We all wish we could protect our children from hard and scary subjects. Death is one of those concepts. Death is part of the life cycle, but it’s still hard to know how to talk to kids about death. However, one child in twenty will have a parent die before they graduate from high school. Beyond that, they may also lose grandparents, aunts, uncles, or even friends.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What is Children’s Grief Awareness Day?
- When is Children’s Grief Awareness Day Every Year?
- How Do You Acknowledge or Participate in Children’s Grief Awareness Day?
Educating children about feelings like grief and sadness can actually help them cope in healthier ways when that day comes. Starting this kind of education early sets them up for emotional success.
Children’s Grief Awareness Day provides parents an opportunity and resources to talk to their kids about grief. Read on to learn more about the special day and what it entails.
What is Children’s Grief Awareness Day?
Children’s Grief Awareness Day is intended to bring attention to the levels of support grieving children require. It reminds us that grief has an especially huge impact on children who may not have the emotional tools necessary to cope with death. This day is intended to remind adults that we should support children who are grieving. It encourages people to become advocates for children.
Kids are resilient, but they still need help coping with tragedy. Their need for help doesn’t evaporate immediately, either. Children don’t just need help in the immediate aftermath of losing a loved one. They need ongoing support. Children’s Grief Awareness Day emphasizes that we should be providing that long-term emotional care.
An organization called Highmark Caring Place, A Center for Grieving Children, Adolescents and Their Families established Children’s Grief Awareness Day in 2008. Since then, organizations around the world have recognized and observed the day.
When is Children’s Grief Awareness Day Every Year?
Children’s Grief Awareness Day is observed on the third Thursday in November. This is the Thursday before the United States Thanksgiving holiday. This timing is appropriate because children can have a hard time dealing with grief around major holidays.
Even if their loved one died months or years earlier, holidays can bring up painful memories. The timing reminds us to check in with the children in our lives as the holidays approach. Upcoming dates include:
- 2021: November 18, 2021
- 2022: November 17, 2022
- 2023: November 16, 2023
- 2024: November 14, 2024
- 2025: November 20, 2025
How Do You Acknowledge or Participate in Children’s Grief Awareness Day?
Now that you know more about Children’s Grief Awareness Day, let’s talk about concrete ways you can discuss grief with the children in your life.
Remember, you don’t have to wait until someone in your child’s life dies. Raising awareness of death and grief early is part of preparing them for life.
Talk to kids about grief
Before you can help kids manage their grief, you need to explain what it is. Part of this entails breaking down the different types of grief. For instance, if the child in your life hasn’t lost someone, you can still prepare them for impending loss.
If they have a friend or family member with a terminal illness, you can let them know about anticipatory grief. Being able to define an emotion is an important first step to being able to process it.
Read books about grief with them
Sometimes, we can have a hard time verbalizing what we want to say about grief. Luckily, there are several great children’s books about grief that can help you. Pick out an age-appropriate title for the child in your life.
Depending on how old they are, you can read it to them or sit with them while they read it. From there, you can let the topics guide you into a discussion.
Pick out a special gift
Sometimes tangible objects can be really beneficial to children as part of the healing process. You can help with grief by picking out gifts for a child who’s lost a parent or another loved one.
A young child might like a stuffed animal with a recording of their loved one’s voice. Older kids might like a journal where they can write down their feelings. Kids of all ages might like a quilt made with clothing from their deceased loved one. Gifts like these remind kids that other people are here and still care for them.
Take them to therapy
There is no shame in knowing when something is too big for you to tackle alone. For complicated emotions, a therapist can be extraordinarily helpful. You can have your child attend one-on-one therapy sessions so they have privacy to process their feelings. You can also go to family therapy as a group.
You may even do a combination of the two. Your child’s therapist will help you organize sessions in a way that most benefits your child.
Be honest about your own struggles
There’s a misconception that we should always be strong for our children. It’s okay to let them know that we’re having our own problems dealing with grief.
While you don’t want to lean on them or cast them in the parent role, it is okay to let your guard down. Seeing your grief can help to validate their emotions. They will learn that they don’t have to hide behind a stoic front, which will improve their long-term emotional health.
Organize a fundraiser
A big problem with grief is that it makes us feel helpless. Sometimes you can help assuage grief by doing something productive. If a parent or loved one died of an illness, you can keep the fight going after their death.
Work with your child to raise awareness or funds. You could organize a silent auction and donate any money raised to an organization looking for a cure. Or you can host a walkathon or community event to raise awareness. Sometimes performing concrete actions can fuel us as we wrestle with grief.
Continue traditions and hobbies
When a loved one dies, a child may avoid activities they used to do with the deceased. If a child liked to go fishing with his dad, for instance, it might be too hard for him to go immediately back to the pond. Or if a girl enjoyed painting with her mother, she might shy away from artistic endeavors. But over time, staying away can get more emotionally complex. Your child might end up grieving the loss of both a parent and a beloved activity.
When they’re ready, support them in picking up their old hobby again. They may discover they feel close to their late parent when performing this activity again. It can become a way to honor their memory and ease grief.
Bring up their loved one often
There’s often a notion that we should avoid talking about people who’ve died. We’re afraid that by talking about them, we’ll make people sad. But it does us good to remember our loved ones. You can take a moment to reflect on family memories during the holidays.
But you can also talk about them on regular days to keep their memory alive even in mundane times. Let them know it’s okay to miss their loved one and talk about them whenever they need to.
Helping Kids Cope on Children’s Grief Awareness Day and Beyond
There are so many things we need to teach our kids. We worry about getting them into the right schools and teaching them right from wrong. We teach them how to be physically healthy. We must also remember to teach them how to be emotionally healthy.
This means preparing them for all kinds of emotions they’ll experience, even ones that are challenging. Visit the Children’s Grief Awareness Day website to learn more about how you can prepare the kids in your life for managing grief in a healthy way.