Activities to Help Children Cope With Death

By Erica Loop
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A simple conversation may not be enough to help your child understand the death of a person or pet that they loved. When children are struggling to deal with death, age-appropriate activities that provide a way to process what has happened, express emotions and cope with the loss can aid in the healing process.

Story Time

Talking with your child about the loss he feels is necessary. Letting him share his own experience about the sad events help move the healing process along, according to the National Association of School Psychologists. However children often do not know how to express these complex emotions. Sometimes it can be helpful to let the child create a story from his experience. Creating a make believe story based on the events that are actually happening can help your child temporarily separate himself from his sadness so that he can understand it better. If your child is still having trouble verbalizing what he wants to say, you can help him put words to the emotions he is feeling.

Twenty Questions

Between the ages of 6 and 10 most children begin to understand that death is final, according to the website KidsHealth, but they still have questions about what happens when someone dies, why someone died or if it could happen to them. Instead of waiting for your child to approach you, sit down with her for a question-and-answer activity. If she is willing, have her write down her death-related questions. She can pretend that she's a TV news journalist and ask you her questions. Give her honest answers that are appropriate for her developmental age.

Memory Art

Help your child make the memories he has of the loved one permanent with a piece of memorializing art. He can create a memory chain using construction paper and markers, writing memories on each strip of paper and linking them with staples or tape. Another option is a memory portrait. Your child can draw or paint a picture of the loved one, basing it on his memories or using a photo for reference.

Saying Goodbye

Closure, in the form of saying goodbye, is a key part of the grief process for a child, according to the website PBS Parents. If you don't feel comfortable taking your child to a funeral or you don't have the opportunity to do so, create your own closure activity. Have your child pick a special flower and float it in a stream or river, or release a bundle of balloons. She can write the loved one's name on a tag and tie it to the flower or balloons before she releases them.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.