Supporting Children in Grief: Middles and Tweens

How to support children 9 to 12 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 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


  • 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
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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