The loss of a beloved family member or friend, moving, or divorce can all bring feelings of loss and grief to young children. It can be challenging to identify that a young child is experiencing and attempting to deal with loss or grief.

From FOCUS on Early Childhood Mental Health, ways young children express grief may include:

• Emotional shock, often expressed by withdrawal and not showing any feelings
• Immature behavior, like needing to be held, difficulty separating from parents
• Acting-out behavior, demonstrating the child’s internal feelings of anger, fear and helplessness
• Asking the same questions repeatedly, like why did this happen, where is so-and-so?


How to help children handle the inevitable losses and changes that are part of life

  • Recognize that children will notice the loss/change and don’t ignore it.
  • If you can, explain ahead of time what will happen. This helps children begin to prepare and develop confidence that they can successfully manage grief and loss.
  • If you can, give children the opportunity to say goodbye—for example, to a teacher who is leaving.
  • Reassure children that you will continue to love and care for them even while things are changing.
  • Encourage children to talk about how they feel. This normalizes feelings of sadness, anger, helplessness.
  • Talk about how change is a normal part of everyday life: for example, children outgrow their clothes, learn to write their names, tie their shoes, ride a bicycle.
  • Assure children that they are not to blame for what happened and do not lie to them.
  • Use the opportunity to help children learn new skills, like being flexible and working with others.
  • Acknowledge and treat children as though you understand that what affects them is their business

Additional Resources

Comments are closed.

Close Search Window