Like adults, children move through the motions of grief. However, the way they do so is often different from an adult and can vary according to their age and environmental influences. Children can move in and out of grief in bursts. If you're trying to help a child manage their grief, certain approaches can benefit both you and them.
Losing someone they're close to can leave a child feeling anxious or insecure. One way you can address this is by creating consistency and certainty. Sticking to their usual routines can generate a sense of consistency that leaves them feeling secure. You can also try honouring small promises. For example, if you tell them that a certain person will take them to school, having that person take them to school shows you're honouring what you say and can lessen anxiety overall.
Just like adults, children can experience anger as a part of their grief. It's important to let them know that it's okay to experience and release their anger. However, they also need to know that releasing their anger cannot involve hurting themselves or anyone else. Actions such as hitting cushions, exercising and shouting in a safe space are all acceptable. Try to avoid encouraging your child to squash their anger down, as it's likely to come out later anyway.
The child psychology field benefits from plenty of research into children and managing their grief. As such, you may find it useful to take your child to see a therapist. With regular therapy sessions, they can explore their feelings in a safe space and work through the motions of grief. The right therapist can also help children of a certain age understand their feelings.
Listening to Them
Even without a background in therapy, you can listen to your child and have a big impact on how they're feeling. Children love to feel understood and heard as much as adults do. When they can see that you're listening to them and taking them seriously, they'll feel a release from the negative emotions they're experiencing. Try not to challenge their feelings as you listen.
Finally, make sure you seek support for yourself. When you're receiving mental strength from elsewhere, you stand a better chance of helping a child cope with bereavement. You may also want to try approaches such as going to family therapy and continuing to communicate with your child's school about what they're going through.
For more information on child psychology, contact a professional near you.