Losing someone or something we’re close to can be a painful experience at any age. It can sometimes feel like life without that person or thing is impossible, and grieving takes time.
And while we can’t always control what happens to our families and the challenges we face, there are lots of positive things that you can do to help kids cope with loss, change, grief and stress.
Children need lots of reassurance and support from caring adults to help them come to terms with what has happened. While grief is a normal reaction to loss, feelings of anxiety or sadness may be intense and long-lasting – especially following the death of a close family member, or when families are dealing with traumatic circumstances.
Other losses may include:
- the death of a family member, friend or pet
- separation of parents and family break-up
- change of schools or moving house
- loss of a friendship
- relocating to a new community, city or country
- having a disability or medical condition
- the end of a young person’s relationship
- having a family member in hospital for a long time.
Reactions and behaviour
Common grief reactions can include:
- being anxious
- having bad dreams
- clinging to parents or guardians
- losing motivation for school and other activities.
Sometimes kids show their distress by behaving in ways you would expect from a younger child. For example, they might start wetting the bed at night, sucking their thumb, or using baby talk.
Remember that children might not always be able to articulate their emotions. By observing their behaviour and gently inquiring about it, you can often get a clearer picture of how they’re feeling.
Helping children deal with loss and grief
Knowing what to say and helping kids come to terms with loss and grief can be difficult, especially if you’re also dealing with the loss and all the feelings that go with it. When grief is very intense, or when it lasts a long time, it can interfere with children’s ability to manage everyday life. It may also lead to mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression.
If you’re concerned that your child or young person isn’t coping, they might need some additional support from a health professional