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Signs your child is grieving and how to support them.

Updated: Oct 30, 2022

Grief looks, different for everybody. When things end, it doesn't necessarily mean an exclusive emotion we experience when someone passes away. It can also come from a relationship ending, leaving a job you've loved for something else. There are times when there isn't an immediate reaction to what is happening to us. We might need time to process what is happening to us. And in the same way, your child might also display grief differently from you. Here are some signs your child may be grieving.

Having Problems with sleeping, and eating, increased tantrums, and a short attention span

If your child is having trouble with sleeping and eating, it could be an indicator that something is wrong. Experts have found that some symptoms of grief in children are similar to symptoms of depression in adults, including getting too much or too little sleep, having a loss of appetite or suddenly overeating, having unexplained irritability and tantrums, and issues with completing school work.

There are times when grief symptoms in children look like they may be anxious, have issues leaving the house, and have difficulty separating from their parents.

Having Triggering experiences

Triggering experiences are experiences that prompt your child to display more of the grief symptoms. And it's a sign of the underlying grief is there and not yet healed. There is no way to say what might trigger your child, and there is also no way to avoid triggers altogether. The best way is to seek treatment options and address these challenges.

Refusing to go to school

Stress and trauma display differently in boys and girls. When they are displaying heightened anxiety, trouble sleeping, struggling to eat properly, and avoiding school, it becomes a clear sign that something is wrong. It is always best to speak to your pediatrician and discuss treatment options for your child.

How to support your child?

If you notice your child grieving, or not having a reaction, you can talk to them about what has happened and "name" the emotions they might feel or that you might feel if you were them. For example, if your child has had to move to a new school. You can talk about how your child might feel nervous, they might miss their old school. And also talk about some exciting things they can look forward to.

How Play Therapy can help your child overcome their grief.

Children naturally express themselves through play. Play is powerful because it gives us insight into how the brain is developed. In a fetus, the reptilian brain stem grows first, this is responsible for breathing and regulating our heartbeat. All the basic functions that keep us alive. Then the limbic brain grows or what we call the feeling brain. It is responsible for our relationships, our dreams, and the way we play. Lastly, the thinking brain or the neocortex grows over these two brains. It is important to know that the neocortex is underdeveloped at the time we are born. You can think of it as a brand-new hard drive with no data on it. So the way to think about this is what is each brain doing in your child’s head?

Firstly, the reptilian brain is always asking “Am I safe”?

Secondly, the limbic brain is always asking “am I loved”? and

Lastly, the thinking brain or neocortex is always asking “what can I learn from this?”

If the first two questions are not answered properly then the thinking brain goes offline until the first two questions are fully satisfied. Play is the way your child may put into words their experiences and Play Therapy is specifically designed to help children overcome complex issues and trauma they have experienced. Not only that, each Play Therapist goes through a stringent accreditation process and has been taught the meanings behind your child's behaviour in the Playroom. This helps Play Therapists work with your child to overcome any challenges they face and teach lifelong skills that help them manage stress and build resistance as they grow.

Children, need to feel safe and secure in the therapeutic setting in order to establish and build a relationship with their therapist. This is why the play environment is exactly the appropriate setting designed to help a child find what is familiar and feel comfortable. Play therapists use play activities to help your child feel safe and comfortable. Young children do not have the verbal or emotional maturity to express their feelings in the traditional way used in talk therapy with older children and adults.

If you would like to speak to a qualified Play therapist to learn how your child could benefit from play therapy, click here to get in touch today or want to know if Play Therapy could be right for your child take our quiz!

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