How can I help children cope with grief?

Kathy Clair-Hayes
Social Work
At every age, children need hugs and affection. You can also do the following to help children while they are grieving.
  • Allow children to safely express emotions. Sadness, tears, laughter, hurt, anger, relief—try to let your child share her or his feelings with you.
  • Consider what lies beneath. Bravado, obnoxious jokes or behavior, aggressiveness, clinginess, irritability, or apparent indifference can all be expressions of a child's grief. Some children try to comfort others by setting aside their own needs or acting perfect or like little adults. Others would rather make you angry than see you sad.
  • Offer reassurance. In the wake of any tragedy, children worry about what will happen to them. Tell children that they are loved and will be cared for.
  • Try to limit secondary losses. Moving, experiencing the fallout of financial setbacks, and not having someone cheering in the bleachers or attending school events are all examples of secondary losses. Whenever possible, try to preserve a child's routine and recognize feelings that arise as a result of unavoidable changes.
  • Play together and openly encourage joy. If you're grieving, this advice may seem impossible. But remember, a child needs to know it's acceptable to take a break from grief, to have fun again, and to spend loving time in your presence. Let the child be a kid.

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