The vast majority of children experience the death of a close family member or friend. Bereavement can have a profound and long-term impact on children’s psychological adjustment, academic achievement, and personal development. This session will discuss basic skills for pediatric healthcare providers in how to talk with and support grieving children and families and outline some of the unique challenges posed by grief during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Scope in Pediatrics
5% of children experience the death of a parent
90% of children experience the death of a close family member or friend
Bereavement has a significant and often long-term impact on a child’s learning, social and emotional development, behavior, and adjustment
- Even before the pandemic, approximately 9 of 10 children experience the death of a family member or friend; 1 of 20 experience the death of a parent
- Pediatricians can play an important role by ensuring that grieving children receive support at home and at school
- It is important to acknowledge the loss with children in your practice; there are general considerations about what to say – and what not to say – to a grieving child
- It’s important to identify and address guilt reactions which are common among grieving children
- The pandemic has caused widespread distress among children, but much of that is related to loss rather than to trauma – we need to be both trauma-informed and grief-sensitive
- There are unique challenges in supporting grieving children during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Free professional development resources on bereavement are available from the Coalition to Support Grieving Students (the AAP is a member of the Coalition)
Related AAP Policy
AAP Clinical Report: Schonfeld DJ, Demaria T, Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, and Disaster Preparedness Advisory Council: Supporting the grieving child and family. Pediatrics 2016, 138(3): e20162147. (doi: 10.1542/peds.2016-2147)
Related AAP Resources
Coalition to Support Grieving Students – Offers free professional development resources on bereavement (the AAP is a member of the Coalition)
Grief Organizations & Grief Camps. Eluna Network
National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement
AAP Resources for Families on HealthyChildren.org
Schonfeld D, Quackenbush M: After a Loved One Dies—How Children Grieve and How Parents and Other Adults Can Support Them. New York, NY: New York Life Foundation, 2014. Can be downloaded or ordered free of charge here.
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The AAP gratefully acknowledges support for the Pediatric Mental Health Minute in the form of an educational grant from SOBI.