Grief can be overwhelming for children and adults alike. Perhaps you’re a parent, and someone in your family or a close family friend has recently passed away. You’re trying to deal with your own grief, but at the same time, you know that you need to support your child in their own healing process and help them understand loss.
Or maybe you’re a nanny for a child who has recently lost a loved one, and you’re trying to gauge how they’re feeling. Understand how children commonly display grief can help you be there for your child.
Here are a few signs of grief in children that every parent and caregiver should know.
1. Deep Fear and Anxiety
Both children and adults can struggle with thoughts about their own mortality after the loss of someone they love. Children in particular might suddenly become anxious about doing things that did not scare them before.
They may also feel more fearful about their parents or other adults passing away suddenly. A child who once seemed confident and playful might become withdrawn and nervous. Even spending time alone may become a nerve-wracking prospect for a grieving child. This is a form of death anxiety. In the wake of a loss, your child is worried that something bad could happen to them or someone else they love.
2. Development Regression
Grief can lead to developmental regression in children. Your child might seem less mature than they did before the loss. They may not be able to handle the same level of independence, or they may come across as “clingy.”
Parents who notice that their children seem to be backsliding in terms of their intellectual and emotional development after a loss may be alarmed, but with support and guidance, children can absolutely overcome these setbacks.
If you notice that your child is experiencing developmental regression, it’s a good idea to reach out to their pediatrician and consider working with a therapist to address your concerns.
3. Anger and Irritability
Perhaps your child used to be patient and had no problem picking up good manners. But lately, they haven’t been so polite. They might be fighting with their friends more frequently, or bickering with their classmates. If your child has siblings, they may be arguing far more often than they used to. Your child might even be talking back to you or their teachers.
Grief can stir up lots of complicated emotions, and children might not know how to express those emotions in an appropriate way. Chances are, your child feels angry and sad when they try to wrap their head around the fact that they will never see their loved one again.
They end up directing this anger at other people and taking their emotions out on their friends and family, simply because they need to get it out of their system somehow.
4. Lack of Focus
Ever since the loss, you might have noticed that your child is not doing as well in school. Their grades could be dropping, or their teacher may have contacted you because they haven’t been paying attention in class.
Furthermore, your child might be losing interest in activities they used to enjoy. When you try to ask them how they’re doing, they may not be fully engaged in the conversation. Grief can contribute to brain fog, and even children can experience this frustrating feeling. Your child might have trouble focusing on anything because they’re so distracted by their grief.
Is your child grieving after a recent loss? Working with a therapist can help them heal. Reach out to us to discuss your options for scheduling a session.