to understand that the body is just a shell; the memories and spirit of an individual live on.
Explain the Funeral Ceremony – Rather than allowing your child to attend a funeral without any explanation, it’s best to explain the ceremony beforehand so that they understand what is happening and why. You can tell them that the funeral is a way to say goodbye to the person who has died and to celebrate their life.
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Encourage Questions – Finally, encourage your child to ask any questions they may have about death, grief, or the funeral ceremony. It’s important to provide honest answers and to allow them to express their thoughts and feelings. If they can’t ask questions, how will you know what they’re thinking and how they’re dealing with the process?
By following these tips, you can help your child to understand and healthily cope with grief!