Helping children deal with grief

Dec. 20, 2012 at 1:10 AM

NEW YORK, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- When tragedy strikes, parents are doubly challenged -- to process their own feelings of grief and to help their children do the same, a U.S. psychiatrist says.

"As a parent, you can't protect you children from grief, but you can help them express their feelings, comfort them and help them feel safer," Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, a psychiatrist at the Child Mind Institute in New York, said in a statement.

"By allowing and encouraging them to express their feelings, you can help them build healthy coping skills that will serve them well in the future, and confidence that they can overcome adversity."

Koplewicz advised to:

-- Invite children to express everything they heard about the tragedy, and how they feel. Give ample opportunity for them to ask questions. The goal is to avoid encouraging frightening fantasies.

-- Be a role model of calm. If you talk to your child about a traumatic experience in a highly emotional way, then he will likely absorb your emotion and very little else.

-- Reassure children about how unusual this kind of event is, and the safety measures that have been taken to prevent this kind of thing from happening to them.

-- Help children express their feelings.

-- Don't volunteer too much information.

-- Memorialize those who have been lost, by drawing pictures, planting a tree, sharing stories, or releasing balloons. It's important to assure your child that a person continues to live on in the hearts and minds of others.

-- Do something to help others in need as it can be very therapeutic.

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