Gifts are a great idea to show your love and sympathy during a difficult time. But what if you’re struggling to think of a gift for kids? They’re often overlooked during this difficult time. It’s hard to know what to get them, especially if they’re very young. Not only are they dealing with the loss of a parent, but they may also be struggling with a lack of attention.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Gifts for Toddlers or Babies Who Lost a Parent
- Gifts for School-Aged Children Who Lost a Parent
- Gifts for Teenagers Who Lost a Parent
A gift is a great way to show that you’ve remembered them. Most sympathy gift ideas are geared for adults. Gift cards to a restaurant or an offer of babysitting won’t really be appreciated by a child.
Whether the children you know are toddlers or teenagers, there is something here for every age.
Tip: If you know a child who's lost a parent, chances are the rest of the family is sorting through the complex life the deceased left behind. Our post-loss checklist can help them sort through the complicated tasks they might be facing.
Gifts for Toddlers or Babies Who Lost a Parent
Death and loss are hard to explain to a toddler or baby. Sometimes, all you can do is offer a comforting gift.
Especially for younger kids, keep in mind the safety of the gift you are giving. Stuffed animals and blankets can be soothing gifts, but are often dangerous for younger kids. If you aren’t sure if the gift you’d like to give is appropriate, ask someone close to the family before purchasing anything.
1. Stuffed animals
Who doesn’t love snuggling with a stuffed animal? Finding the perfect one doesn’t take much time. You could try to find their favorite animal, like a dog or a bear. Try to think about the size of the toy you’re picking out.
An oversized bear might be good to sleep with, but not to lug around the house or take in the car. And think about their age and how they’ll play with the stuffed animal before you buy it.
We like the Jellycat Bashful Beige Bunny from Amazon.
Sometimes, a colorful soft blanket is the perfect gift for a young child. See if you can find a themed one, for their favorite cartoon or animals.
You can also buy it in a bigger size so they can be wrapped up in it. Be careful with size, though, if it’s a gift for a baby. It could be a choking hazard.
3. Coloring books
It’s easy for kids to feel lost, sad, and even bored during this time. The adults in their lives are grieving and trying to coordinate lots of details for the funeral.
Those adults might not have the time or energy to play with the child. Giving the kids an activity that they can use to entertain themselves with is a great idea. And kids love to color. Pairing your gift with a huge pack of crayons will make it an instant hit.
We like the Crayola Baby Shark Coloring Book from Amazon.
4. Give your time
This gift can double as a sweet offer to a parent and a child. Especially if you were close to the parent that passed away. Having a familiar adult to spend time with is a great gift. And it can help the child’s parents as they work through their grief.
If they’re toddler-aged, you could do a lowkey activity like taking them to a park. If they’re younger, just taking care of them at home might be enough.
5. Memory books
This gift might not be fully appreciated until the child is a little older. But if one of their parents passed away when they were younger, they might not remember much about them. This can be sad and difficult for a child. If they’re the only one who doesn’t have any memories, this gift can help them feel connected to their parent.
This book can be whatever you want it to be. Try creating something that shows the person in full. It might be part photo album, part scrapbook, part story. Include anecdotes from their parent’s life, mementos, and lots of photos to create a full picture of their loved one.
We like the Linen Hardcover DIY Photo Album from Amazon.
Gifts for School-Aged Children Who Lost a Parent
Finding the best gift for an older child might be a challenge. But if you’re looking for something meaningful to send them instead of flowers, these are great options.
6. Give a journal
Journals are a great way to process emotions. This is especially true if it’s a ‘secret’ journal, one that no one else will ever read. To foster this sense of privacy, many journals are made with a lock and key.
A journal could help the child work through their emotions. And the lock could help them feel more comfortable writing everything down. If they end up talking to a therapist about their loss, the practice of journaling can be very helpful.
We like the Heart Shaped Combination Lock Diary from Amazon.
Kids don’t typically wear much jewelry. But a simple bracelet or necklace might be just the gift you’re looking for.
A bracelet with lots of fun, meaningful charms could work. Or something with a special phrase or sentence that connects them to their parent would make a kind memorial gift.
