Grief Tips

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Do children grieve differently from adults?

How Children Grieve

Children's grief can look much different from the way that adults grieve. A particular child's reaction to a significant death may vary depending on the child's age and the type of relationship he or she had with the person who has died. Very young children are primarily aware of a change in the mood or circumstances of their immediate surroundings. They may display symptoms of anxiety or changes in eating and sleeping habits. School-age children may not yet be able to understand the finality of death, and it's normal for them to ask repetitive questions about the death in order to gradually process what has happened. With this age, it's important to respond honestly and with terminology that is age-appropriate. Preschoolers and elementary-age children often work out their grief through play. Older children may have many questions about the specific details of how the death occurred, and they may exhibit concern about the well-being of adult family members. In all cases, it's not unusual for children to move in and out of active grieving, appearing to be happy or unconcerned at times and sad or angry at other times. Parents should seek out professional help from a children's grief counselor if their child's grief reaction appears to significantly interfere with normal functioning. In the case where the child has lost a caregiver, grief counseling with a focus on play therapy or art therapy can be helpful as the family adjusts to a new way of life.

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