To help the child it is very important that you are truthful about what has happened. When the child has questions it is important that they are answered simply and truthfully. Give them a safe place to let their feelings out about the death or loss. You might notice that the child has regressed; it is acceptable to let them regress for a time.
You should also help them to find creative ways to express themselves. Encourage play and creative outlets for their feelings. Most of all be there for them to listen to their questions and thoughts. It is important that a child know that they do not have to face their loss alone.
It may be helpful for the child and family to enter family counseling. It can be a safe place for a child to let their feelings out without fear of criticism or hurting another member of the family. It is especially helpful if the loss is caused by divorce. Children might have a hard time expressing their feelings to the parent that remains in the house with them. They will miss their missing parent and might fear hurting the parent that remains by expressing that feeling. Family counseling is a good place to freely vent their feelings of loss and longing for the other parent.
Learn all that you can about the feelings that the child may be going through. You will need to understand that their acting out is just an expression of their hurt and anger over their loss. You must let them know that this type of behavior is not acceptable and show them another way to express their feelings. Encourage the child to talk out their feelings instead of the acting out behavior.
With older children there is the danger of substance abuse. Be aware of this possibility and take note of the signs and symptoms. While the parent may be experiencing their own grief and loss, it is important that they pay attention to the child's needs during this time. Children do not have the same coping skills that adults do and will need more guidance in dealing with the problems. If you are unable to help the child because of your own grief, you should seek out family counseling to help the whole family deal with their loss and grief.
For more free resources, visit http://www.thecbtcoach.com Julia Sorensen is the author of “Overcoming Loss Stories and Activities to Help Children Transform Grief and Loss" Published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers:
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