Children’s Grief Counseling in Columbus, Ohio
Losing a loved one is a heart-wrenching experience, especially for children. As parents, providing optimal support is essential, but navigating children’s grief can be overwhelming.
Ever been unsure about what to do, say, or not say? It’s okay, we’ve all been there.
That’s when children’s grief counseling can be beneficial. It helps children and parents know how to navigate conversations, activities, and emotions surrounding loss. Though not required, seeking professional guidance can be a crucial step toward creating a safe and structured environment for your child as they grieve a loss.
Understanding the complexities of a child and grief
Each child experiences grief in their own unique way, and it’s often based on their age and developmental stage. For example, infants and toddlers may display changes in behavior, while preschoolers begin to grapple with the concept of death. School-age children express it through various emotions, and adolescents face a distinct set of challenges.
Infants and toddlers
During the early years of life, infants and toddlers can sense changes in their environment such as the absence of an individual and the emotional unrest that comes with it. As a result, grief often manifests through change in behavior which may include:
- Sleep regression
- Loss of appetite
- Increased fussiness or irritability
At this stage, the primary mode of communication is non-verbal, making it essential for parents to observe and interpret these cues. Seek to provide comfort and stability in response to their needs.
Preschoolers, typically aged 3 to 6, begin to understand the concept of death, but may not fully grasp the permanence of loss. Their expressions of grief often involve a mix of curiosity and confusion, and you might notice them incorporate these themes into their play.
They may ask questions about where the person has gone, when they will return, or if they can be found elsewhere. Responding to their questions with simple, honest, and age-appropriate explanations helps guide them through this stage of understanding grief and loss.
A simple explanation might sound something like:
“Grandma’s body stopped working, and she won’t be able to be with us anymore. Even though we can’t see or touch Grandma, her love will always be with us in our hearts.”
School-age children, between 6 to 12 years old, express grief through a variety of emotions. This stage is typically marked by a growing ability to understand the permanence of death, yet their emotional responses can be complex.
Kids in this age group may experience sadness, anger, guilt, or even moments of apparent normalcy. They might struggle with changes in routine and may need support in articulating or navigating their emotions. It’s crucial in this stage for parents to provide opportunities for their children to express their feelings – perhaps in a creative way.
For example, to encourage conversation, you might say:
“I can see that losing Aunt Suzy has made you really sad. It’s completely okay to feel that way. We can draw a picture together to remember the happy moments you shared with Aunt Suzy. And if you feel like talking about it, I’m here to listen.”
Teens and adolescents
Teens grapple with grief and loss on a more complex emotional and intellectual level. They may exhibit a range of emotions, from intense sadness to anger or withdrawal. Adolescents are simultaneously developing their own identities and may question existential aspects of life and death.
Peer relationships, academic pressures, and the desire for independence can further complicate their grieving process.
It’s vital for parents to encourage open and honest conversations while respecting their teen’s need for space and independence. In other words, be present when they’re ready to talk, and offer space when they’re not.