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Advocate Tip: Children and Grief

Children entering CPS care often experience periods of grieving. In most cases, the children will experience grief resulting from the removal from their families. Sadly, some children in CPS care may also be grieving the death of a sibling or a parent. For these children, the grieving process can be especially difficult due to the separation from their families. These children, and their families, are likely to need additional support and counseling to address their loss.

How Children Respond to Grief

There is a wide range of ways in which a child may respond to grief, and each child’s response is unique.  A child’s response to grief is also influenced by their developmental stage. Children under the age of three have little understanding of death. However, they are likely to pick up on the emotions of the adults around them and may experience increased separation anxiety. Children between the ages of three and seven may alternate between periods of being withdrawn and playing. Children in this age group may also exhibit aggressive behaviors or may revert to behaviors they exhibited when younger (ex. bed-wetting, thumb-sucking, baby-talk). Children between 7 and 11 years old are likely to experience behavioral changes and may have difficulties at school. In some cases, these children may attempt to take on role of the deceased person to try to compensate for their absence.  Teenagers are likely to rely more heavily on support from peers and may experience survivor’s guilt when a sibling has died. Teenagers may also experience frequent mood changes and experience difficulties in school. 

Ways to advocate for grieving children

Speak with caregivers and watch for any changes in the children’s behavior that may indicate they are grieving. Advocate for grief counseling and/or support groups for the children to address their loss. Talk to the children’s therapist about how to address questions the children may ask you.  Talk with parents and family members about addressing their own grief and seeking support. If the child wants to talk about their loss, be willing to listen and supportive of their feelings.

  1. What are two behavioral changes a five year old may exhibit during the grieving process?
  2. True or False: Teenagers are unlikely to experience guilt after the death of a sibling.
  3. Explain why it may be beneficial for parents and family members to address their own grief.

Source: The Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas

To receive 1 hour worth of training credit, read the above article and submit answers to the accompanying training questions to Elisabeth Reise at