The author of Katie the Ladybug: Explaining Emotions of Grief to a Child, Jesse Roberts, discusses his own losses with Dr. Gloria Horsley at the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling conference. He helps children embrace honesty when talking about death, and points out that sensitive information can and should be concretely shared. Roberts lost both of his parents, and wrote the book as a creative way to explain grief. He was four when he lost his mother, and years later found there was little material out there to help adults talk about grief with a child.
Whether it’s a parent, caregiver, teacher, or other trusted adult, these adults need the right materials and tools to help a child through grief. While therapists are sometimes trained in this field, most adults are at a loss and don’t know how to start these conversations with children. Roberts suggests not trying to sugar coat the truth because that can just confuse kids.
It can be especially difficult for adults to talk to children about grief if they are also grieving a loss. In this case, it can be best to bring in an unbiased third party to help everyone through the grieving process. For Roberts, he says he’s had plenty of support along his own grief journey and he’s very thankful for that—however, others aren’t as lucky. It’s up to the person grieving to reach out and build their support networks.
Of course, children don’t have that option. That’s another rung on the recovery ladder that adults can help with: Identifying support for children. In today’s world, many kids (teens) are going online or using social media to rally support around themselves. Adults should keep an eye on how children are getting support to ensure it’s in a safe manner.