Supporting Children in Grief: Early Childhood (Birth to 5 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 0 to 5 years of age, what you can say to them to help, and how their grief looks different than an adult’s.

Common Grief Reactions

  • Child will respond to family’s reactions
  • Before your child can talk, their grief may be expressed in the body
  • Changes will happen as child gains more language
  • Questions and behaviors may be repeated

Appropriate ways to speak with your child

  • Label emotions as your child gains more language (i.e. I feel sad, I’m glad)
  • Think of your little one’s behavior as communication
  • Be honest, and use child-friendly language
  • Younger children may believe that loss is somehow their fault, let them know it is not
  • It’s okay if you don’t always have the answer

Activities

  • Plan activities you and your child can do together
  • Read books about loss that match child’s age
  • Describe a range of feelings with words and actions
  • Expressing a range of emotions is healthy for you and your child

Things to Remember

  • Children’s grief is based on one’s culture, religion, and race
  • Maintain a level of curiosity with your child’s experience in grief
  • There are no set stages; grief doesn’t happen in any special order
  • Grief and grieving changes over time
  • Reach out to a professional if you or your child needs support

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.