The holiday season can be an especially difficult time of year for children who have lost a loved one. It’s important to provide support and understanding to help them process their grief.
However, this can be a more challenging matter as the holidays elicit many emotions and memories. And it may be harder for your child to overcome or express those feelings.
Below are useful ways parents can help their children grieve through the holiday season.
It’s important to give your children space to acknowledge their feelings. You may feel the need to be there at every second. However, they may want to deal with it in their own way and not want to talk about it.
Therefore, they don’t have to converse about their loss or grief, especially if it feels too overwhelming for them. Try not to force the conversation if they’re not ready.
If you initiate a conversation, consider being sensitive to their needs and avoid making them feel guilty for not wanting to talk about it.
For your children to process their grief, sometimes it helps to talk to them about their loved one that passed. Try not to minimize the loss by pretending it’s okay. This will not subside the pain they feel and will only add confusion to what is already an overwhelming situation.
Instead, it helps to talk openly about it by expressing how you both feel. Being open to talking about your emotions encourages them to talk about it and helps them think it’s safe to lean on you.
Allow your children to honor a loved one in memory of them. There are plenty of ways you can do this that are meaningful.
During the holiday season, these activities might include:
- Creating a memorial craft or ornament that represents their life. It could be a collage, photo frame or tree ornament, and ensure you display it somewhere for them to see.
- Add photos of the deceased loved one to your family’s holiday card this year.
- Keep a book of memories open on the kitchen counter so people can add notes of love and support throughout the holidays.
At some point, you and your children may need to take a break from the emotions you’re enduring this holiday season. With that in mind, it’s entirely ok to set up an activity that distracts from all the grief.
These activities could be in a quiet place, cuddling with a favorite stuffed animal or watching a movie with headphones.
The key is to let them know that it’s ok to feel whatever emotions come up and to ensure they know what to do when they feel overwhelmed.
A great way to help your children process grief is by spending time with those who know how your child is feeling. The people you know who’ve gone through a similar experience know how to support them. For instance, if your children are upset, they can comfort them in a way that makes them feel loved and safe.
If you’re able to do this, it will help them feel more secure in themselves and give them an outlet to express their emotions with people who understand.
Consider letting your children experience the holiday season how they want to by letting them set the stage. You can help by allowing your children to choose:
- What they want to eat or drink, whether it’s traditional or non-traditional food options.
- Gifts they want to give and receive, which may include giving items that are meaningful to them but not necessarily traditional gifts. For example, they may rather spend time with family and friends instead of giving or receiving tangible gifts.
- How they would like their home decorated for the holidays, if at all. Perhaps they would like to light candles, hang a wreath, place stockings on the mantle — whatever makes your children feel cozy and festive.
- Activities they want to do with family and friends. Or, they might prefer playing games alone with one another instead of going out. Your child should have a say in what makes them happy during this season.
Grieving children thrive in a normal routine, but the holidays can be a time of disruption in their schedules. This is especially true regarding school breaks, holiday events and travel.
Despite this, it’s important to try your best to keep the routine steady, especially around meals and bedtime. At the same time, you should still allow room for flexibility. If they want to talk about the person they miss, there’s no need to cut them off.
You can still balance their schedule when they need a talk.
We know the holidays can be tough for kids who are grieving. But it’s important to remember that everybody is different in how they process grief. That’s why it will be extremely helpful to give them space and let them process grief in their own way.
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