You can’t protect your adolescent from the pain of loss. But you can help them build healthy coping skills that will serve them well in the future. Read on to learn those important skills.
First, Let Go of Expectations
To help your adolescent with their own grief, you need to put aside your expectations of them for the time being.
Grief is complicated and looks different for everyone. Not everyone grieves the same way. Regardless of where your child is in the grieving process, you may notice changes in their behavior. Greif can cause changes to their mood, sleep, appetite, and progress at school. It can also cause behavioral regression. So while you may want to be consistent with rules and routines, it’s important to be flexible with your expectations.
Patience and compassion will help your child as they navigate their grief and all that comes with it. Please note if you notice signs of violence or extreme behaviors from your child while grieving, seek professional help immediately.
Help them Accept Their Range of Emotions
As we mentioned, grief looks different for everyone. But often times people will deal with a range of emotions when grieving. One of the most important coping skills is to help your adolescent accept their range of emotions and find appropriate grief outlets.
Whatever they feel, let them know it’s okay to feel that way. Even if you don’t fully understand the way they feel, it’s important to acknowledge their feelings are valid and normal.
If your child is feeling angry, we shouldn’t be afraid to let them get that feeling out. That can mean taking them to a rage room to hit, smash, and tear up stuff in a safe environment, letting them listen to Metallica on full blast, or driving them somewhere isolated and letting them scream it out.
Sometimes, if sorrow is getting to them, you could encourage them to turn their sorrow into something beautiful and meaningful. Creative expression is an excellent outlet for grief. If your child seems interested, they can create something from an article of clothing that belonged to a deceased loved one, write in a journal, or create a song. Even if your son wants to keep his cat’s ashes and paint them into a picture, that’s okay. No creativity is too bizarre, especially if it helps to give grief some meaning.
Listen and Talk
Being there to listen and talk to your child is just as important as the other coping skills we’ve mentioned. Adolescents need and want truth as much as adults, and if a loss happens suddenly, it can cause more confusion and hurt.
Try to be open, honest, and consistent in your communication. Invite them to talk about the loss and actively listen to what they’re saying. If they’re not ready to discuss yet, respect their choice and let them know you’re there for them. Make sure to check in with them regularly in case they change their mind.
Help them Focus on Things in Their Control
When dealing with the loss of a loved one, grief can bring up a lot of difficult and uncomfortable emotions. For adolescents who are experiencing loss for the first time, it can also bring up thoughts of death and dying. It can be overwhelming dealing with all the unknowns and “what if” scenarios.
It’s important to help your child focus on the here and now and what they are in control of, like what they’re having for breakfast and how they treat their friends. It’s also essential to help them accept what they can’t change. While loss happens, we can control how we react to it and find the good in little things.
Provide Support Leading Up to Significant Occasions
Christmas, birthdays, or anniversaries can be especially hard for your child after losing a loved one. It’s essential to help them anticipate these difficult times and develop a plan for coping with these periods. That can mean celebrating in a way the loved one would have wanted, having a moment on the day to pay respects, or changing up schedules, so you and your child can stay busy.
Seek Outside Help
With good information, love, and support, adolescents can learn to understand and work through their grief. This doesn’t always have to solely come from the parent or family though. Seeking professional support can become a helping hand for you and your child, as it can help them feel less alone and give them the coping skills needed to feel better.
Equity Associates is here to provide the help you and your family need. With our online therapy services, we can provide support to your grieving adolescent. Our therapy services are highly personalized for one’s unique needs, and with our usage of telemental health, those seeking treatment can do so in the comfort of their home. We’re based in Ridgway, Colorado but can help those anywhere in the state. No matter what, we’re always here to support those who need us.
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