People across the UK and around the world are mourning the loss of Queen Elizabeth II.
Michelle Craddock, Lecturer in Child and Adolescent Mental Health at Edge Hill University, has used this opportunity to arrange a session to equip her students with the skills to help children in their classroom deal with loss.
Michelle commented, “It was only this year that schools and other educational establishments were encouraging children and young people to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee marking 70 years of service. Now, young people are observing the emotions of the country and listening to conversations from their families, friends, teachers, and the media. This may prompt some to start questioning death more.”
Michelle continued, “Parents and carers may notice that as with adults, grief varies wildly in how it manifests and affects different children and there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to process it.”
“They may notice subtle changes such as withdrawing from family conversations, friendship groups and activities, or more obvious ones like emotional outbursts, crying and defiance.”
“Each child is different, so these behaviours could depend on their age or developmental stage. For example, a parent may observe their child being upset by the news coverage one minute and then happily playing on their computer or listening to music five minutes later. For others, they may notice their child regressing to past behaviours such as bedwetting or being frightened to sleep in their own room at night.”
“As a parent or carer, you may hear a child or young person describe how they are feeling physically because they are struggling to process what they are feeling emotionally. These symptoms may include things like: a funny feeling in their tummy, feeling sick, having a sore head, a dry mouth, or shaky legs. This would be perfectly normal if they felt one or all these symptoms.”
Below are some tips compiled by Michelle to help children and young people understand bereavement and grief:
- Use simple language when discussing the death of Queen Elizabeth II, be honest but caring. Staying calm is key, some children may ask questions, some may become emotional, some may not show any emotion.
- Think about the time of day you have this talk with them. Avoid late evenings or bedtime as a child or young person will often ruminate over this time thinking about a specific worry or concern they have, and this may impact on them being able to get to sleep.
- If a child needs comforting, you may offer them a hug or normalise their responses. This can ease their anxiety on how they should or should not respond. As mentioned earlier, we want to reinforce that there is not a ‘right’ way or a ‘wrong’ way to feel.
- There will be more coverage of the funeral on the television, on social media and radio. Therefore, you may want to manage your child’s expectation of this, let them know what is going to happen and how it affects them.
- Some children may want to discuss death in more general terms, and it’s important to listen to their concerns and answer in an age-appropriate way. For some children, parents may move on to a nice activity afterwards such as playing with a toy, drawing or making something together. By allowing your child to choose what activity they do, this will empower them to feel in control of their feelings. As parents you may use more positive language at this point such as ‘a drawing to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s life is a lovely idea’.
- Finally, if you note that your child is still struggling with their emotions or presenting differently to how they were prior to Queen Elizabeth’s passing, you may consider speaking with the school or local GP to seek some additional support for them. Early therapeutic intervention may be required to help them process issues triggered by events of the last week.
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September 16, 2022