• Increase in irritability and/or change in personality
Caregivers often that children in this age range typically experience irritability, primarily because of a change in their daily routine. In general, when there is a change in any child’s routine, there will be some amount of stress, which will cause irritability and/or a change in personality. However, once the child becomes adjusted to his/her new schedule they typically return to the infant you knew prior to the trauma.
Once again a change in routine will also affect sleeping patterns. The infant must again learn to trust their caregiver. So, be sure to provide him/her the individual attention s/he needs. This may include sleeping in the room or being present while they fall asleep.
We do NOT recommend that caregivers allow infants and toddlers to sleep in the adult
bed with caregivers. There are several safety concerns and an increased risk for accidents
coinciding with infants sleeping beside adults. The sleeplessness should deplete over time as well.
Toddlers, Preschool, and School Age
• Hyper vigilance
Children will often participate in attention seeking behaviors that may or may not be harmful to self or others. As an educator, you have to be sure the safety of other students and staff is kept at all times. Therefore, if a suspension is needed, view it as a “teachable moment”. During your parent-teacher/administrator meeting have the social worker or counselor educate the child, parents, teacher, and administrators about typical grief responses to death visible in children. Adults surrounding this child may be unaware that this behavior is related to any type of loss. As a parent, you must attempt to communicate consequences to behaviors. If your child’s behavior continues seek professional help in efforts to restore that child’s sense of safety and power.
• Dreams and nightmares
Children directly exposed to a traumatic event, such as a shooting, domestic violence, car fatality, or witnessing a classmate’s death, are likely to have intrusive nightmares. However, children who experience a death of loved one may also have vivid dreams about the loved one. Do NOT assume that their dream was scary. Simply ask your child to describe the dream or nightmare. Be sure to process those dreams and nightmares with your child. If they refuse to talk about the dream, simply offer your support and encourage them to talk to peers if they feel comfortable. Always, as children what ways you can help them to feel safe. This might include a spray bottle of “magic disappearing potion” or a flashlight. To reduce dreams it is important to provide an environment for your child that is peaceful, cozy, and safe. You can do this by playing calming music before bedtime, reading calming books before bedtime, and allowing children to sleep where they feel safe, which may include the closet, couch, and floor.
Children are simply fearful and afraid of what might happen next, causing intrusive nightmares leading to lack of sleep. These children may also begin sleeping in odd Signs of a Grieving Child Konarz TLC Institute www.tlcinstitute.orgplaces, such as on your bedroom floor, in the closet, under the bed, or on the couch. These children are attempting to restore a sense of safety and control over their fears. Children may show this behavior for several months. As adults and caregivers it is essential that we show our support by making that a comfortable place for that child. This may include allowing them to sleep in their favorite sleeping bag or bedroom comforter, having a dog or cat sleep beside them, or having a nearby light on throughout the night. Once the child observes that the adults around him/her believe in their “safety plan” the child has a restored sense of safety and will most likely return to their own beds
• Break down in communication (Specifically in adolescents)
In adolescents, parents may notice a decrease in communication with their teen. Teenagers specifically will process their grief with people outside the traumatic event to protect those that they care about. We often refer to this as the “protection game.” Parents naturally want to protect their children from intense emotions and trauma-inducing incidents and therefore do not speak of the incidence. Children naturally do not want upset their parents either and protect them by not discussing the incidence. However, both children and parents will still grieve, but they are forced to process their grief by themselves. It is okay for parents to tell their children their response to grief and vice versa. However, remind parents that some children will still choose to process their emotions with peers or other adults, which is also healthy. Remind parents that they should still share their grief, but should not with or without the discussions. Remind parents that their children are most likely processing their grief with peers and teachers and that this is typical and healthy of adolescents.