Children who are grieving have their own difficulties getting through the holidays but the adults in their lives can help make it easier on them. Their little brains are trying to understand what’s happened. Death is just as confusing to them as it is to us as adults. Here are just some ideas to consider as you help a little one through.
- Set limits. Children can easily get tired during the holidays, even more so if going through grief. Be sure to schedule in rest, utilize down time and have your child get plenty of sleep.
- Allow your child to feel however they choose throughout the holidays. Don’t expect them to always be cheerful when they’re going through loss.
- Unless your tears and emotions are completely unmanageable, try not to hide your own sorrow or feelings of grief from children, even if it is a holiday or a special occasion. It is okay for children to understand what the appropriate response is when we lose someone we love. If they are 5 years old, they’ll understand that sometimes we cry when we’re sad. A 10 year old child might cry with you for a minute, feeling connected in that shared emotion. If they are 15, they might roll their eyes and pretend they’re annoyed that you can’t control your emotions all the while secretly feeling validated and reassured that they aren’t the only one thinking about their loved one.
- By acknowledging a child’s loss and grief feelings, you give them the reassurance that grief is normal and that there is nothing wrong with them. Validating their thoughts and feelings means you might have to admit you’re sad, that you miss that person too.
- Keep an atmosphere that is open for them to ask questions or talk about the deceased. By doing this you can actually enhance your connection with that child and strengthen the bond between you.
- Tradition. Consider keeping some of the same holiday traditions but don’t be afraid to start new ones. Talk to the kids to get their thoughts on keeping some old and trying some new. Traditions can be a source of comfort but some may seem too unbearable to go through. A new tradition may help keep your child interested and engaged during this time of the year.
- Find a way to memorialize your child’s loved one. It may be helpful to incorporate the deceased into a special ritual or activity. Even something as simple as putting together a collage or scrapbook of past holidays with the deceased or decorating ornaments in their loved ones name can make the loss easier to bear.
Keeping these tips in mind during the holiday season and even throughout the year can help kids stay focused on the healthy road to healing. Reinforcing the reasons we do have for celebrating can always help put a positive spin on most any occasion. Peace.