Helping Different Ages of Children with Loss
Death and grieving are aspects of life that we all experience at one point or another. As difficult as they are to deal with, these events are normal. When a child experiences loss, whether a parent, friend, or pet has died, they handle grief differently than adults. Since many different factors will affect a young person’s response, it is good to be prepared for situations where death may occur.
At Lighting the Way, we provide guidance for people going through the mourning process and child counseling in Colorado. Having received a certificate from The Grief Recovery Institute, our private sessions and online classes provide the essential building blocks you need to assist a child through grief. First, it is important to explore the different ways young people go through grief.
How Do Children Experience Grief?
In the case of a death involving someone close to a child, it is important to understand how children grieve. With that knowledge, you are able to help them through their emotions in a healthy way. With this said, the reaction to a death varies widely depending on age, gender, relationship to the deceased, prior experiences with death, and more.
It seems that age is the most consistent factor in the understanding and conceptualization of death. Many institutions have studied the psychology of death and its effects on different age ranges. The first step to helping a child with loss is to start with their level of development. This is a good starting for an adult to consider when thinking from a young person’s perspective.
Different Ages Have Different Experiences
Babies are not mentally developed enough to conceptualize a big, existential idea like death. At this age, they will recognize separation from a parent and cry to show fear. Beyond this, they are limited in their understanding.
Like infants, toddlers also have little knowledge of what death is. They will pick up on emotions around them like sadness and anger, but not connect them to the loss of a person. In addition, the lack of comprehension of death relates to their inability to understand something that is “forever.”
At this age, a clearer recognition of death starts to form. Preschoolers still fail to perceive that death is permanent. With their confusion, they may mistakenly believe that the loss is somehow their fault for being poorly behaved.
As children start developing and growing, the permanency of death takes form. At this stage, they accept death as a part of life. Now with a blossoming recognition of what loss is, they will have more questions about death.
Young Teens and Teenagers:
Older children’s understanding of death is much more realized than small children’s. Having experienced the world through school, society, and family, they will have their own beliefs about death. They may even choose to perform their own mourning rituals or ceremonies.
How to Prepare a Discussion for Different Age Groups
Watch for signs of grief in the child. Depending on their age, grief can manifest as outbursts, lack of motivation, anger, anxiousness, and embarrassment. It is always best to discuss the loss as soon as possible to prevent unresolved grief from childhood manifesting later in their life. The long-term effects of childhood bereavement can build up lingering mental health issues and result in unresolved trauma.
Grief Counseling and Guidance | Lighting the Way
It’s important to understand the age-based child grief stages to be able to explain death to a child well. Catering to the age range of a young individual makes explaining and guiding them through the grieving process smoother. Consider their development level and understanding as you being the conversation.
If you feel lost or confused about how to help a child through grief, Lighting the Way offers child grief counseling. Trained by The Grief Recovery Institute, we have various child grief counseling techniques that can prepare you for these necessary conversations. We provide comprehensive child counseling in Colorado Springs. Book your class or session now to get started.