TIPS TO HELP PARENTS SUPPORT GRIEVING TEENS
From the Anne Arundel County Public Schools Office of Student Support Services
It can be difficult for adults to comfort and support children, especially when those adults are grieving themselves. Often, adults to not want to discuss the death of another child with their children because they don’t want to upset them or have their children see them sad or upset. However, teens need their parents’ help when dealing with grief as much as younger children do.
Teens grieve differently from adults. They grieve deeply, but often work very hard to hide their feelings. They look for distractions rather than stay with the grief process long enough to find real relief. Teens can act as if nothing has happened while they are breaking up inside. Teens sometimes take on the role of caregiver to family and friends to avoid experiencing their own grief.
To help teens through the grieving process, it is important to listen and watch them to find opportunities to help them talk about what they are feeling. Because teens are often concerned about fitting in, they don’t want to draw attention to themselves and may not feel comfortable talking about their feelings, especially with adults who they feel may discount their feelings and give them advice rather than simply listening to them.
Don’t force it. Your teen will talk with you when the time is right if you let him or her know that you are there to listen. When your teen is ready to talk with you, make time to listen with your full attention.
Here are some things you can do:
If you notice unusual or extreme behaviors that continue over time, contact your school counselor, school psychologist, school social worker, school nurse, or family doctor to decide if your teen may need counseling support. School counselors are available during the summer months, and parents who need to contact counselors at their child’s school should feel free to do so. Some teens, may need additional professional support to cope with their feelings of grief and loss.
In addition to the tips above, the following resources that may be of assistance:
“Helping Teenagers Cope With Grief” (Hospice)
“Learning to Live Through Loss: For Teens Facing Loss” (University of Florida)
“How To Help A Grieving Teen” (The Dougy Center)
No Time For Goodbyes, a book by Janice Harris Lord. This book, appropriate for older adolescents, deals with the sorrow, anger, and feelings of injustice after a violent or sudden death.