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Supporting Children and Teens

Grief is normal.
Grief is a normal part of the human experience. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, but there are healthy and unhealthy ways to express that pain. Grief for kids is both emotional and physical. Kids benefit from physical outlets since they often do not have all the words to talk about it. 

Grieving kids can feel alone.
Grief can be very isolating and many kids feel alone or misunderstood. Peer groups are highly effective because knowing someone going through something similar helps a child know they are not alone. 

Don’t assume.
Kids will work hard to have their needs met. Do not assume what they are feeling or think you have all the answers. Just because a kid looks fine does not mean all is well. On the other hand, just because a child is having a hard time that does not mean something is wrong or that they need to be fixed. 

You don’t have to fix it.
Kids benefit from open, honest, and understanding adults who do not assume or validate their experience. Listening to a child and being a dependable presence in their life matters. Kids desire consistency. 

Try to understand.
It is more important that you understand a child’s perspective than try to fix their pain. 

Be willing not to know.
It is okay if you do not have all of the answers to the questions a child asks or if you do not know their every thought. Every grief experience is unique and sometimes there is a lot of uncertainty or confusion. 

Children need the truth.
Children understand their feelings, death, and the future through facts and truth. Lies never help. Use facts and not euphemisms or clichés to talk about death. With the truth, kids can learn and develop healthy coping skills. 

Modify your expectations.
Do not expect a child to think or feel like an adult. Kids grieve in spurts, their questions may vary as they try to understand death in addition to their feelings, which they will emote differently than adults. 

Everyone’s grief is unique.
No two individuals will grieve the same, whether they are a child or an adult. Everyone experiences grief differently depending on where they are developmentally, their support systems, the nature of their relationship to the deceased, in addition to many other factors. Everyone is different. It is important that each feeling is affirmed and supported even when a child’s truth differs from yours. 

Be prepared.
Knowledge is power. Use teachable moments to educate a child about death. Learn how to talk openly about this subject matter, using honest language and creating a safe space for present or future needs. 

There are many helpful resources for children and teens and grieving: 

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