We understand that a death in the family is an extremely difficult thing to go through, and we’re so sorry that the loss of a loved one has brought you here today. On top of everything you’re already feeling, we know your preschooler’s feelings are weighing heavily on your mind as well.
Here’s some ways you can help your preschooler adjust to your family’s loss, and start the long process of healing together.
It’s important to talk to your preschooler and help them understand everything they’re feeling inside. They may feel confused, angry, scared, or sad…and these feeling may come and go, happen in stages, or your preschooler may feel them all at once.
Offering too much information may amplify these negative feelings, so it’s important to keep the conversation age appropriate. Stick to the necessary information at first, and then let your preschooler come to you with any other questions they have.
Keep in mind that preschoolers tend to take things very literally, so certain phrases should be avoided. Saying things like “she went to sleep” or “we lost him” may cause your preschooler to develop a fear of not returning from everyday activities. It’s important to be clear and explain to your preschooler that when a person dies, they don’t get to come back.
Books are a great tool to use if you need some help explaining loss to your preschooler. There’s some great children’s books about loss and grief on this list from Fatherly, ranging in maturity level so you can find what best suits your child.
Your preschooler is feeling a lot of new things right now, and trying their best to be brave, but it’s important for them to know it’s okay if they don’t feel brave sometimes. You can show your preschooler that it’s okay to have certain feelings by sharing some of your feelings.
Of course…You don’t want to throw anything too heavy at your preschooler, but it’s perfectly fine to tell your preschooler that you are feeling sad too. Knowing that you are feeling similar emotions to theirs will help your preschooler realize their feelings are normal.
Sometimes there are no amount of words that can make a person feel better. If words aren’t doing the trick, wrap your arms around your preschooler, hold them tight, and don’t forget…it’s okay to cry.
It may take some time before you or your preschooler are ready to talk about the family member that has passed, but keeping their memory alive will help your preschooler continue to feel a connection to their loved one.
Try to mention your loved one in day to day conversations, and bring up memories you have together. Your preschooler may be worried that they will forget their loved one. Creating a memory box is a great way your preschooler can always have a way to look back on their favorite moments together.
In order to help your preschooler through this difficult time, it’s important to make sure you’re taking care of yourself as well. If you’re having a difficult time dealing with your loss, don’t be afraid to seek help. Sometimes talking to a trusted friend or family member can be enough to help carry us through the rough times, but sometimes you need a little more, and your preschooler might also.
If your preschooler is displaying any of these behaviors, they may benefit from seeking outside help:
- Trouble sleeping/eating
- Problems at school
- Social withdrawal
- Feeling guilty
- Unexplained physical symptoms
To find the best support for you and your preschooler in your state, visit the National Alliance for Children’s Grief.