Signs of Grieving in Adolescents
• Sadness, anxiety, chronic fatigue, anger, denial, shock, confusion, extended depression. Watch for changes in their normal behavioral functioning.
• Inability to sleep, nightmares, loss of appetite, prolonged fear of being alone
• Frequent physical complaints such as stomachaches and headaches
Helping Adolescents Grieve
Long-term denial or avoidance of grief is unhealthy for children and may resurface later with more severe problems. Here is a list of things you can do to help a child overcome grief:
• Answer their questions simply and honestly. Only offer details that they can absorb. Don't overload them with information.
• Give them a chance to talk about their fears and validate their feelings. Offer a simple expression of sorrow and take time to listen.
• People are repetitive in their grief. Respond patiently to their uncertainty and concerns. It can take a long time to recover from a loss.
• Youth can be physical in their grief. Watch their bodies and look for any changes.
• Some youth need to talk about a traumatic experience all the time and others don't want to talk at all. This is normal. While it is important not to force adolescents to talk about their experiences, it is also critical for parents to let them know they are willing and available to listen.
• Giving youth choices helps them feel some control when their environment has felt out of control. Choosing food, clothes, what games to play—any appropriate choices—can be helpful.
• Youth still need discipline. It helps them feel safe to know their parents won't let them get away with too much and that normal rules still apply.
Parents will want to establish daily routines as soon as they can. Meals, bedtimes and other regular parts of their day can help adolescents feel comforted and know what to expect.
Sometimes youth react to trauma and stress with anger. They may feel it gives them a sense of control. Adults should be understanding but hold youth responsible for their behavior. It is not OK to hurt others and break other home and school rules, even if students are stressed.
Parents should remember to take good care of themselves, too. This will help them have the energy necessary to take care of their children. Their ability to cope with traumatic events will help their children cope, as well.