What can parents expect from their children during times of grief?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 12,448
    Parenting educator Dr. Rene Hackney talks about what parents can expect from their children during times of grief.

    Rene Hackney

    Originally a full-time preschool teacher, Dr. Rene Hackney now holds a Master?s in school psychology and a PhD. in developmental psychology from George Mason University. She trained at the Developmental Clinic at Children?s National Medical Center and for the public schools, teaching in parenting programs at each. She has also acted as a consultant to several area preschools.

    For the last four years, Dr. Hackney has owned and lectured for Parenting Playgroups, Inc, a parenting resource center and preschool classroom in Alexandria Virginia. She has offered workshops to a wide

    range of parent, teacher and social work groups during this time.

    Workshop topics include eight hours on positive discipline techniques, five hours on early academic issues and common issues such as sibling rivalry and potty training. All workshops provide well researched lecture, in-class practice and open discussion time. Additionally she hosts a monthly parenting focused book club and fun play programs to introduce the preschool setting to young families.

    Dr. Hackney is married and has two young children of her own.

    Host: What can parents expect from their children during times of grief?

    Rene Hackney: Young children during times of grief has what s called the short feeling span, it's like a short attention span where grief may came in spurts particularly for young children that three to about six or seven years old, they may find out that a very close loved one, maybe even a grandparent has passed away and they are devastated and really upset and they are cry hysterically for ten minutes and then they are off playing and then they are also having fun as if nothing happened and it may come and go throughout the week, or through the weeks.

    So, they don t tend to be overwhelmed and sustained that for a long time like adults tend to do, we tend to harp on it and think about it for several days at a time where tears may come and go. It's also good to know that for young children that grief may come and go over a really period of time. When my younger daughter was in preschool, they had a bunny in their classroom, it's name was Cocospot, and she loved Cocospot. Well, Cocospot the very old bunny died the year, she was in preschool. A year later we saw a Titicap that looked like Cocospot and she burst into tears and was hysterical for about an hour just because she was reliving and rethinking and refeeling that. So, it's very normal for those feeling to come and go over a long period of time with young children.

    Another thing that parents can do to help young children in the grieving process is to be sure they answer all of their children s questions. Answering questions in an honest, but simple way and then waiting for the next question. So, let's say you have a seven year old and grandpa has died and they say, Mommy, how did grandpa die? If you don t answer the question -- if you say, Oh, I can't talk about that right now or honey that s not anything you need to know, they fill in their blanks and they may come up with a lot of misconceptions. They may get really confused about what has happened.

    If you give them too much information, if you give them the whole history of the medical diagnosis and what happened and what the doctors did in every minute, you may overwhelm them that s far more than they need. So, in saying something very simple like, grandpa s heart stopped and then the doctors tried to save him and they couldn t. So, it s answering the question, but being very simple. If they need more information likely, they will ask another question. Parents can also just allow a lot of downtime, a lot of quite time where there is time for them to be able to ask those questions, or saying once every day or two, Is there anything you want to ask me about, is there anything you need to know? So that child can have those opportunities for discussion.