The price we pay for love: Supporting your child in grief and shock
After the devastating Margaret River tragedy involving the loss of an entire family, many have asked us this morning, "how do we support the school children”
No one understands your child, like you do. Family, schools, local church, and sport clubs are the most supportive networks for children. Learn mental health first aid, for emergencies or circumstances for which your child may be grieving. We generally under-estimate the time it takes to recover. There is no 'normal reaction', only 'common reactions’. Children react differently to an emergency depending on their age, proximity, developmental stage, temperament and previous experiences. For many, it will be their first time learning to live with the pain of loss.
Children need: Reassurance - lots of it. They need to know that their needs will be met, they are safe with you, and that you can handle their questions and reactions. Maintain their routines where possible Let the children be the teachers about their grief and shock. Be a good listener. Let the children express their grief in their own way. Don’t assume children understand in the same way. Ensure your response is age appropriate, concrete, honest, yet not overburdening. Don’t hurry their processing along - psychological healing time is different to chronological healing time. Be consistent: children may become repetitive in their questions. Let the child know that you want to understand what they are feeling. Be patient and provide clear, consistent answers that the child will understand. Don't be afraid to ask the child what they are thinking or feeling, as they will often be forthcoming if they feel that they will be heard and accepted. Children will be aware of your sadness and difficulties with a situation - remain open and willing to talk (in an age appropriate, emotionally safe way).
Finally, if you are concerned about how to respond, or about your child’s responses, book a longer consult with your Doctor. The GP can assess you for a Mental Health Care Plan where you can access programs and services to assist you in attending to grief reactions.
‘Sunflowers and Sad Days’ is a program developed by Masters & Co. designed to help parents and teachers understand: Normal reactions to grief, loss, and shock. Including when to seek help for yourself, or a child. Grief reactions in children. What to look out for, and the warning signs that a child is not coping. How to talk to children about grief and loss. How to help and support children, others, and ourselves. The kind of help available for individuals and families, and how to access it.