We like the Tiny Gold Initial Heart Necklace from Amazon.
8. Make a gift box
Some companies make gift boxes specifically for children. They often include a variety of fun items based on the age of the recipient. You can pick and choose from their selections, or make a custom basket. Some good ideas for kids include toys, snacks, books, and activities. Including a variety of gifts will help keep them busy.
If you know the child well, you might be able to customize a basket much more than a company’s service will allow you to. You could slip their favorite movie, homemade cookies, or fuzzy socks into the basket for an extra special gift.
We like the CraveBox Care Package from Amazon.
9. Dog tags
Dog tags are a form of ‘jewelry’ that pays homage to a military parent. If their parent was in the military, these dog tags can serve as a sentimental piece. And if this child doesn’t like traditional jewelry, dog tags might be exactly the right sort of gift.
Most companies that provide dog tags will customize them with whatever message you’d like. You could design it with their parent’s name and a loving message inscribed on it. But pick your message carefully. You want the gift to be a reminder of a life lived, rather than a reminder of loss.
We like the VNOX Dog Tag Pendant Necklace from Amazon.
10. Give a book
Lots of books have been written about childhood grief. Make a careful selection—you don’t want to give them a book intended for a parent. Look for books that are written for school-aged children.
Such a gift might feel too on the nose. Some children, especially if they’re prolific readers, might appreciate it. Others wouldn’t touch such a gift. Consider what you know of the child, and then make a choice.
Gifts for Teenagers Who Lost a Parent
Teenagers might be harder to shop for. But taking the time to buy a thoughtful gift is worthwhile, and will be appreciated.
11. Give a practical gift
Sometimes, one parent provided a necessary resource. Maybe it was helping with algebra class or assisting with a specific hairstyle. Or it could have been driving lessons. If a little time has passed since their parent’s death, consider offering your help. If your skillset matches what they need, you’re giving the gift of time and knowledge.
Be sensitive about making this offer, though. You don’t want to come across like you’re trying to replace the parent they lost.
12. Making decorations
Teens usually have lots of available surfaces to decorate. Laptops, cars, binders… there are plenty of spaces for something to memorialize their loved one. Depending on what you’d like to do, your options are wide open. A customized window decal or laptop cover might be a good option, depending on what the individual likes.
Try to find something that represents the parent without being too specific. Did their mom have a favorite saying? Or did their dad love a certain football team? It doesn’t have to be perfect. But if you’d like a specific memorial gift, you can customize a decal or sticker with their parent’s date of birth or name.
13. Memory journals
Giving a blank journal to a young child is a great idea. It gives them room to explore both their emotions and creativity in unfettered ways.
But older children might like some more structure. Some journals are made with writing prompts and therapeutic suggestions. One of these journals might be a good choice for an older child or teenager.
14. Customized jewelry
A simple charm bracelet works well for most young kids. But as children get older, they find their own style. That means their tastes will likely change a lot as they get older. If you aren’t sure what kind of jewelry they’d like, keep it simple.
If the child is religious, angel wing necklaces are a common gift. Their parent’s name could be engraved on the wings. If they’re not religious, then a paracord bracelet with a loving message engraved on the clasp also works.
We like the Forever In My Heart Locket Necklace from Amazon.
15. Pitching in
Each family is different, especially when it comes to needs and work schedules. With one parent missing, how much will an older teen be asked to pitch in around the house? They might have too much on their plate. If they’re trying to juggle a part-time job, school, sports, extracurriculars, their grief, and now new responsibilities, it might be too much.
If you know the family well, it might be appropriate to take on some of those responsibilities for a little while. This gift would be less for the teen specifically, and more for the family. But this gift can allow the teen to focus on their hobbies and passions rather than worrying about things around the house.
Planning It Out
Someone passing away can be a tragic surprise. And if the deceased never started end-of-life planning, their family might be scrambling to organize their affairs. If the family is struggling to keep their heads above water, an offer of help might be the best gift you can give.
You might be able to help them by creating a plan of attack and taking on small tasks. Even just watching the kids, or giving them a distracting gift can help them through this difficult time.