Supporting Children in Grief for Clinicians: Littles

How to support children 5 to 8 years of age who are grieving.

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 a 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


  • 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
Share Our Guide

Get the guide on understanding of what grief looks like, what you can say to a child to help, and how a child’s grief looks different than an adult’s.

Download the Guide (PDF)
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