You've Lost Your Spouse, How Do You Support Your Kids?
Death is something we’re all going to have to deal with at some point in our lives. It’s estimated that 1 in 14 people under the age of 18 will lose a parent (source). How does this affect the development of the child? There are many factors that contribute to the way the child responds to this traumatic event. One of the most important of these factors, is how the parent they still have supports them during this time.
The surviving parent’s reaction
The surviving parent is responsible for the child in every aspect from here on out. The question is, should the parent be somber and stoic and repress their emotions in order to be strong for their child, or should they make the grieving process normal and help the child through it while going through it themselves. The answer to this question is still up for debate.
The grieving process
The grieving process includes 5 unique steps. These steps are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (source). While watching their child go through the grieving process the parent should do a few things. They should avoid trying to rescue or fix the child’s situation, because there’s nothing that can be fixed. The child should be allowed to feel their emotions as they feel them and come to their parent when they need support. Trying to fix or rescue the child can make them feel invalid in their emotions and unheard in their struggles. Another thing the parent should avoid is forcing the child to talk when they don’t want to. The child will open up when they’re ready if you’ve established a healthy relationship with them previously. Lastly, the most important thing for the parent to do is to make themselves accessible, so when the child is ready to talk, they can.
Focus on positivity wherever possible
When children experience loss of this kind, it can open them up to a whole new world of possibilities they didn’t know existed before. Much of the time, children don’t really understand that there are things that happen to us that are out of our control, and losing a parent makes that very obvious to them. Once they’ve realized this it’s important to show them to focus on positive things in their lives wherever they can. This includes things like positive self talk, positive feedback for good behavior on tasks, positive parenting styles, etc. Overall letting the child know that despite the possibility of hardships and adversity, it’s always going to be in their best interest to stay positive.
The biggest take away from from all of this is, to be there for a child if they’ve lost a parent. Let the child know that they are very loved and important, and the world isn’t going to end just because someone passed away. Life can go back to the new normal without that parent, and it will take some getting used to, but it will get better and easier as time goes on.
While this information may have been helpful, meeting with a clinician may be even more beneficial. To schedule an appointment, click here.