Ways of helping a child or young person
East Lothian Council leaflets
The three leaflets below contain information that parents/carers and school staff may find useful when supporting a child or young person through bereavement, loss and grief.
What to do
Acknowledge what has happened
Let the child or young person know that you know of their circumstances.
Do not be afraid to use the word dead/death.
Children and young people will need opportunities to be quiet and process their thoughts.
Normalise their response
Let the child or young person know that different feelings are associated with bereavement and loss.
There is no right or wrong way to feel.
Be Clear, Open & Honest
Use simple concrete language that is suited to the child or young person.
Avoid using euphemisms as they can lead to confusion and increased worry.
If required, give basic facts without giving too much detail - Be guided by the child or young person’s questions.
Find out what the child knows and speak with parents/carers about how to support the child.
When faced with loss or change children and young people will ask questions to help them make sense of what is happening.
This can be challenging for adults. You do not need to have all the answers.
When a child needs to talk. The child may break off from conversation. This is fine. They will come back to it if they want to /when they are ready. Do not be surprised by their ability to set the grief aside. Play helps children express themselves and release anxiety. Children need to know it is okay to feel happy.
Allow the right not to talk
This can be difficult.
Look for opportunities where feelings and emotions can be expressed through creative activities such as drama or play.
Being supportive/predictable can help make children and young people feel safe.
Maintaining routines and consistency can also help.
Be prepared to repeat information
This does not reflect on your response.
The child is continuing to explore their thoughts and feelings.
What to avoid
Avoid the following terms:
Went to sleep
Is up in the sky
Gone to the other side
Now you have to be a big boy/ girl
You are now the man/woman of the house
Your family needs you to be strong
I know just how you feel
At least …………
Your mum/dad would not want you to be……
Resources for talking to children and young people about death
Look after yourself
Your capacity to help is related to how well you feel. Make sure you take steps if you feel you need help by reaching out to others. Regular sleep, a healthy diet, exercise and staying connected with friends and family all help.
Activities and ways of remembering
Children and young people collect items in a special box. Items that remind them of the person who has died and times shared with them.Examples could include - cards, perfume/aftershave, tickets from an outing, an item of clothing, jewellery or photographs.
This is a scrapbook containing all important keepsakes connected with the person who has died.Examples include; pictures, drawings, tickets, postcards, letters/ certificates.
A memory jar is a visual representation of memories.A jar can be layered with different colours of chalk mixed with salt to represent different memories, you can also add objects to the jar that have significant meanings.
This can help a child or young person gain a sense of where they, and the person who has died, fit into the family. A family tree can be put together.Family photographs, documents, stories of the person's life, certificates and mementoes can be included.
Perfume and Aftershave
Spraying the dead person’s aftershave or perfume onto a scarf/hankie or carrying a small item belonging to the person can help provide comfort.
Made from pieces of fabric belonging to the person who has died (shirts, blouses, trousers).
You can also have a photograph of the person who died printed on the cushion. Hugging the cushion can provide comfort.
A playlist of music that the person loved can be helpful. As a way of connecting with their favourite memories and processing emotions.