Help Children Deal with Loss

By: Betty Dangler, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist
Thursday, September 14, 2017

~~Help Children Deal with Loss
As parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, what do you see as your most important role in regard to children? To protect your children from anything that will harm them or make them feel sad.  You want them to be happy and successful.
There is one skill that we do not usually teach our children - how to deal with loss of any kind in life. What do you tell your child if he or she feels sad? Do you try to take the feeling of sadness away by promising them something tangible?  Here is an example.  Your child loses her grip on the string of a balloon and the balloon floats away. What do you do when she cries? Do you tell her not to cry and not to feel sad? Do you tell her that you will get her a new one? Even with a new balloon, she still seems upset. She had an emotional attachment to that first balloon for whatever reason.
Sadness is an emotion, a feeling. It requires “special handling”.


What are some losses that children can experience?
-Change in school
-Friend moves away
-Parent remarries
-Divorce of parents
-Death of parent
-Difficult subject
-Second place not first place

If we are going to help a child through any of these losses, we must look through the eyes of a child.

Here are 6 parenting tips that will help your children for a lifetime!
1. Listen with your heart and not your head. Allow your child to express all of their emotions without judgement, criticism, or analysis. You need to remember that while this loss may not seem that dramatic to you, it is to your child. Even if you offer him or her reasons not to feel sad, they will not make your child really feel any better.
2. Recognize that grief is emotional, not intellectual. Avoid the trap of asking your child what is wrong, because he or she will automatically say “nothing.” Your child does not understand that you are practicing a new skill set with them and remember that the last time they felt sad, you gave them logical reasons not to feel that way.
3. You are the adult and you need to go first! Tell the truth about your own loss, your own grief. This will make it safe for your child to open up as well. If you were not directly affected by the loss that has affected your child, remember and tell them of a similar or parallel loss in your life. You need to do this without any comparisons! This is not a competition over who should be hurting the most, but rather an opportunity to create a chance for your child to feel safe in sharing his or her feelings.
4. Remember that each of your children is unique and each has a unique relationship to the loss event.  They will not respond the same way. You need to let them know that this is normal and that one is not right in his or her response and the other wrong.
5. Be patient.  Don’t force them to talk. It may take a little time for them to feel comfortable to your new approach to helping them express their feelings. Again, they will still be expecting you to tell them why they should not feel bad.
6. Never say “Don’t feel sad” or “don’t feel scared.” Sadness and fear are the two most normal feelings attached to loss of any kind. They are part of being human. Rather than say these things, offer them a comforting hug.


These are just first steps that you can take to better assist your children to cope with loss, but they are an important start. Loss is a part of life and as a parent, you can teach your children positive tools to successfully deal with that pain in their hearts.
We try to protect our children from having to deal with unpleasant situations. What we often forget is that the ability to successfully deal with emotional sadness is a survival skill that they will need throughout their lives. If sadness is suppressed, it will come back again. It sometimes comes back when we least expect it.


Giving them this set of tools can be one of the greatest gifts that you will ever give them!
What will you do the next time your child has to deal with loss?

 

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