Young people, like adults, sometimes need that bit of extra support during stressful times and living with someone in the family with a life-limiting illness or being bereaved may be one of those times.
At times it might be difficult to know how it’s best to help children or young people. It can be hard to know what to say to them about what’s happening as there might be concerns of saying the ‘wrong’ thing, of making things worse, or feelings of trying to protect them from sadness and pain.
How each child or young person copes with the illness or bereavement will be different from child to child. There will be various factors that impact on their emotional wellbeing; for instance the relationship with the person that is ill or has died; their peer support network; if the bereavement means that they will have to move school, or that they have to go and live with another family member; together with other losses they may have experienced.
How You Can Help
- Keep talking, listening, comforting and involving your child as much as possible if they want to be, in a way that is right for them and as much as their age allows.
- Try to answer their questions with honesty and in a way that they will understand. If you don’t have the answers, it’s ok to say this.
- Avoid the phrases or words that might cause confusion like, “Gone to sleep”, “went away”.
- Acknowledge their feelings and don’t be afraid to show yours.
- Give them information about what is happening and what is likely to happen next.
- Give them choices and allow them to participate in rituals including funerals if they wish.
How Can Isabel Hospice Children’s Service Help?
All children and young people grieve, but sometimes this can be expressed differently to the adults around them. This can be shown in their behaviour deteriorating or regressing, lack of concentration, problems at home or school, or sometimes it can look like they don’t care at all!
Children and young people can sometimes be anxious about sharing their feelings with their family, concerned that they will upset them more or get into trouble. Here at Isabel Hospice the Children’s Service can help with those difficult discussions; whether it’s talking to the children about the illness or helping them talk about their feelings.
We can give support to the children/young people of an Isabel Hospice family in a number of ways depending on what is decided will be most beneficial to them; so that could be within school; at the home; as a 1-1 or in a family session.
Experience has also shown us the benefits that children and young people gain from meeting others of their own age and sharing so Isabel Hospice Children’s Service also offer group sessions throughout the year for different age ranges. We have a young person’s group called CATS (Children And Teen Support) for ages 5 to 11 for bereaved children and their carers and also a Youth Group for young people aged 12 to 16 who are facing impending loss or are already bereaved. All of these programmes offer a range of activities which allow the young person to explore and express feelings through creative activities.
These groups are open to any child or young person within eastern Hertfordshire.
How do you ask for help?
Any parent, carer, teacher or health care professional can make a referral. Please contact Tracie Slade, Children’s Service Manager for more information on:
Websites specifically for young people:
For bereaved young teenagers: www.hopeagain.org.uk
For bereaved younger children: www.winstonswish.org.uk
For young people who have a family member living with cancer: www.riprap.org.uk
Childline: 0800 1111
Familylives (formerly Parentline Plus): www.familylives.org.uk