Bereavement support for children

Children can find it very difficult to understand what has happened when someone dies. They often will be aware of the tension and distress of the adults around them. What they understand and how they respond will vary depending on their age, previous experience and individual personalities.

Remember to tell their teacher or nursery teacher who will keep an eye on them in the early days after a death and will be able to suggest the best way to deal with this in the context of the whole class.

They will also have access to the advice of educational psychologists if they feel this might be helpful.

Some of the important things to remember are:

  • Try and keep the security of familiar routines if you possibly can.
  • Remember children can change mood very quickly - being upset one moment and then playing normally the next. This is part of the way they cope but can be difficult for adults to adjust to.
  • Keep talking about the person who has died
  • Answer their questions honestly, using words they will understand.

Remember other children may hear their parents talking about the death if it is known in the local community and speak to your child about what has happened. It is important your child hears information from you first. Do not hide the fact that you are upset and miss the person who has died so that they can feel comfortable showing their feelings too.

There are a number of resources that can support and help children, including specialist organisations and picture and storybooks. There are also helplines and websites for teenagers and young adults wanting to talk with someone about the issues they face after a bereavement.

We can put you in contact with organisations who specialise in providing support to children who are grieving as well as their parents.

See our useful contacts section which includes details of a number or organisations which can help with the support of children who are bereaved and support for those affected by the death of a child in any way.

Also see our short guide to taking children to funerals for people wanting to know how best to answer children's questions.

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