The death of a loved one, loss of a friend, family break-up or a big move to another school or home, can be life changing.
Sorrow is very typical of the process and it is common for our feelings to fluctuate one day to the next, even hour to hour!
The truth is that transitioning through grief is hard work, but with a little help, Good Grief’s general manager Melinda Phillips says that parents can learn strategies to help their children adapt to grief and loss.
“It is important to look our for grief reactions – emotional, behavioural or physical – and to know that while these reactions are normal, children may need extra support at these times to feel loved and safe,” Ms Phillips says.
“Young children can be more withdrawn than usual, may act out as they try to come to terms with what’s going on, feel tired, ‘achy’ in the stomach, head and body, or lose their appetite.”
Ms Phillips says there are many things parents need to learn about grieving children, but 10 ways to support your child at home are:
- Start conversation: Give children the chance to talk when they are ready. Don’t assume you know what they’ll say – listen to their feelings and concerns and answer questions simply and honestly.
- Empower their decision-making: Let them have an age-appropriate say in decisions that impact on them. This may include participation at events such as funerals and daily tasks such as meals, homework or family outings.
- Focus on wellbeing strategies: eating healthy food, exercise, sleep and time outside.
- Keep routines: time and mental space helps accept and process change.
- Find downtime: Relax in favourite ways – watch TV, hang out with friends or the family pet, read or play sport. Change and loss can be physically and mentally draining.
- Be flexible: Sometimes homework might not get done, or jobs around the house might be half-hearted. Build some flexibility around your expectations on ‘harder’ days.
- Spend time together: Watch a movie, eat breakfast on weekends together or take the dog for a walk. This provides opportunities to talk and listen to each other.
- Encourage support networks: Allow your child to feel confident asking for help and to know who is available to support them.
- Self-care: You can’t give what you don’t have. Look after yourself, identify your own support network and find down time each week.
- Provide additional support: Speak to your GP and ask your school about the Seasons for Growth program and/or other support and wellbeing programs.
Seasons for Growth is a program Good Grief offers throughout Sydney Catholic schools over 8 weeks in small groups, helps students from Kindergarten to Year 12 find new ways of thinking and responding to change. For more information contact your local Catholic school.