Parenting 101: Helping A Child Cope With Grief

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parenting 101, children, tips and tricks, children issues, parenting tips
Joseph Gonzalez

Losing a parent or sibling is considered one of the 10 most stressful life events on the Holmes Rahe scale. Children who lose a loved one can
experience a wide range of emotions including sadness, anger and denial. Some experience ‘survivor guilt’, which can occur when a sibling is lost to an illness. It is important for family members who remain to work hard to ensure that children are protected against depression, anxiety, and other mental conditions in the long term, by employing positive parenting strategies, creating a safe environment in which to mourn, and helping them build key cognitive and behavioral skills ~ if necessary, with the help of a skilled therapist.

How does Positive Parenting Work?

According to a study published in the journal Professional Psychology, “Positive parenting by the surviving parent is the single most consistently supported malleable mediator of the adjustment of parentally bereaved children.” Of course, this also applies when the person lost to the family is another child. Positive parenting involves open communication {in which children are free to express how they feel, even when their emotions are negative, as well as to ask questions}; a balancing kindness and discipline; and spending time with children to help them find meaning or at least feel a sense of regeneration following their loss.Parents who are at a loss with respect to finding the right balance between acceptance and setting healthy routines and limits, should seek the help of a therapist, who can help in this area, as well as with cognitive-behavioral therapy {CBT} techniques.

In CBT, a therapist will help a child understand the delicate balance between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. They can help a child
understand that changing just one small behavior, for instance, can bring about a healthy change in the way they view a situation.

parenting 101, children, tips and tricks, children issues, parenting tips
Annie Spratt

Why is Affection so Important?

Affection is key for all children, but it is especially important when one is undergoing a period of grief. Studies have shown that children who lack warmth have a significantly higher risk of health issues related to blood pressure, heart rate, stress hormones, etc. These can lead to a greater likelihood of heart attack or stroke, as well as decline in physical or cognitive functioning.

Finding Your Own Definition of Warmth

Warmth is everything you imagine it to be. It involves enjoying unstructured time, free of ‘watching the clock’ and using tech devices. The aim is to be fully present for your child, take time to play the games they most love with them, hold and hug them and give them compliments for their behaviors, qualities, and ideas. If you have lost your spouse, don’t feel like you are alone in this; enlist the help of family and friends, who will support both you and your child through tough times. Try to include outdoor activities, since nature is a powerful stress buster. Picnics, visits to the sea, or a walk in the mountainside will do plenty to instill tranquility and peace.

Working on Your Own Stress

Losing a spouse or child is undoubtedly the most stressful life events one could encounter. To give your best to your child, it is important to work on yourself as well. Keep stress down through a healthy diet, daily exercise, and mindfulness-based practices such as yoga or meditation. These therapies are currently used in a variety of settings {including eating disorder and substance abuse centers} because of their powerful ability to reduce stress hormone levels. Mindfulness will help you grieve because rather than aiming to suppress your emotions, it invites you to recognize and feel them, while obtaining a healthy enough distance to know that everything is impermanent; that there will be better days although it doesn’t seem so right now.

To stave off depression and other stress-related conditions, allow your child to go through the stages of grief, answering their questions with honesty and creating a warm, safe environment for them. Make time for yourself, too, so you have the energy you need to strike the perfect balance between warmth and discipline/routine. Engage help from others and remember that you are not alone, for there is someone who loves you and can be as strong a support for you, as you are for them.

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