Telling The Children
Remember you are your children’s most precious resource and you need to look after yourself for their benefit as well as your own. Involving another adult can help share the load, you don’t have to be all things to all people! Take time out for yourself to so something as ordinary as having a relaxing bath, a walk or read a book. Its not wrong to try and forget your feelings for a while, it doesn’t mean you have forgotten the person or what’s happened. Trying to switch off just gives your mind a well deserved rest.
The first thing to communicate…
…to your child is ‘You are not alone: I am with you’. Share your feelings with your child. They want and need information and participation in the grief process. Let children know that feelings take precedence – stop cooking, reading the paper, etc.
Make sure children get the clear message…
…that the death was not their fault. It was not because they were bad in any way or because they were unlovable. Neither was there anything they could have done or still do to alter the situation. It is best not to tell the child ‘Don’t worry’ or ‘Don’t be sad’ etc. As with parental grief, they are unable to control their responses. Also avoid messages that tell the child what he/she should or should not be feeling.
Do not criticize or seem shocked by statements and feelings.
Encourage the child to accept strong feelings, explaining that recovery to creative healthy living involves pain. Unfortunately there is no short cut.
Be honest about the deceased
Show that they were loved for themselves alone with all their strengths and weaknesses. Let children know their value has not changed, that they are loved and special.
Don’t deny your pain. It is all right to cry in front of your child
The child may speak of feeling the presence of the dead person. Do not dismiss this lightly because some children, like some adults, do have these experiences.
Be clear about the words you use
It is best not say the dead person ‘fell asleep and did not wake up’, as children may then be afraid of going to sleep and not waking up again. Don’t say ‘we lost your dad’ as children will fear becoming lost while out shopping etc.
Parent-teacher co-operation should be sought
Teachers underestimate the time that a child will be disorganized. It usually lasts beyond the first anniversary of the death.
Don’t worry about ‘regression’
Allow it until equilibrium and energies are renewed. The child usually emerges stronger and more competent. If the regressive behaviour causes problems anyway from the home, try asking the child if they could confine the behaviour to the home only, explaining you reasons for this request. To increase confidence, encourage the child in all his/her abilities.