Parent Survival Guide: Helping kids process grief during COVID-19

Updated: Aug. 3, 2020 at 7:00 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - With the current coronavirus crisis, it has become more common that children and families are being confronted with the topic of grief and even death.

Dealing with grief can be overwhelming and confusing, specifically with children, and especially during uncertain times like the pandemic.

Psychotherapist Ashley Bryant says every child processes and reacts to it differently.

”Grief is unique to individuals, we all grieve differently and if you’re a part of multiple children grieving in different ways does not mean that one child is grieving correctly and one child is not,” Bryant said.

Although the topic is sensitive and the hurt might still be fresh, Bryant says letting your child express their feelings either verbally or through writing is important.

”I think when it comes to dealing with such a sensitive topic you can leave the conversation open ended and asking the child tell me what you’re experiencing or feeling right now. I would say don’t be afraid to talk about memories that you have had of the person who’s no longer physically here,” Bryant said.

Some common stages of grief might include anger, sadness, denial, or acceptance, she says.

For younger children, she says their moods might change drastically, from laughing one minute, to crying the next. Older children and teens might withdraw or initially refuse to acknowledge what happened.

”We want to normalize grief and let them know it’s ok to be experiencing the pain you’re feeling right now,” Bryant said. “When you allow them to ask questions it allows them to feel like they’re heard and if you do have concerns it’s ok to bring those concerns to my parents and its ok to talk about my feelings.”

Bryant says if months later your child still has intense feelings of grief, acts out, is not to be able to do many normal activities, or isolates themselves, their grief could be tipping over into complex grief.

She says a good option could be to talk to a counselor who specializes in therapy for children to help your child long term.

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