While researching papers about grief and loss, the development of this emotions and analyzing the factors affecting the development of this emotion, I found a huge amount of scientists and researchers who published their works about this specific emotion. My goal in this paper is to examine the development of grief in children 2-6 years of age, support the research by the relevant examples of this emotion in a real situation and find out several solutions how to cope with this emotion, more specifically, how practitioners can help children understand and cope with it.
Children are disenfranchised in grief and adults try to protect them from the tragedy of loss by distracting them, lying them and telling them half-truths about the death of someone they loved. “Some adults fool themselves into believing that children are too young to know what is going on”. (Carney) However, the loss is a universal phenomenon and both children and adults respond to it, but in different ways. Although the response to the loss or some other situations which can provoke grief are common, some expressions vary across individuals. (Howarth)
Children reaction to the death of loved ones often remains a mystery for adults, it's not always visible, whether the child is experiencing a loss and, if so, to what extent. It also happens that the child's reaction to the loss is shocking for others, or, at least, leads them in bewilderment and, even more, unclear than it is possible to help him. The child may not be obvious with expressing grief, such as crying or verbal expression of emotions, but the present signs of latent feelings of loss in the form of action, changes in behavior and neurotic symptoms can happen. The open expression of children's grief is often a surprise to the others: a child is just playing, and suddenly "strikes in tears." It is noteworthy that children experience of grief is very uneven and they prone to express their sorrow from time to time, in waves: a surge of emotion and tears flow relative replaced sedation or even moments of fun. Children mature and their emotions develop in their response to the loss. The characteristic features of a particular age period can be considered on the example of the death of a parent. When being told that his mother may soon die, a 10-year-old reacts by asking some household and general question. He is letting know that he had heard enough. However a four-year-old is told that his parent died and he asks about when the father is going to come back because, at his age, children don’t understand that death is final and permanent. So, people need to know and understand what is expectable with children in the different age stages of development and to recognize that children in their own way show their own grief. (Carney)
At the age of two, the child still cannot understand the death of a parent, but notices his absence and emotional changes in people who take care of him. Even a small child can become irritable, shriller; may change eating habits; bowel or bladder disorders are possible.
At the age of about two years, children know that if people are not in sight, they can call or find them. Therefore, the search for the deceased parent - a typical expression of grief in this age group. It may take time for the child to realize that parents are not coming back. These children need a safe, stable environment, maintaining the established order food and sleep. They are especially needed attention and love.
The next age period - from three to five years. Understanding of death in this age is still limited. Children in this age group need to know that death is not a dream. They need to gently explain that Dad (Mom) has died and will never come back. A child may suddenly become afraid of the dark, to experience periods of sadness, anger, anxiety, crying. You may have problems with bowel and bladder, abdominal pain, headaches, skin rashes, falls mood, a return to past habits (thumb sucking, etc.). From this age, children may also think that something of what they have done or not done, it could cause death (for example, if a parent has not given a toy, a picture or a gift); they need to be assured that happened not because of their fault. Children need to know that they will be taken care of and that the family will stay together. It is useful to recall some positive children or special things that parents do with them, for example, cooperative games, holidays.
In the early school years (from six to eight years), children still have difficulties in understanding the reality of death. They feel a sense of uncertainty and insecurity. Grieving children may behave in the classroom is not peculiar nature, the show anger against teachers. Children, it is desirable to prepare for questions from other people advise them to simply say: "My father (or another close person) is dead." They need to say that it's okay - do not go into the details of the death of a parent. The child must decide who he wants to open. Sometimes a professional help could be needed. A child and a professional psychiatrist or other well qualified mental health professional may help the grieving child accept the death or other grief provoking situation and assist in helping the child through this process. (Collins) Vocational and psychological help for grieving children to a certain extent is different from the similar assistance to adults. This difference is mainly due to the fact that children are not able to comprehend the misfortune at the level at which adults are able to do so. Accordingly, the role of unconscious processes in the grieving child can be much more than the adults. This difference is gradually smoothed out as they grow older but usually persists until adolescence. One embodiment of the unconscious processing of loss and reactions caused by it - is living in their dream. (Howarth)
Carney, K. “Children and Grief” psychcentral.com. Psych Central, Web, January 16, 2016. Howarth Robyn, “Concepts and Controversies in Grief and Loss” Journal of Mental Health Counseling Volume, January 2011, pages 4-10
Harper Collins “Grief and Children” aacap.org, Web, July 2013