Helping children in your family

When there's a major loss in the family, everyone is affected. Children and teenagers feel grief just as adults do but they may express it differently. They may express their grief in outbursts of anger, sulkiness, worrying about you or by becoming very withdrawn.

The ways children and young people understand death and experience grief are different for different ages and stages of development. Like adults, they need support and the opportunity to understand and express their feelings and feel part of what's going on. Seeing the adults around them crying and talking can be helpful. Spending time talking with the children about their memories of the person who has died, looking at photos and drawing pictures can be helpful.

'Being there' for your children is especially hard when you're grieving yourself. Sometimes people feel they just don't have any emotional energy left for their children. Sometimes teenagers may talk to their friends rather than talk to you.

Letting others help is important. Extended family, friends and school can make a big difference. Stay in touch with your child's school or preschool so that their teachers are aware that your child is having a difficult time.

Skylight is a national organisation that works specifically in the area of children and young people's grief. It offers information and support for parents and professionals who work with grieving children. You can contact skylight at 0800 299 100, at PO Box 7309, Wellington South or by emailing them

Skylight has a useful website which has more detailed information on children and young people's grief, on ways to support them, and resources that you can loan and/or buy.

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