GRIEF

Emotional, psychological, and physical trauma that often come with loss challenge children's well-being and school performance. Grieving children are likely to feel different, and very alone. A child may hide his or her feelings to protect someone else who is also grieving. Divorce, death loss, military deployments, and abandonment are all sources of grief for children. While concealing deep emotional pain, fear and loss of concentration, children are in the pressure cooker of expectations to grow emotionally and academically. They say that seeing friends with parents and parent/child school activities are daily reminders of their own loss.

Children express grief in a different way than adults. They tend to move in and out of intense feelings, rather than sustaining high levels of one emotion for long periods of time.

When adults see a grieving child playing or laughing, they may mistakenly believe that the child is "over it". This perception may influence how much grief support a child receives.

Reactions and expressions of grief vary at different levels of maturity. It helps to know how children express grief at various ages. As a child matures, he or she will "revisit" a loss, thinking about it with a new level of understanding. Your child may be moody for what seems to be no reason sometimes. It is possible he or she is thinking about and perhaps missing the loved one who is gone. A helpful chart describing common reactions to death loss can be found at http://childgrief.org/documents/HowtoHelp.pdf.

Peer group support and individual and family therapy can be helpful when a child is having difficulty with overwhelming emotions by creating a safe place where feelings can be named and safely expressed through talking or play.

TRAUMA

Trauma can be caused by physical or emotional distress, usually when someone feels powerless to protect him or herself or someone else. Even learning that something traumatic happened to someone else can cause "secondary trauma". Left untreated, these experiences can generate fears, nightmares, flashbacks, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating, physical aches and pains, and other problems. If your child is traumatized, the first step is to ensure his or her safety! Let your child know she is safe and why she is safe. Protect your child from repeated images of the trauma (such as repeatedly watching news about the incident) and from hearing others' detailed descriptions of the trauma. Seek professional help to assess what further steps are needed to assist your child.