Saturday, December 15, 2012

Grieving Child needs a Parent's Tender Guidance

The senseless, evil Connecticut shootings have parents asking, "How do I help my child grieve?" Remember these 2 general rules:
1) Children grieve differently than adults and
2) They'll struggle with grief both now and in the future.
I was contacted after the tragic Columbine shootings years ago; now I'm being asked to offer ways to help parents guide their children through this sudden grief.
The Newtown kindergartners probably don't yet "get" death - they can't fathom its permanency. Young children may think dead people continue to eat, drink, and go to the bathroom in Heaven.
Many children will exhibit their stress, confusion, and grief through behaviors such as:
  • Increased dependency on or clinging to parents/grandparents.
  • More tantrums.
  • Bed wetting or constipation.
  • Nightmares.
Parents can help calm their child by being:
  • Prepared for resistance to bedtime or going to school.
  • Limiting the news; viewing this tragedy can feed more fears
  • Consistency in the household routines, bedtimes, and mealtimes. Children feel safer when their life is comfortably predictable.
Also remember, siblings of those who witnessed this event will absorb the confusion and grief. They'll need help, too.
Grieving is unique and personal to each individual - parent or child. I encourage parents to reach out for help through this tragic, sudden loss by accessing community, church, family, and friend support.
 The Mourning Handbook: The Most Complete Resource Offering Practical and Compassionate Advice on Coping with All Aspects of Death and Dying, by Helen Fitzgerald is a helpful resource.
Do you have other tips or insights to offer parents? Feel free to leave your comment below.

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