Childhood Grief: 10 Tips to explain death to children
Going through a grieving process is not easy for anyone, much more so if it involves death and even more so when it affects the little ones in the house.
It is no secret that childhood grief is an issue that requires patience, but above all understanding and deep sensitivity. We should not underestimate this feeling of children, just because they are small, on the contrary, we should be supportive and help them overcome the loss of their loved ones. However, the big question is how to become that support and know how to cope.
Below, we give you 10 tips to explain death to children in an effective way, but at the same time empathetic, supportive and prioritizing their feelings, so take note.
What is childhood grief?
The first thing you should know is that when we talk about childhood grief, it has to do with a process that children go through when they lose a loved or close one. That is, it can be caused by a family member, a pet, a friend, a neighbor, a classmate or a teacher.
Keep in mind that children show pain in a different way than adults, they go through different emotions, they can usually feel confused, sad, frustrated, afraid and even hoping to see that person again.
Symptoms of childhood grief
There are certain characteristics that are decisive when talking about childhood grief, so you should be attentive if you observe any of these:
When you see that the boy or girl has sudden changes in behavior, they go from happy to sad, they seem withdrawn or aggressive, when they were not used to being like that, they stop eating or sleep poorly.
When we see that he begins to express his pain through actions such as crying, getting angry, laughing for no reason, or simply stopping talking. If he or she had not presented any of these before, it is an indicator that he or she may be going through a different situation for him or her, in this case, grief.
If your little one has concentration problems, that is, he seems distracted and seems to lose interest in everyday activities such as school, games, among others, it may be a sign that his mind is still unable to connect with reality and that he still does not understand the absence of the loved one.
How to help children who are grieving? 10 tips
As already mentioned, supporting children at this stage is essential for their normal development and for them to continue their lives, so keep these 10 recommendations in mind:
Allows you to communicate
Talk to them and let them communicate and honestly express how they feel that loss.
How do you do it?:
- Use words appropriate to their age, that they can understand and that do not confuse them, but on the contrary, allow them to see death as a normal event typical of all living beings.
- Speak directly without creating fear, if you are nervous or hurt by the loss, you should hold back a little, because the most important thing in that case is your little one. You don't want him or her to end up comforting you.
- Listen to him and when he speaks, do not interrupt him, let him tell you what he is feeling and take the opportunity to make him feel supported, look him in the eyes and focus all your attention on what he is telling you.
Don't belittle him
- Validate each emotion, accept what he feels, don't minimize his pain or make him feel stupid.
- Let him know that you care and that you sympathize with that feeling, that he will get over it and that everything will be okay.
- For this you can tell him that what he feels is normal, explain to him how all beings have a mission in life and when they die all the good things they did and the moments shared remain.
- However, it is very important that you always insist that what that person or that being (if it is a pet) would like most if they were alive would be to see you smile and that precisely that force is what should drive them to continue. Go forward with love and honoring his memory in the best way possible.
It is important that you give him time to assimilate everything that happens and to gradually return to normal life.
Facilitates your expression
Allow it to be expressed through activities, for example:
- Art: with painting, songs, stories, theater, all of this helps them heal and get rid of those feelings of pain.
- So if the boy or girl wants to paint, draw, tell stories, write or dance, allow them to do so! Encourage those moments in their daily routine, open those spaces and take advantage of them to share together, this is of great help as emotional intelligence in children and emotional support. expression of your little one.
- Sport is also positive, let him spend some time practicing his favorite sport, maybe it's time to sign him up for those swimming, skating or soccer classes he's always wanted. The energy they burn there is great and it also serves as a way to channel their emotions and get out feelings such as sadness, frustration or anger.
- Make time for the game, this helps them distract themselves, it is an alternative for leisure and it can also become a way of expression, depending on the game, it helps much more when it is something that incorporates creative elements.
- Children should find the secure attachment in children in their elders, so try to maintain their usual routines, but take time to listen to them and encourage them.
- When he speaks, stop what you are doing and pay attention to him, he should feel that what he says is completely important and that telling you those feelings serves to vent without being judged, because you are his safe place.
- You can also tell them about situations similar to those that have happened to you and how you overcame it, or if it is a common loss, talk to them that you also feel sad because that person was important to you, but always encourage them, showing that they will get through it together.
Always support him
- Listen, speak and do not judge, it is a way to accompany all that grief.
