Children are often the unintended victims of life crisis. Parents don’t always think how their decisions will affect the children in their family before making them. If a marriage has become irreparable each may be focusing on their feelings only. The parents may forget that they, NOT the children, are the ones with feeling of hate and hurt. Too often an angry parent tries to inflict pain on the other spouse by using the children in a cruel game.

If a loved one dies, the parent(s) may be involved in their own mourning and forget that there is still a child at home worth “going on for”. They overlook that the life of the children has changed dramatically as well, and the family, as a whole, now has a “new normal” to adjust to.

Children of deployed parents are often overlooked in the arena of grief and loss. When a spouse is deployed, the parent left behind may be so overwhelmed with new responsibilities of raising a family alone they over look the feelings of the children left behind too. Society also gives conflicting messages from, “soldiers are heroes and serving our country is a noble thing”, to “We shouldn’t be at war! We should keep our noses out of other’s business.” Should the child be proud of their parent, angry that they left, or fearful that they will never see them again?

Grief is an emotional reaction to a loss; Mourning is the expression of that grief. Listed below are a few symptoms and suggestions to help your child cope with their grief and mourn in a more productive manner. Death is final, divorce can be very ugly and deployment of a parent is often wrought with fear, pride and confusion. Remember, it takes time and each person/child will adjust according to their own time clock. There are no easy or fast answers, these are just suggestions to ease the life adjustment back to a new reality.

Feelings: Sadness, disbelief, sorrow, guilt and regret, depression, fear, anger, overwhelmed, numb, relief, confusion, emptiness.

Behaviors: Withdrawal, isolation, crying, regression, clinging, acting out, search for identity, risky behavior, excessive sleeping, talking about dying, lowered grades or school may become “safe haven”, erratic sleep patterns, nightmares, fear of causing further pain or adding burden to parent, parenting the parent.

Coping Skills: Listen to them when they talk and let them cry, give age appropriate information, be honest but NOT belittling, explain what death/divorce/deployment means, involve child in planning of funeral/move/new family routine, assure them they are NOT responsible for the loss, provide a journal for the child to write (or draw) their feelings and thoughts, help to create a memory box, write letters or draw pictures for the person who left, offer your love and understanding, tell them that you also have feelings of (sadness, loss, grief, anger, fear) so they don’t think they are alone, tell them you will be there for them, take extra time for them, create rituals of memories.

Author's Bio: 

Owner of Choices Counseling in BlLair Nebraska.
Graduated from UNO with a BA in Psychology and an MS in Counseling