The newsLINK Group - Children and Grief

Editorial Library Category: Medical | Pediatrics for Members Topics: Children, Grief Title: Children and Grief Author: newsLINK Staff Synopsis: When a child loses someone, who is important to them, such as a parent or sibling, it is one of the most stressful experiences that child can go through. Additionally, adults in the same family often feel uncertain and confused during this crisis because they are dealing with their own grief. Editorial: Children and Grief 4064 South Highland Drive, Millcreek, Utah 84124 │ thenewslinkgroup.com │ (v) 801.676.9722 │ (tf) 855.747.4003 │ (f) 801.742.5803 Editorial Library | © The newsLINK Group LLC 1 When a child loses someone, who is important to them, such as a parent or a sibling, it is one of the most stressful experiences that child can go through. Additionally, adults in the same family often feel uncertain and confused during this crisis because they are dealing with their own grief. The family pediatrician can sometimes be an important source of support for the child and for the family by providing them with appropriate support, information and educational materials. One in 20 children in the U.S. will lose a parent by the time that child is 16 years old. Even if children don’t lose a parent by the time they leave high school, the majority will at least have experienced some form of significant loss. Ignoring that grief is a mistake. How can a pediatrician better prepare to handle the challenge of supporting the families in their practice? Be familiar with the situations that cause children grief, as well as the way grief can affect children, so that you can better understand the behavior you see or are told about, which will make it easier to offer suggestions that will help. Grief often manifests itself indirectly through emotional issues. Age and maturity affect the child’s ability to handle difficult life circumstances, but it’s a fair bet to say that if a child of any age has serious problems at school, including issues such as acting out, fights with classmates, and an excessive number of late arrivals and absences, these might be indicators of a child who is overwhelmed and needs help. Additional indicators may include the following: The school might tell the parent that a child is approaching the school nurse with somatic complaints. A child might not be sleeping well and might go through a period of poor academic performance as a result. Children might not be hungry at school or might eat large quantities of food. A child might have strong emotional outbursts over relatively minor problems. A child might be unusually quiet or might want to cling too much to a particular person. If you are told a particular child is showing one or more of these indicators, then it is time to investigate a little more deeply and to try and find out what is happening. When you are helping a child who is dealing with grief because of personal illness or illness in the family or social group, the following points should be kept in mind as you interact with the child, the parents, and other adults close to the situation: Although it may not be appropriate for a child to be given a complete explanation of a particular disease, they do have a right to accurate information even if that doesn’t involve all the details. If a parent is sick, children should be told that the parent won’t have as much energy as usual Children should be told what is going on and what will happen in the immediate future. That includes telling them when someone is probably going to die soon. Children who are not informed are likely to feel angry, afraid, and anxious. That doesn’t help them cope with the situation. It is also kinder to give children a chance to say a final goodbye than it is to hide death from them. If there is a treatment, children should be told how it will impact their life. If there will be a change in routine, rides to school, or play dates with friends, then they deserve to be told about that, too. Tell children that the adults in their life are still going to take care of them and that there is a support system in place to care both for them and for the person who is sick. Let them know what the support system consists of. Encourage caregivers to let the child provide at least a little support.

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