Strategies to Help Children Through Painful Times

Strategies To Help Children Through Painful Times

Prepared by Annemarie Bezold, LCSW Coordinator, Fairfax County Grief Program


Offer them reassurance and support.

  • Let them know you will be there for them.
  • Tell them that they will not have to go through this alone.

Give them extra time and attention.

  • Spend time just being with them.
  • Physical closeness may be helpful initially.

Cultivate an environment of openness to the expression of all feelings.

  • Let them know that feelings aren’t right or wrong.
  • Tell them that there are healthy ways to deal with painful feelings

Explain and answer questions honestly.

  • Don’t avoid using words like death, died.
  • Don’t be afraid to admit that ‘you don’t know'

Provide structure and continuity in their daily routines.

  • Set appropriate limits while being patient and understanding.
  • Maintaining their usual daily routine is important.

Expect some regression.

  • Acting as they did when they were younger is normal.
  • Children may need transitional objects and more comfort at bedtime

Listen to their fears and concerns.

  • Let them know that no topic is ‘off limits’ to you.
  • Don’t minimize feelings or avoid uncomfortable topics.

Allow them to tell and re-tell their experience.

  • Reassure them you don’t mind hearing it over and over.
  • Keep in mind that this is how they process the experience and move on.

Encourage time to play.

  • Play relieves stress for children (allows them to reenact the experience).

Try a variety of techniques to help them creatively process their experience.

  • Drawing pictures; writing poems or stories; or creating collages are examples.

Work to improve their self-esteem.

  • Identify their good qualities, talents and strengths.

Help them begin to develop a hopeful image of themselves.

  • Remind them of the progress they have made so far.
  • Help them visualize themselves recovering and moving on.