This year, one in seven children will lose a parent or sibling before they turn 20. The holiday season – the time between Halloween and New Year’s Day – can often be a difficult time for children who have experienced a loss in their life.
Pete Shrock, Comfort Zone Camp’s vice president of programs, offers these ways for families to help support a grieving child during the holiday season:
#1 Sharing is important.
Encourage children to share what they are feeling. Let them know that you offer a safe place for them to talk about what they are thinking in their own voice. If your child does not want to talk, encourage writing in a private journal.
#2 Acknowledge the grief.
We know that children grieve differently than adults, and it’s important to let them know it’s OK to feel sad at times, especially as they see celebrations unfolding around them. Children are very intuitive, so be authentic in your conversations.
#3 Encourage creativity.
Children are innately creative, and tapping into this creativity is a great form of self-expression. Encourage creating decorations that include pictures of their loved one. Help them bake their favorite cake or side dish to be included in a holiday meal. Create a memory jar and write down favorite family memories and read them together on New Year’s Eve.
#4 Honor your family’s traditions and create new rituals.
Rituals are important to children. Children thrive in structure. Talk to your child about what traditions they consider important for the holiday season, and look at ways to incorporate new traditions into your family’s celebrations.
#5 Go easy on yourself.
Take care of yourself first, and then you can take care of others. Slow down this holiday season, and your child will follow your lead. Take inventory of what’s important and what’s not and plan accordingly.
To volunteer, donate or learn more about the free programs Comfort Zone Camp offers, visit www.comfortzonecamp.org/about-us.
Comfort Zone Camp provides children who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, or legal guardian with professional therapeutic services, peer and mentor support, and healthy coping skills. Free camps are held year-round in locations throughout the United States. For more information, visit www.comfortzonecamp.org.