No matter how hard you try to protect them, there are things in this world that can cause your child grief - from a close friend moving away to more serious matters such as the separation of their parents or the death of a family member. If you believe your child is grieving here is how you can help.
Jay Anderson | Southwest Wellbeing Centre
On different grief responses:
“Everyone responds to a loss in different ways, and a grief response can vary. For children it may involve sadness and sleep disruption, or they may "play it out" in their play. It’s important that the adults around them respond with sensitivity to the varied expression of feelings - some children can "regress" and act like a child younger than they are really. It can be quite beneficial for a child to have some counselling with a child specialist - ideally one trained in "play therapy" (see appta.org.au for more information)”
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MyDeal Pro Tip:
Engaging in play therapy at home
Play therapy is a great way for your child to express their emotions without becoming overwhelmed by them. The most effective support for your child will be in conjunction with a trained child therapist however, there are activities you can try at home to help them engage with their emotions and communicate how they are feeling with you. A backyard sandpit is similar to the sand trays found in many child therapy practices and playing and drawing in the sand is an effective way for children to share their story. Paper drawing and artistic pursuits have similar benefits as outlets for your child. Colourful kids furniture, such as a table and chair set, will help attribute positive feelings to the art therapy experience.
Dr. Karen Phillip | Dr. Karen Phillip
On maintaining positivity:
“Younger children can be told it was something that happened a long way away so they need not be concerned. Older children who understand their world need to be spoken with. Never display great concern or shock, perhaps disappointment such an event occurred so they don't feel it is normal. Ask your child about what they have seen or heard and try to find any positive such as a person who was brave and assisted or those who survived.
We do not want our kids feeling the world is a terrible place, we want them to feel the world is bright and beautiful with enormous opportunities while on occasion some sad or bad things do occur. Keeping things as positive as possible is the key for our kids.”
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Dr. Brooklyn Storme | Cerebellum Consulting
On good communication:
“It's important to be open with children and disclose the loss of a loved one as soon as possible. Keeping the lines of communication open will help to reduce confusion and any possible anxiety that may otherwise arise. We each react to grief differently, perhaps with anger, sadness, withdrawal or shock. Responding to your child with patience and understanding can be part of the healing process.”
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Penny Gibson | Capacity Therapeutic Services
On sharing your own experience:
“Whether it's the loss of a loved one, a shift in family structure, a friend moving interstate, or a much-adored pet passing away, children do feel the effects of the inevitable tragedies of life. We cannot prevent a child's exposure to grief or loss but we can help them through these experiences. You can share stories of how you have coped with loss, provide plenty of opportunity to connect with each other, and normalise the feelings that can accompany grief.”
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Unfortunately, tragedy and grief are unavoidable parts of life. We always hope not to deal with them too early in life but some things are out of your control. The important thing is communicating with your kids and helping them through their negative experiences.