Acute Responses to Loss
Assessing the Risk for Suicide
Holiday or Anyday Blues
Sudden, Accidental or Traumatic Death
September 11th Resources
Warning Signs & Symptoms
Complications of Grief
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
How to Help a Grieving Person
How to Help a Grieving Child
Ways of Coping
Poems & Quotes
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~ How to Talk with Children ~
Talking with children about loss, grief, death
and dying, knowing what to say or how to say it can be a very daunting
task, but a very important one. The following lists suggestions on how
to talk with children and help them in their grieving process:
Listen to and take your cues from the child. Find
out what they know or what they are aware of happening. Don't assume they
are afraid. Conversely, don't assume that they are unaware of what has
Pay attention to when children want to talk or have
questions. Make sure they know you are available if they want to ask questions.
Answer their questions directly. Give honest, simple,
brief answers to their questions, but don't give them more information
than they ask for or that they need. Consider answering on a "need to know"
If the child keeps asking the same question over
and over again it is because he/she is trying to understand and make sense
out of the disruption and confusion in their world. They should be allowed
to discuss their own theories about what happened in order for them to
reassert control over their environment and understand the trauma.
Younger children do not understand that death is
permanent, so their repeated inquiries are because they expect everything
to return to normal.
For those old enough to understand the issues of
death should be addressed. They can be told that death is permanent and
sad. The grieving process should be acknowledged and shared.
Make sure they understand your answers and the meaning
Use words or phrases that won't confuse a child or
make the world more frightening.
Acknowledge the child's fear. Reassure him/her.
Take their fears seriously. Even though they might
seem exaggerated by adult standards, don't try to talk them out of what
they are feeling or thinking.
Talk to them calmly. Keep your emotions in check.
Parental despair can interfere with a child's ability to recover.
If you are feeling so upset you don't want to talk,
provide your child with an honest explanation. You may want to take "time
out" and ask another family member or trusted family friend to help.
Be especially loving and supportive. Provide physical
reassurance with lots of hugging, cuddling and touching.
Gauge their media exposure according to their age.
Babies, toddlers and preschoolers should be shielded from media reports
as much as possible. Limit exposure for school age children. Be sure you
watch with them.
Even if you feel the world is an unsafe place, you
can reassure your child by saying, "The event is over. Now we'll do everything
possible to stay safe. Together we can help get things back to normal."
Reaffirm the future and talk in "hopeful" terms about
future events. A hopeful outlook can help a child rebuild trust and faith
in his own future and the world.
Tell children of other national tragedies that have
happened in the past--the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Challenger Space
Shuttle explosion. Explain to them that life goes on. Emphasize that the
United States has overcome these tragedies in the past and will overcome
American Academy of Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry. Fast Fact # 8. Children and Grief. Updated November 1998. Available
National Mental Health Association.
Helping Children Cope With Loss. 2001. Available at: http://www.nmha.org/reassurance/childcoping.cfm.
Doka KJ, ed. Living with Grief:
Children, Adolescents, and Loss. Washington D.C.: Hospice Foundation of
American Academy of Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry. Fast Fact # 36. Helping Children After a Disaster. Updated
March 2000. Available at: http://www.aacap.org/publications/factsfam/disaster.htm.
National Institute of Mental Health.
Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters. Available
Children will look to
For which way to turn
To learn how to be.