What Grieving Teens Want Parents to Know

The below list was created from bereaved teens at Comfort Zone Camp in 2008.

  • Don’t say “I know how you feel”
  • Don’t say “everything will be okay” – be honest
  • Don’t say “your [insert person who died] would have wanted this,” it instills guilt
  • Don’t make us talk 
  • Be considerate of our emotions
  • Don’t pretend that the person who died was never here, help keep the memories alive
  • Explain your feelings and grief to us too
  • Moving and changing schools means having to tell our story again, to new people
  • Remember that we are still kids — try not to give us the duties of a parent
  • Get the details on health-related deaths to help prevent it in the rest of the family
  • Realize that every kid reacts differently, we’re all individuals 
  • Acknowledge the anniversary of their death, find something the family can do together
  • Don’t force counseling — let us grieve on our own terms
  • Help us and our little brothers/sisters ease into life transitions, and be patient
  • Don’t date or remarry just to try to replace the person who died

I’d like to invite teens to add to this list – what else do you want parents to know?


  1. Rachel said on February 2, 2010 at 3:41 pm ... #

    — Just because we’re crying doesn’t mean we want to talk

    — Don’t ask us to help you start dating again, whether its dating tips, getting dressed for a date, or help with an online dating profile.

  2. Rachel P said on February 4, 2010 at 10:19 am ... #

    How about some things we DO want?

    -That we DO want you to be happy and find love again (maybe not right away), we’d like to be thought of in your decision. And we want your new spouse/significant other to be a friend to us first. (This is some wisdom a teen little buddy gave to me at the CZC camp in January 2010).

    -That sometimes we need a friend and sometimes we need a parent. Be flexible to be both at times.

    -Talk about our lost loved one in positive ways. We want to know their favorite color, their favorite flower, their favorite song. You spent more time with that person, and we want to know what you know.

  3. Cybil said on August 12, 2010 at 8:21 pm ... #

    -Don’t put a time limit on how long we can go to a grief counselor.

    – If divorced remember that a child of any age may be closer to the parent that died respect that and talk to them about their loved one. Even those who are right past their teens. Don’t just ignore their feelings. Don’t think that their loved ones death meant less to them when they are older then if they are younger. Don’t just assume they want to pick up their lives and be involved in other “family” holidays with family they have never spent major holidays with if you have never done so before.

    -If the child comes from an multiple sibling home where one is an adult already. Take time to consider what that’s like. The younger sibling especially if its a same sex sibling will see a parent involved in the older ones life and try to understand what they are missing out on if they aren’t getting to experience the same things. (i.e. Graduations of HS and higher education, dinner at their first home, first real career of any kind as in going to work or being a stay at home mom, Their wedding either the planning or walking down the isle, birth of first grandchild from the younger child, the list goes on and on, especially if the adult child has a wide age gap between siblings.)

  4. lizzy said on August 26, 2010 at 8:09 am ... #

    If you’re dating or remarrying after the loss of a parent, don’t ask us to call this new person Mom/Dad. We will if we want to. Also, if we say that said new person is being mean to us or trying to replace our dead parent, BELIEVE US! Also, in the event that said new person is being mean,dump em! WHO CARES how much you like them? We’re your kids! We should come first!

  5. Ruby Taylor said on November 17, 2010 at 8:39 am ... #

    It is important to recognize that helping a grieving teen will not be an easy task. You may have to give more concern, time and love than you ever knew you had. But this effort will be more than worth it.

  6. manuela said on June 2, 2011 at 9:04 am ... #

    Thank you so much for all the tips. My daughter’s dad died last month and she is not showing emotion so I keep wanting to ask questions. But I keep reading to NOT make them talk. It is so frustrating. I just want to know what she is thinking/feeling!!!
    Anyway thank you.

  7. priscilla said on June 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm ... #


  8. Brittainy said on March 14, 2012 at 9:41 pm ... #

    -we don’t want to see their pictures taken down and belongings hidden
    -if we aren’t talking, don’t make us

  9. Charlotte said on January 12, 2015 at 8:52 pm ... #

    – If the person your dating is being cruel to your children, tell them to stop. It hurts, and hurts more when you allow it. (ex: “Oh, that’s stupid!” or “SHUT UP! YOU KNOW YOU GOT THAT FROM *insert parent*”)

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