When kids are grieving, coping with everyday in life can be more difficult. You may notice outbursts of anger and tears, general sadness or even more difficulty listening and cooperating. At school, there may be a lack of focus or inattentiveness – and a general inability to concentrate on a task. This can be especially worrisome for a parent who is watching a child cope with a loss (particularly the loss of a parent). Here are 6 strategies to help a grieving child cope:
It’s hard to get kids to open up and talk about their feelings when they’re anxious and worried. They also often find it hard to put their emotions into words. Kids are much likely to open up and to cooperate if they don’t feel rushed. Yet studies show that parents often don’t give kids enough time to respond in conversation or to directions. Children don’t switch tasks easily or quickly. If you’re tired of repeating yourself you may just need to give your child more time to respond.
Find Something to Praise
Grieving can bring a feeling of hopelessness and uncertainty in the future. Pointing out success gives kids confidence and pride, especially when they are anxious and grieving. When kids feel success at a task or managing a situation they want to do more of it. The key is to keep your praise specific to a task. Try to incorporate praise in the everyday mundane tasks at home or at school. This will give your child added confidence in dealing with simple everyday tasks. By doing this a grieving child will develop confidence on a daily basis that will give more stability. After dinner you might say, “I noticed you put your dish in the sink right after we finished, I’m proud of you for helping without being asked”. Kids love meeting their parents expectations.
Offer Your Child Choices
During grief, kids can often feel overwhelmed and confused. Its harder for them to make decisions and to stay focussed. However, kids can be swayed by logic. In offering them a choice give them some context around the decision. When you can’t give your child an option, for example, touching the stove – offer an explanation, “it will burn you’ and then they will readily understand.
Encourage Kids to Share their Thoughts
Sharing their thoughts will help them verbalise their feelings. Sharing their thoughts also helps them to negotiate which is a critical skill for adulthood. Lets say your child is feeling down and wants to skip soccer practice tonight. Instead of refusing his request outright, let him tell you his rationale. Its okay to give him a pass if he provides a good argument, like wanting to spend time with the family and promising to practice extra later in the week. Just don’t relent if he begs and collapses to the floor in tears to get his way – that’s not a negotiation tactic you want to reward.
Have Fun With Your Child
Having fun in the everyday will give your child a sense of normalcy. If your kids are very young, tell a story, read books together or have fun in the outdoors. The main thing is to keep family activities and traditions alive.
Encourage Healthy Eating
Encourage your child to eat healthy with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables. Its easy for kids to gravitate towards junk food and sweets when they’re feeling down. However, sweet deserts and sugary drinks like soda will only make matters worse. Help kids maintain proper nutrition by pre-planning meals and by providing quick healthy snacks that they can have on the go.