Addressing Your Children's Grief, Shock and Trauma


Addressing Your Children's Grief, Shock and Trauma

Conversation starters to help your children process their emotions

By Focus on the Family Singapore | 21 July 2021

When we hear of horrific news, whether it is close to home or far away, we often feel reverberations of shock and are in denial—the first stage of grief.

As many of our children went back to school today, there perhaps could be a mixture of feelings from worry to anxiety, as with many questions that are still unanswered.

As adults, while we may not have all the answers to our children's questions, we can be better equipped to handle these big emotions. How can we help our children process their grief, rage or shock when it overflows at an unexpected time?

Here are some tips to consider:

  • Practise B.A.R. in our conversations
    1. Balance your information: Listen actively before sharing age-appropriate information and responses to their thoughts/questions
    2. Acknowledge their emotions: Check in with your children regularly as their feelings may evolve from day-to-day
    3. Reassure them: Create a safe space for your children to process their thoughts and emotions, do not be dismissive of their questions/concerns


  • Nurture empathy as a long-term goal
    When we use these conversation starters (view on Instagram for young children or teens, or on Facebook for young children and teens), we want to nurture our children's capacity for empathy. Without feeding speculation about the event, we can also help our children see that there are choices that can have severe and long-term consequences.

  • Tailoring the grieving process for children of different ages
    The younger ones will understand and respond to the news differently from older teens, and understanding their perspectives on the issue may help when they make baffling or unexpected statements.

    1. Primary schoolers: It’s normal for children in this age group to seem curious or preoccupied with the subject of death. They are in a "fact-finding" phase, gathering intel about this confusing topic and struggling to figure out who is "likely to die" and who isn’t. They may not yet realise that death is permanent, but they do perceive it as a separation. For the older ones, they would understand that no one escapes death, including themselves, and they have begun to contemplate eternity, heaven and hell. They may need lots of reassurance as they begin to realise their own mortality. Others may express righteous anger. "How can this happen?" "The boy was innocent." "Why did the older boy do that?" "He should be punished heavily."

      Acknowledge and respond to your children's questions calmly while guiding them towards conveying empathy rather than assigning blame.

    2. Teens: They're more likely to express thoughts and emotions to friends than to parents. Sometimes they are reluctant to talk about their emotions with their parents after past sensitive situations were handled without sufficient care. Find ways to show them that you're ready to handle their grief more gently this time—it could start with an apology, and talking about your own grief and concern for your child, without putting anyone down.

As you work through their grief, shock and trauma together, we hope that you will also discover a closer, more secure relationship with them.

When a loved one dies: Understanding grief in children, retrieved from Focus on the Family Canada

© 2021 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

This article is part of a series of resources supported by the Musim Mas BlueStar* fund, administered by The Majurity Trust, to address mental health needs of children and youth.


Is your child battling depression or other issues? Make an appointment with a counsellor today.

Has your child mentioned friends being stressed by school or bullied online? Do you know if your child or their friends have entertained thoughts of suicide?

With the Raising Future-Ready Kids: Mental & Emotional Resilience and Suicide Prevention & Mental Health webinars, we give you handles to build on foundations of open communication and supportive relationships to protect your child’s mental health and emotional well-being. Discover how you can raise mentally strong teens and create a safe space for your child at home at these webinars.

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