Coping with death at Christmas is always difficult. What is meant to be the most magical time of the year can feel anything but. It can be even more difficult for children to cope with grief during Christmas time.
Here we discuss some tips that parents or other adults can use to help grieving children cope during the festive season.
- Understand that children grieve differently to adults- Everyone grieves in their own way, but children especially grieve in a different way to adults. Grieving children can often find It difficult to express their emotions for example.
- Get help from other adults– If your child is grieving, they might find it difficult to display their true feelings if they can see that you are also upset as they are protective of their parents. If this is the case, consider asking a close friend or another adult that your child trusts and see if they can talk to them about how they are feeling instead.
- Ask how the child would like to be greeted– Communication is vital during times of grief, but before giving the child lots of hugs, kisses, rubs of the head or high fives, check with them about what they are comfortable with as they may not want a lot of contact.
- Encourage them to share stories- Let children talk about the deceased whenever they want and encourage them to share stories. At Christmas time, try and get them to talk about their favourite Christmas memories and any funny stories that they can remember.
- Allow them to get excited about Christmas- In many cases, grieving children may be upset but also excited about Christmas which is natural. This mix of emotion may be tough for them to understand but make sure you encourage this Christmas excitement. It’s a youthful, innocent excitement that every child deserves to enjoy during their childhood.
- Get them baking- Let them help you to cook your loved one’s favourite Christmas meal or treat. It is a lovely, festive activity that you can do together. It is fun and always keeps the memory of your loved one close by.
- Start new Christmas traditions- In addition to maintaining your family traditions for a sense of familiarity, also try and start at least one new tradition.
- Decide as a family what you want to do at Christmas- Allow your children to have a say on what they want to do on Christmas Day itself. Allowing them that sense of control can help and shows that change is okay and that their opinion is valued.
- Get them writing- If they are struggling with expressing their feelings, ask them to write their feelings down. This may take a while for them to get used to but having an outlet for their emotions can be helpful, especially if they struggle to find the words to say to adults. If your child does not want to journal, they could also write in the form of letters.
- Get Creative- Christmas is the perfect time to get crafty which can be extremely therapeutic as well as fun. Whether it is making Christmas cards, making decorations or helping to decorate the tree, these activities can really help.
- Make them laugh– Kids need time to grieve but they also need to know that it is okay to continue having fun and laugh during this difficult time. Sometimes this may not seem possible, laughing and messing around is something all children should be doing as it creates a distraction and releases good endorphins in the brain.
- Have a routine– Christmas time is notoriously an unpredictable and busy time but try and put a routine in place as much as possible. E.g. have meal times and go to bed at similar times to show that not everything has changed.
- Let them cry– As good as it is to laugh, children should also be allowed to cry. They need to know that their feelings; having fun and being sad are both valid emotions for grieving children. Although it is horrible to see your family upset, you need to be there for each other. Ask your children for hugs if you are having a bad day, this is completely normal.
- Stay Close to them– During the day itself stay close to your children as it is a time for family. Watch Christmas films, sing songs, eat great food and play games together. Christmas is an important time for family and should still be enjoyed as much as possible. You should still be able to enjoy the activities that your loved ones liked to do at Christmas as it will help keep them close.
- Create a ritual to remember your loved one– Find time during the day to dedicate to your loved one. Lighting a candle together is a popular example. You can also acknowledge your loved one by having a stocking hung up for them, or an extra place setting for them at the table. Although some people feel like they are being stupid doing this, it’s completely understandable and natural. You need to do whatever feels comforting for you and your children.
Adults play a very important role when it comes to helping children grieve as children depend on adults to help them cope with their feelings and provide answers to the questions they inevitably have. Although you will be grieving as well, understanding the differences between your grief is vital. Christmas is already a stressful time as it is hectic, expensive and involves high expectations for it to be the perfect Christmas. The reality never lives up to the expectation, especially if you are missing a loved one. All you can do is be there for each other during the festive period and help each other through it the best you can.
Our compassionate and professional team have years of experience creating funerals that are completely unique to the individual and respectful of the circumstances involved. For help and advice, please contact us on 0151 228 3900 or leave us a message through our contact us page by clicking here.