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Divorce or Death: How To Help Grieving Children

Taken from Growing Seasons: How to Help Children Heal from Divorce and Other Losses, a small group curriculum  by Jean Brunson. 

Published by Living Free Ministries. http://store.livingfree.org/Small-Group-Curriculums_c_51.html

Ages and Stages

Infants: Babies believe a person or thing only exists when it is in their field of vision. Grief for an infant is caused by breaking the bond. If bonding is broken in the first two years of life, babies need to quickly bond with someone else. This is essential if they are to establish trust in their world. Infants and toddlers also respond to the emotions of those around them.

Preschoolers: Little children still do not fully understand object permanence. They think death is reversible, like it is on cartoons. This is an age of much magical thinking. They may believe they did something to cause the the loss.

2 Kids Walking on Red Tulip Garden Under Blu Sky

Ages Six to Ten: Early elementary age children are still concrete in their thinking, so it is important not to use euphemisms in explaining death. They understand that death is final but may think of it as a ghost they can outsmart.  After a death or divorce, they feel much sadness but they think they can control it. They need to be encouraged to express it. Boys tend to be more prone to expressing their emotions of anger and acting out while girls seem to show more sorrow.

carefree, child, enjoyment

Eleven to Teenage: Preteens tend to act angry because it seems more acceptable than sadness. They may long to retreat into childhood and look for meaning in the the loss. Any adolescent rebellion that occurred before the loss can cause feelings of guilt. Children this age may have difficulty concentrating in school.

adult, beautiful, blur

Grief from a loss of any kind does impact children. I hope this blog will help some readers who are dealing with a grieving child. Please feel free to ask questions or make comments. I am here to help. However, each situation and each child is different, so any suggestions I might make are only suggestions. They are not to be considered as counseling. Please help me start the conversation.

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Teaching Children about God

What spiritual messages do you want your child to hear?

Infants                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              You need to answer that question almost as soon as the precious bundle of joy comes into the world. Why? Consider this. From birth to age two children learn more about the world than at any other age. They learn whether the world is safe or scary and hurtful. Right after birth they may think, What is that bright light and why am I hanging upside down?  They need tender touch and soft words to feel secure. Infants who don’t feel loved will have a difficult time learning to trust.

Age Two                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Around the age of two their world view takes a quantum leap. They seem to change overnight. They may think, My mommy will give me an apple when I ask for one. Two-year-old children believe everything they hear and see. They have no way to know if the messages they receive are true.  They begin to understand they have choices. The word “No” sometimes gets them in trouble and sometimes helps them feel as if they have some power. They think concretely, so be sure you explain spiritual words, such as God and heaven. My two and a half-year-old son came into the room one Sunday morning as I was getting his sister ready for church. He said, “That man on TV said God is a Holy Ghost. God isn’t a ghost, is He?”

Preschool                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        As children approach the preschool years, they think for themselves more and more. They open their hearts to new ideas about spiritual issues as their spongy minds seek to understand the world they live in. They learn from many sources: their families, their friends, their teachers, and even television. Truth and lies vie for their attention. They still think concretely, yet they start to learn and love the traditions of the religion practiced by their parents. Preschoolers may not remember exact things that happened to them, but parents can help till the fallow ground of their spiritual beliefs, thoughts, and emotions. At age four, my son said, “I am going to dig a big hole and push the devil into it.”

Elementary Children                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Children as young as six can make religious decisions that will impact their entire lives, including where they will spend eternity. Spiritual beliefs and decisions made in the early elementary years tend to stand firm. Josh McDowell said on Point of View radio, “If you don’t reach a child for Jesus before the age of twelve, you have only a four percent chance of reaching him (her.)” My children both accepted Jesus as their Savior at age six.

What spiritual messages do you want your child to hear? What are you doing to make sure your children are hearing the truth?