Action Plan 2: Supporting Young Children through Family Loss
Molly Ann McPherson, Ed. D
Child, Family and Community Relations, (EDUC – 1006-2
November 6, 2010
Part I: Supporting an Infant
Developmental information about what an infant may feel or understand about a family death. Although it might be easy to assume that a child as young as yours will not notice or be impacted by her death, but they do. The baby will miss the elements of grandma, like her smell, touch and voice. Because she was the primary caregiver while you were at work, the baby may feel a bit disconnected or vulnerable.
Possible ways that an infant may respond to a family death.
You may notice a bit of a change in the baby’s personality while she adjusts to the change, but maintaining consistency is going to help her immensely. We want her to feel safe and secure.
Specific advice from experts on how to help an infant through a family loss. Because children of this age do not understand the concept of death, you may not have to get into much detail. The most crucial thing is going to be to make sure that the baby keeps a constant routine. Keeping her routine as normal as possible will help get back that feeling of being safe and connected.
Part II: Supporting a Toddler
Developmental information about what a toddler may feel, believe, or understand about a family death. A lot like the baby, Toddler may not understand the concept of death but will undoubtedly experience a sense of loss from his life. He knows that grandma was a constant, daily fixture. Normally at this age, there is a large component of “out of sight, out of mind” however once Toddler realizes that there is a prolonged and consistent absence, he will experience grief. Also be aware that he may be sensing and picking up your feelings and reacting to them, or become irritable, this is quite normal. There are also some other signs of grief that Toddler might experience.
Possible ways that a toddler may respond to a family death.
Some toddlers do experience a shift in personality or are irritable. Most of the time this is temporary, however some personality changes may happen and this is part of the coping process. Sometimes a child’s view of the world is altered by trauma and causes the changes to be permanent.
You may also notice that there is a loss of appetite or he may even select only certain types of food. He should work his way back to normal eating again. If it persists for more than a couple of weeks, see your doctor. Sleep might be affected, either not sleeping or being afraid of falling asleep alone. This problem should diminish over time. Specific advice from experts on how to help a toddler through a family loss. The best advice for helping Toddler is going to be to maintain his sleep, feeding and activities routine as much as possible. This will help him regain his sense of connection and balance.
If you do notice a decrease in activity and see him just lying limply be aware that this is a normal part of the process. Try to offer opportunities for activity and play every day until he responds. Be patient with him. You may also see him regressing to previous activities. Being patient is going to be crucial for him.
Part III: Supporting a Preschooler
Developmental information about what a preschooler may feel, believe, or understand about a family death. Preschooler may experience a couple of things to be on the look-out for. Letting Preschooler know that she didn’t do anything to cause grandma’s death and that there is nothing that you can do to bring her back. Sometimes children develop something called “magical thinking” where they think that they either caused the death, could have prevented it or that the person who has died will come back like a cartoon character.
It is not uncommon for a child to continue to believe that the family member...
References: cited using APA style (except in discussion postings)
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