Helping Children Cope with Grief

How can adults help children cope with grief? Children experience losses and grief as they grow up. COVID-19 has created a significant amount of loss and grief for children in the past year.

What does grief in children look like?

Every child’s experience is unique and there isn’t one “right” way for children to grieve. You might notice some of the following (Kidsgrief.ca):

  • Physical: headaches, stomach aches, restlessness, difficulty sleeping and extreme tiredness, tight jaw, changes in appetite
  • Emotional: sadness, anger, helplessness, guilt, worry or fear for their own safety, loneliness, numbness
  • Cognitive: confusion, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulmess, lack of interest, uncertainty about how to act with friends, worry about forgetting someone who has died
  • Behavioural: regress to earlier behaviours such as thumb sucking, seek more attention and physical affection, meltdowns and tantrums, hyperactivity, seek distraction, withdrawal and isolation, very organized or disorganized

Because of developmental differences, children at different ages can exhibit grief in different ways.

Grief in children can look different than grief in adults.

Grieving in chunks from Canadian Virtual Hospice on Vimeo.

Strategies and tips for helping children cope with grief

10 Ways to Help a Grieving Child – National Alliance for Grieving Children

For Educators: Module 2 – Strategies for supporting grieving students – KidsGrief.ca

For Parents: Module 3: Supporting a grieving child – KidsGrief.ca

Grief & Loss – Kelty Mental Health

Helping Children Cope with Grief – Child Mind Institute

Helping Kids Grieve – Sesame Street in Communities

Top 10 Tips From Grieving Children and Teens – Lighthouse: Peer Support for Grieving Children, Youth and their Families

What Not to Say to a Grieving Child – Psychology Today

Children’s Books

Books can help children understand their feelings and know that they are not alone. Books can be a conversation opener. Find recommended titles in the following lists:

18 Books to Help Grieving Children Heal

25 Children’s Books That Explain Death and Grief to Kids

Books to Help Children with Grief and Loss

Books to help children cope with loss and grief

Grief & Loss Resources for Children

Learn more

Coalition to Support Grieving Students

Don’t Use the ‘D’ Word: Exploring Myths about Children and Death

Grief Tip Sheets

Helping Students Through a Period of Grief

Helping Young Children Grieve and Understand Death

KidsGrief.ca

How Children Process Grief and Loss through Play

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