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Healthier Ways to Teach Children to Deal with Grief and Pain

Published Feb 24, 2020

One of the hardest things we have to do as parents is to watch our children suffer. Sometimes, life happens, and families go through changes where for one reason or another, loved ones leave our lives. Here are some tips on how to help support your children through their grieving period, along with some tips on teaching them to deal with their feelings of pain and grief. 

Children may know about death, but most do not understand it. The first time they experience it for themselves could be when a pet dies or perhaps when a grandparent dies. It is important to help them move through the grief process at their own pace.

Each child is different and may handle grief and pain in surprising ways. Kids also express grief differently from adults. They can seem oblivious to it because they want to play, but they truly are not.

Use Direct Language

Children are wired to take things literally. They believe Santa comes down a chimney because parents tell them that. They also believe what you say about death. Trying to soften it with phrases like "they went to sleep" or "they passed on" doesn't do the child any good. It will just make them afraid to sleep.

Tell them the person or pet died. Explain your views of the afterlife and create the opportunity to talk about spiritual things, like God and heaven, with them.

Keep the Same Routine

This is one of the most crucial elements of helping a child move through the experience of grief and pain. Children recognize routine as security. They need to know that, although death changes things, life will go on as it did before. A set daily routine is comforting to them and performing daily routine tasks could help you move through your grief as well.

Give them a therapeutic activity like art or crafts

This can do several things for both of you if you do it together. First, it is a quiet way to express grief. Children tend to express feelings in things like art and crafts, so it gives them an outlet. It could also be a conversation starter for you to find out more about how they feel and what they think about the situation. If you do something in memory of the person or pet lost, it can create a keepsake that helps them remember the joyful times with that person or pet later.

Don’t Be Afraid to Show your grief

Children watch their parents or family members and try to emulate the behaviors they see. It's no different from grief. You may feel like you need to be strong, but let your children know you are also dealing with pain. That way they know two things. First, they know that you did love the deceased. Second, that it's okay to feel sad.

Those adults or children who are having trouble expressing their feelings of grief or feel stuck in the process could benefit from seeing a grief coach. They can help you process and heal from grief.

Don't ignore the absence of the loved one

Children see your efforts to cover up for the absence of a deceased loved one as a way to forget them. Let them know that their absence will change how things are done in some ways, but they will not be forgotten.

You may want to set aside time on the deceased's birthday or another special day to honor them so your children will be able to freely remember then. You can cook their special meal or take the children to a place they enjoyed with the deceased. May it a joyful day of remembering them, rather than a sad day that they aren't there.

Implementing these strategies into your lives will help all of you navigate the new waters of grief. Eventually, your family will to the other side.

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