Supporting Children in Grief as a Clinician: Middles/Tweens (9 to 12 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 9 to 12 years of age, what you can say to them to help, and how their grief looks different than an adult’s.

Common Grief Reactions

  • This age may have social vulnerability
  • Youth may need to understand their new identity without the person who died
  • May desire more independence & control which will reflect in their grief reactions
  • Isolation may be a grief reaction at this age
  • Reunification fantasies are a common and normal grief reaction that does not necessarily mean the child wishes to die
  • This age group will be impacted by grieving caregivers, this is ok

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

  • Honest discussion of feelings/journaling feelings
  • Plan together ways to memorialize their loved one
  • Creating a memory box/book/poster
  • Write a letter to the deceased
  • Celebrate their loved one by eating a food that they liked, listen to music that they enjoyed or doing an activity they liked, together

Things to Remember

  • Child and tween 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.