Dealing with death is hard for children. And it can be especially hard at Christmas time when they feel the absence of their loved one more acutely. Here are some ways you can help children cope with grief over the festive season.

 

1. Communicate

Talk openly about the person who has died. Children are literal thinkers, so avoid euphemisms like “went to sleep” and instead use the words “death” and “died”.

 

2. Connect

Let them share their feelings and stories. Talk about anything and everything. Keep the lines of communication open by spending one-on-one time with them.

 

3. Contact

Ask them how they would like be be greeted. By touching elbows, shoulders, the head or maybe giving a high five. Contact is a great way to show them you’re there for them. Also respect their right not to be touched.

 

4. Center

Remember that the family is the center of your children’s world. They need stability. You are it. Stay close by, so they don’t feel abandoned.

 

5. Carry

A special photo or a small momento to keep with them can help a child feel close to the person they have lost.

 

6. Create

Try drawing, colouring or painting. Creating a tree ornament or a festive collage can help children process their emotions.

 

7. Clown around

Children need a break from grieving. Let them have fun. Let them play. Let them be happy. Laughter releases good endorphins.

 

8. Change

Change is OK. Allow them to help make decisions about day-to-day holiday plans. Children may feel they have more control of the situation when they can help make decisions.

 

9. Composure

Don’t feel like you always need to be composed. It’s OK for them to see your tears and feel your pain.

 

10. Celebrate

Go to holiday parties and get-togethers. Remembering the past is important, but so too is creating new memories.

If you or someone you know needs help coping with grief at Christmas, reach out to a family member, friend or counsellor – help and support at this time of year can make all the difference. Or email community@waltercarter.com.au and we’ll help you find the services and resources you need.