How to Help Kids Cope with Death - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

How to Help Kids Cope with Death

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Sharing a tragic story about the death of a loved one or peer can be a difficult thing to do. Sharing a tragic story about the death of a loved one or peer can be a difficult thing to do.
KENNEWICK, WA - Sharing a tragic story about the death of a loved one or peer can be a difficult thing to do.

Psychologists say parents should listen and validate how their child expresses their feelings about the death of a peer or another young person. Specialists say it's important to talk about it rather than trying to avoid a discussion.

"I think it's most important to allow them to speak and to share their thoughts and feelings and to validate those," said Dr. Kenneth Cole, clinical psychologist.

Validation and acknowledging your child's feelings are the foundation for helping a child cope with loss.

Doctors say young children process loss differently than adolescents and many of them are still learning what death means. Psychologists recommend a story explanation.

"Young children understand things best with stories. So if you can tell it in a story with a beginning, middle and end. Maybe something along the lines of there was a family, something happened, the children died. That means they're no longer with us. We can't see them or talk to them," said Dr. Megan Hemmeler, clinical psychologist.
For adolescents, who better understand what death means, doctors say it's important to make sure they understand all the resources available to them to express what they're feeling. Resources could be a counselor or other family members to talk to about their feelings.

Hemmeler also say parents should help teens understand that every person deals with grief differently.
"Validating the adolescent, letting them know that however they're experiencing the grief is normal and that it's different for everyone. You may see friends at school who are expressing it one way and they may feel like, hmm I'm not feeling that same way. It that normal? And it is. Everybody experiences grief very differently and you go through different stages," Hemmeler said.

Psychologists also suggest that parents set an example by showing resiliency and openness to express emotions.
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