I like the “Four T’s” approach to helping a grieving child: Talk, Touch, Tears, and Time.
- Talk: Remember that “talking” includes a lot of “listening” too.
- Touch: Hug your children often. Showing affection aids healing. Some children may become more affectionate. However, if they do not wish to be touched, respect their space and let them know that your arms are always open.
- Tears: Do not be afraid to cry in your children’s presence. Maybe they will cry right away or not at all. Respect the fact that everyone grieves in his or her own way.
- Time: Be patient. It takes time to heal, and everyone moves through deep feelings at a different pace.
Make sure that you are available to talk with your children on an ongoing basis. Talk with them about the changes that are occurring or will occur in your lives. Encourage your children to talk with other family members and caregivers about what they are feeling and thinking. By creating a climate of open communication, you will be able to give support and identify concerns quickly.
It’s important that the adults in the family get on the same page about how to talk with the children. Otherwise, the kids may get different stories from different people. If the other adults in your family have a different communication style, or believe different things, talk with them about what you think would be best for the children to know and encourage all of the grown-ups to give consistent messages to the children. This form of open communication may be different from what your family is used to. Cultural differences may also affect the degree of openness within your family.
 “Do’s and Don’ts with Grieving Children”, Haven of Northern Virginia, Inc. http://www.havenofnova.org/articles/children_in_grief/do_dont_grieving_children.pdf, retrieved July 17, 2010. The “Four T’s” have been highlighted in several articles without attribution to an original source.