- For this you can:
- Promote an environment of trust and dialogue. Try to make it a comfortable place for the child, do not take him out of his comfort zone.
- Let him bring up the topic when he needs to: When he wants to talk, listen to him. Avoid telling him that you don't have time, but if that's the case, tell him in a good way, for example: Would you like to have an ice cream or snack in the afternoon and talk about everything that's happening to you? You know I'm there for you.
It is never unnecessary to seek professional help and support; timely guidance can help the situation be overcome in a positive way. It is a good thing for you and for the little ones, as it is an alternative when you don't know what to do.
It is not true that you have to know how to handle a situation like this, so make use of what you have around you, for example, talk to a psychologist, teacher, another family member that the child loves and listens to.
Together you could work better for the child's mental health. Remember that if the situation becomes complicated and you see that the boy or girl is not improving, but on the contrary is becoming more and more depressed, which affects their routines, you should consult yes or yes with A professional.
Let me ask you
Let the children ask and try to respond with affection and with simple words, avoid crudeness, but always be sincere.
Never forget the age of the little one you are talking to, he is not an adult! He or she may have many concerns that may be silly to you, but to him or her they are important and incomprehensible.
If you don't know how to answer something, take a breath and clarify that there are things you don't know, but what you are sure of is that that being felt great love for him or her.
Remember the loved one
- Always honor your loved one, keep their memory alive by remembering the best of that person or being.
- Tell nice stories about him or her, show him or her photos and let him or her see how love can stay alive even if the person or pet is not physically present.
- Let me pay you a small tribute with a letter and flowers, even a balloon or song, let that be a nice way to say goodbye.
- Some children say that they have seen or dreamed about that person, let them express it and let it be their way of reminding them if he or she wants it that way.
Let me cry
If she wants to cry, let her cry, don't limit her or him. However, do not allow him to stay with that same feeling all day, try to distract him and encourage him, with patience and empathy.
To get him out of the loop you can try the points we have mentioned, taking him to practice some sporting, artistic or recreational activity, or making a small tribute for the person who is not there. Letting people talk also helps, it doesn't matter if they cry, the important thing is not to stay there.
Take care of him
- Teach him that self-care is very important and that he should take care of himself and prioritize being well, which is why it is important that he speaks, expresses himself and understands that seeking emotional help is not wrong.
- Make sure he doesn't interrupt his routine, that is, insist that he eat, take a shower, do his homework, and go out with his siblings or friends.
Obviously don't force him because there will be days when he will want to be alone, but it can go little by little.
Activities to help grieving children
Make a letter
Suggest that your little one make a letter or drawing to their loved one and then symbolically leave it in heaven, where that being can receive the message.
Create a memory album
In which you remember that loved one from photographs and drawings.
Plant a tree
It is a good option to plant a commemorative tree, it is an activity that serves to give thanks for life and link it with the earth and with that being that is no longer here.
Do an activity with your child to commemorate the memory of the deceased, it could be taking a walk through a park, a river, going to a movie, etc. Talk about how much you enjoyed that activity and how happy you will be wherever you are seeing that you remember it without pain.
What to do if you don't get over the grief?
The first thing is to be aware that it is not an easy task, however, you have to take action on the matter if you see that time passes and the pain deepens, which means that the boy or girl is not as they used to be:
Visit a professional
As we mentioned, professional help is very important support and even more so if the grief persists and affects the child and his development. If you find a child psychologist or one specialized in grief, much better. Know the 15 tips to develop empathy in children used by professionals.
A period of therapy will give light to both of you so that you can move forward and go through this process.
Normalize, but without downplaying its importance
Remember that feeling sad is normal, but that sadness should not be normalized. You have to help him get out of that state, as mentioned above, and find activities to distract him and express all that pain, even if he does not express it too much and see as always.
If you see that the child speaks little, ask him how he feels, also talk about your feelings as a way of inviting him to talk and listen to him.
Childhood grief is a complicated process, but it can be overcome through support, empathy and accompaniment, so help children understand what death is and propose to give it a positive spin by teaching them to be grateful for life and everything. how beautiful it is.
Teach them the importance of valuing each day and enjoying it to the fullest in a healthy way and showing love to loved ones.
Let the children always keep in their memory those who left and instill that they remember them with affection, that they appreciate their presence and that all that memory evokes joy and good moments, which in the end is what they should keep in their hearts.