How Parents & Caregivers Can Help A Grieving Child

Every year, one in five children are left grieving the death of a loved one. Those children, who are often suffering in silence, need support–and Kristina Jones is on a mission to make grief counseling more accessible and more fun. 

After losing her own father as a young child and hiding her grief inside for years, Jones was inspired to write My Forever Guardian which gave birth to her idea for Guardian Lane, a mental health platform designed to help and unite children as they heal after loss. “Studies show that when kids are grieving or have any adverse child experience, it can turn into toxic stress that causes mental and physical issues later in life if it’s not dealt with,” Jones says. “Kids need to release that stress so they can thrive.” To help in the grief process, Guardian Lane connects children and their caregivers & provides personalized support through on-demand videos, telecounseling sessions, weekly emotional insights, and creative grief projects. 

Whether you’re supporting a child who has lost a parent, want to know how to help a child grieve the loss of a grandparent, or have a child who’s experiencing the loss of a community or a divorce, the grief journey isn’t one to walk alone. Jones and her advice can help.   

Don’t confuse death 

While saying the word “death” can be emotionally difficult for parents, the word “loss” can be even harder for younger children to comprehend. If you need to explain to younger kids what it means for someone to die, find relatable words or phrases like their body isn’t working anymore rather than introducing a less accurate concept. “Always address death head on, telling the truth while avoiding sugar coating your conversations,” says Jones. “This won’t be your child’s last experience with death, so helping them recognize that there is a life cycle early on sets them up for success in future traumatic situations.” 

Explain what grief is 

Giving kids a name for what they’re experiencing can help them better understand their feelings, so it’s important to introduce the word grief and its meaning early on. “Explain that grief is going to pop up at times and that when it does, you’re there for them and so are their teachers,” says Jones. Prepare kids that they may hear or see something in a song, story. show that will bring on emotions- and that it’s totally normal.

Check in on emotions  

Grief in children is usually hidden. They may not know how to express their emotions, or sometimes it’s that they don’t want to upset an adult. “Never assume that because a child is smiling or acting normal that they’re not grieving,” says Jones. “You should consistently check in on them, because eventually they’ll be ready to express how they feel.” If you’re struggling with what to say to a grieving child, you can ask questions like How are you feeling? Is there anything you want to talk about? Is there anything you don’t have answers to? Is there anything I can do to support you? “Don’t forget to let kids know it’s also okay to need you another time when grief comes up,” she says. 

Prompt self expression 

According to Jones, the grief goal is to get kids comfortable verbalizing how they feel, but until they get to that point, grief activities for kids can be very therapeutic. “With creative grief activities, kids are pushed to get out what they’re thinking and feeling internally by using their other senses,” says Jones, who intentionally designed Guardian Lane to include fun video challenges along with music and art projects that actively engage kids. She also notes the importance of teaching kids how to handle being uncomfortable. “Opening up about grief now will help kids feel confident asking for help and verbalizing other emotions and experiences later,” she says.  

Guide children forward 

“When kids verbalize how they’re feeling, we can guide their thought process toward the truth,” says Jones. For example, a lot of grieving kids feel it’s their fault. If the child never speaks to that emotion, they could go their whole life thinking they caused something. “If these feelings are left unaddressed, they can lead to mental and physical health issues that extend into adulthood,” says Jones. “To help your child thrive, you have to heal after loss not ignore it.” 


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