Advocate News


12.16.2015

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Advocate Tip: Children and Grief

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. Additionally, 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 and familiar surroundings. 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 to that child. The child’s response to grief can also be influenced by their developmental stage. Children under the age of three 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 Children between the ages of three and seven may alternate between periods of being withdrawn and playful. 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 that can create difficulties at school. In some cases, these children may even attempt to take on role of the deceased or missing person to try to compensate for their absence. Teenagers are likely to experience frequent mood changes and have difficulties in school. Teens are also more likely to experience survivor’s guilt when a sibling has died. 

Ways to Advocate for Grieving Children

There are a number of things that CASA volunteers can do to advocate for children who may be grieving. The CASA volunteer can speak with the children’s caregivers and watch for any changes in the children’s behavior that may indicate they are grieving. Advocating for services, such as grief counseling and/or support groups for the children to address their loss, and talking to the children’s therapist about how to address questions the children may ask you can also be helpful.  Speaking with parents and family members about addressing their own grief and seeking support is an indirect way that advocates can help the children. Additionally, be willing to listen and be supportive of the children’s feelings if the child wants to talk about their loss.

1. List three ways that a 5 year old child might respond to grief.

2. True or False: Teenagers are likely to experience guilt after the death of a sibling.

3. In what ways can a CASA volunteer advocate for grieving children?

To receive 1 hour worth of training credit, read the above article and submit answers to the accompanying training questions to Anna Munoz at amunoz@casa-satx.org.