When your child loses a loved one, whether it’s a family member, close friend, or even a pet, it’s hard to witness their first pangs of sorrow. And that’s why it’s important to be ready to talk to your kids about grief.
We’re living in unprecedented times, and knowing how to help your child cope with their new feelings will help you prepare for difficult conversations.
So, to help you prepare your own thoughts (because if your child is grieving you most likely are as well) I’ve outlined some of the ways to help you prepare to help your child during difficult times.
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Talk to Your Kids About Grief
I mentioned that you might also be grieving just as your child experiences his or her first loss. If you’ve lost a family member, for example, you are probably coping with the grief as well.
If you aren’t one to talk about your feelings, try your best to keep an open mind and allow your child to talk with you about their feelings.
It may feel uncomfortable, or painful, if your child starts asking questions or saying things that take you off guard. But as a parent, allowing the conversation to grow and develop will promote healthy social-emotional skills.
Just know, it’s completely natural and healthy for your little ones to ask questions.
2. Understand That There’s No Right or Wrong Way for Your Child to Grieve
While you might cope best by openly talking about death, for example, your child may not feel the same way. You may notice them isolate themselves or spend more time on their own.
While it’s ok for them to want space to think, it’s helpful to approach and offer support without hovering.
Their way of coping might be more internal than yours, but as long as you make yourself approachable and available, there’s nothing wrong with a little space.
3. Let Your Child Ask About Grief Without Having All the Answers
Depending on the age of your child, there will undoubtedly be a lot of questions. Embrace their questions, and try not to shy away from them. This is a learning experience and how you respond will help shape their own coping skills as they develop emotionally.
You don’t have to have all the answers (because no one does) but do your best to answer their questions both logically while allowing spiritual meaning to surface—whatever that may mean to your family.
4. Meet Them Where They’re At When You Talk To Your Child About Grief
Children have different understandings of what death means depending on their age and life experiences.
Some children may understand the sadness that goes along with grief and death, others may know they will never see a loved one again, and some may understand the actual concept of what death means.
If you can ask your children what death means, you will be better equipped to answer their questions, and help them through their grief. You may even be surprised at what they already know…just from observing life around them.
You can identify advantageous moments, that are less delicate, to ask your child what they know about death.
For example, if your child is watching a TV show in which the theme centers around the death of a character, you might ask, “Do you know what death means?” And respond based on their answers, while guiding them through understanding.
It may be a perfect time to open the door for questions and a learning moment without being in the heat of real-life emotions and grief.
Death is difficult no matter a person’s age, but helping a child cope with loss is something you can prepare for ahead of time by asking them questions before they lose someone while investigating their level of understanding. That way, you’ll be a better guide for them when they experience loss.
I have a few helpful printables to guide you: