Supporting Children in Grief as a Clinician: Littles (5 to 8 years)

We hear a lot from folks about how they don’t know what to say or do for kids and teens when someone has died. Many folks are also unsure if a child is grieving “right.” Check out the tips below that can help you gain a better understanding of what grief looks like for children 5 to 8 years of age, what you can say to them to help, and how their grief looks different than an adult’s.

Common Grief Reactions

  • Young children grieve in short spurts or “pediatric doses”
  • Transitioning into understanding the finality of death (5-7 yrs)
  • It is ok for child to look to parents/caregivers’ reactions to grief
  • May have somatic complaints (more visits to the nurse), regression or trouble sleeping
  • May wish to stay busy and/or do things that the deceased person wanted them to do in order to make them proud

Appropriate ways to speak with a grieving child

  • Label/validate whatever emotions they are having
  • Remember that behavior IS communication for you and the child
  • Use clear and concise, age-appropriate language
  • It’s okay if you don’t always have the answer
  • HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY

Activities

  • Draw—your feelings, a memory, or a wish
  • Create a memory box/book/poster
  • Read books together and answer questions
  • Celebrate their loved one by eating a food that they liked, listening to music that they enjoyed or doing an activity they liked, together

Things to Remember

  • Children’s grief is informed by culture, religion and race
  • Maintain a level of curiosity with the child’s experience in grief
  • There are no “5 Stages”; grief is a non-linear process
  • Grief and grieving changes over time

A Message from The Jewish Board

If you or someone you love lives in the New York metropolitan area and need help coping with grief and loss, we can help. Call us at 1.844.ONE.CALL to speak with an intake specialist. You can also contact our Loss and Bereavement Team by emailing griefsupport@jbfcs.org, calling 212.632.4692, or filling out our referral form.