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Grieving Resources

Dealing with the death of a friend, family member or loved one is difficult enough for adults. It’s even harder for children. Parents often struggle with how to talk to their children about death. The table below has some age appropriate tips on handling the news with your child.

 

Preschoolers and Kindergarten

General Information

Possible Reactions

  • May think death is reversible or not permanent
  • Avoid euphemisms
  • Provide opportunity to express thoughts and feelings about death through play and art/drawing
  • Answer questions using concrete descriptions
  • Be prepared to repeatedly answer questions
  • Increased anxiety
  • Crying or screaming
  • Clinging to caregivers or other trusted adults
  • Fear of separation
  • Regressive behaviors such as wetting pants and thumb sucking
  • Decreased verbalization
  • May think death is contagious

 

Elementary Age

General Information

Possible Reactions

  • May ask questions to try to understand
  • Below age 8, may engage in magical thinking and believe they could have prevented the death.  Recognize fears, but do not validate
  • 9-12 years old, may feel less comfortable showing feelings and seeing expressions of grief in others.  Make sure to provide these students with a variety of ways to express grief.
  • Behavior difficulties
  • Decreased concentration and/or academic performance
  • Poor school performance
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Withdrawal
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Re-telling of event
  • Somatic complaints (headaches & stomach aches)

 

Should your child attend the funeral/viewing?

It is often difficult to know if you should have your child attend a funeral or viewing. If this is a question or concern for you, the first thing you want to do is determine how your child feels about attending the viewing/funeral. If your child expresses a strong desire to attend, one thing that may help the process would be to take it step by step.
 

  • Once your child has dressed and gotten ready to attend make sure that they still feel comfortable going. 
  • When you arrive, again ask how comfortable they are walking into the building.
  • Enter the building, stop and talk with your child before they view the casket.  Let them know that at any time, they can retreat. 
  • Remember that your child’s comfort level is the most important aspect of this process and remind them that they can leave at any time.

 

Parent Resources

The National Association of School Psychologists is another great resource for parents, offering a number of helpful advice, books and talking points online through their website www.nasponline.org.  

Click the links below to find information on the topics listed:

 

If you feel  you need additional resources to help your child, please contact Penn-Harris-Madison Learning Division at (574) 254-2815.