- Be aware of what you yourself are feeling. Have some safe ways of expressing your feelings both with children and teen(s) and away from them.
- Provide ample time and a comfortable physical space to listen.
- Respect whatever unique ways children and teens express their feelings. Know that their expression is likely to be intense, brief and repeated.
- Listen, be present and listen more.
- Arrange some physical methods (clay, paints, old magazines, blocks, etc.) for children to express their feelings.
- Do not overload children with information. Answer only the questions they ask. Be patient when they repeatedly ask the same question(s).
- Offer appropriate choices for decision-making. Death may bring feelings of losing control.
- Answer children’s question(s) with simplicity and honesty. “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer. Describe death and dying in literal items.
- Remember that young children will generalize and associate about important people and emotions. For example: if a sibling died in the hospital, then hospitals are likely to induce certain fears.
- Know that a child will grieve cyclically – at each new developmental level he or she will relive their loss as they continue to integrate the loss into their life at new stages.
- Observe that a child grieves as part of a family, and the entire family structure has shifted. This may mean a change in roles and an additional loss to their grief.
- Respect, encourage, and honor a child’s feelings, whether they are fear, sadness, guilt, anger or love. These are natural feelings that help the child process, integrate and heal from the loss.
- Grief is ongoing. Grief never ends, but it does change in character and intensity.
- Plan ahead for birthdays, holidays, and other special days.
- Let children, teens and their families know that you care.
Prepared by The Solace Tree for Grieving Children, Teens & Families. For more information, visit www.TheSolaceTree.org.