How can you talk to a teenager about the grief process? John Rampton with the Open to Hope Foundation interviews Molly Pickett, whose father died when she was young. She remembers there were many hurtful things said to her, often by well-meaning people. She recommends that parents especially avoid saying certain things to kids and teens. However, it’s an individual process. For Pickett, she wanted to protect her mother—and of course her mother wanted to protect her. The silence itself was most painful from her mother.

Silence can feel like the grief isn’t acknowledged. A child, especially a teen, will know that sadness is normal. Parents should open the dialogue, and get professional help doing so if necessary. It’s key for the parent to acknowledge their own feelings aloud. That gives a child permission to model such behavior. Teens are always watching, and learning how to grieve (for better or worse) via the adults in their life.

An Open Line

A safe avenue for acknowledging your grief is critical, and remember that grieving is a learned process. Teens are notorious for trying to appear strong, especially if they think their parent needs them to be. However, this can backfire. Parents often worry that their teens aren’t grieving, when in fact the teenager often leans on friends and social media rather than using traditional grief methods.

In many cases, a parent might need to reach out to another source of support if the whole family is grieving a loss. It’s a lot to handle on your own. Pickett knows her mom did the best she could, but the silence made it very challenging for both of them to move towards healing. Today, she’s an advocate for talking to teens but even more importantly listening to them.