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Helping a child deal with death of a parent- tips and ways to help the grieving children cope with the loss and pain.
Losing a parent can be devastating for a child and those close to the bereaved kids have to help them mourn their departed dad/mom in healthy ways (don’t forget the experience is so new).
Below we have compiled some tips to point you in the right direction when it comes to helping a child deal with death of a parent.
Helping a child deal with death of a parent- useful tips and tricks
The following are some ways of helping a child deal with death of a parent:
#1- Getting Through the First Few Days
Ensure they understand what exactly has happened
Before anything else, it is very important to ensure the child fully understands the meaning of death.
So have the child sit in a familiar spot, for instance, their bedroom- you can even bring them their favorite toy because you want to be sure they are super comfortable as you explain the ugly news
Sure, it might sound a little bit cold but you want them to know that it will not be possible to ever see their mommy or daddy again.
Stick to routine
After the demise of mom/dad, try to stick as close to the child’s normal routine as possible.
This will help ease some of the behavioral changes that are common in young minds when something sad happens like acting silly (some scream and scream) or not eating.
Answer the hard questions truthfully
Expect so many questions from the child like when will their father come back.
Here is the thing: The kid is not really looking for deeper meaning about death – and this is what some think.
Instead, answer the question directly, no matter how painful it will be for the child because it will help them start to grasp the finality of death.
Most importantly, this is not the time to be indirect to a child – don’t say “She has gone to a better place” in an attempt to comfort the kid (sending mixed signals it can be pretty confusing for young children).
Do not pretend
Kids are keen enough to notice changes in your mood and they become even more worried if he/she senses that something you’re trying to hide something from them.
That being so, do not pretend that everything is okay..you are also likely still hurting so shed a tear openly when you feel overwhelmed
You see, it’s best to keep your feelings open to the children -who are now in your care- and explain to them why you’re crying.
For instance, you can say “am crying because I miss your mom and she will never come back”.
But, of course, try not to frighten the child by showing too much grief.
Let the kid air their emotions too
During this time, you might find the child acting out scenarios about death.
If you notice this, do not attempt to discourage them- it will help them go through the emotions and this is a very healthy way for kids to process their sorrow.
Be prepared for many different reactions
Kids not only feel terrible sorrow over the death of a loved one but they may as well feel guilt or anger.
Reassure your children that there is nothing they have done that caused the death and don’t be surprised if he or she expresses anger toward you, the doctors and nurses, or even the deceased.
Things may change all of a sudden and your kids may have tantrums more often, this may be a way of getting the little boy or girl’s own sadness out (or as a reaction) to the stress and heartache in your home.
Be careful about the funeral
Children need concrete ways to mourn the death of a loved one but you need to tread carefully when it comes to the memorial service and funeral.
Here is what we recommend: If you feel that your little one might not be ready to attend the funeral – because seeing an open casket can trigger emotional overwhelm – speak to them caringly about it.
You can instead evaluate whether letting the child attend the memorial service will be more comfortable for them- if it is, perhaps he/she can light a candle, sing a song, or take part in some other befitting ritual.
Quick Tip: In case you realize the child is absolutely determined to view the casket, try to explain what the body will look like, what a coffin is, how other people may be acting, and share as many other details about the event as possible to make the child fully prepared to the ceremony.
After the funeral
Getting healing often takes a lot of time so you need to continue supporting them until they become used to a new life (under your care).
Here are some ideas to help him/her adjust:
Involve the kid in as many activities as possible
Get him/her involved in activities/chores especially those they seem to have a passion for.
For example, invite him/her to help you cook..
If you’re making soup (or pasta) he/she can stir. And if you’re making toast he/she can set the toaster.
Most of all, do fun things often together while you can- take trips and even take a video of those precious moments (family gatherings, game nights, etc.).
Talk glowingly of the deceased parent
Make it a habit to talk about the good relationship the kid had with the deceased-it also helps a lot.
Also, going forward, if they want to speak to mom/dad, you can get maybe a stuffed animal(or something like that- depending on their age) and tell him/her “if you wanna talk to daddy, you can hold this ___ and say everything you want to”
Get him/her a pet
Do you have any pets?
This might sound a little crazy but getting him a kitten (or a puppy) can help enormously – Maybe spending some time with the pet if you notice the kid is lonely.
Let him/her join a support group
Look for a support group (for children who have lost a parent) and have them join it.
This could be really helpful since the kids draw together and talk in language that’s at their level.
When to get professional help
Children can sometimes be difficult to help cope with such situations and this may give you a hell of a time.
Now, if the child is not showing any improvements (and has been disturbed for months) it could be time to talk to a therapist about professional grief counseling.
Helping a child deal with death of a parent- Recap
To help him/her find closure, show the kid consistent love, be slow to anger, and practice a ton of patience.
Something so important -just use language (and terms appropriate) for his/her age level and keep the communication lines open (Ask him/her what they want to say/do)
Better still, treat them like your little partner all along because this may take a while to overcome.