How Can I Help My Child Cope With a Friend's Death?

How Can I Help My Child Cope With a Friend's Death?

My daughter recently had to cope with the death of a peer. Her classmate died after a long battle with a serious illness. My daughter now becomes anxious every night at bedtime. How can I help her?
- Kira

The death of a friend or family member is difficult for anyone. How kids respond depends greatly on their age, experiences, and personality. And when a peer dies, kids may be afraid that something similar could happen to them.

Your child may be feeling depressed, angry, confused, anxious, or any number of emotions. Be honest with her and encourage questions. This can be hard because you may not have all the answers. But it's important to create an atmosphere of comfort and openness, and to convey that there's no single "right" way to feel or grieve.

Your daughter might find it helpful to hear you express your feelings on her friend's death. Give her the opportunity to express her feelings and recognize that her anxiety and sadness are perfectly normal. You might also share any spiritual beliefs you have about death with her.

If her reaction continues beyond a few weeks or negatively affects other aspects of her life, consider seeking help from a mental health professional.

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: July 2015

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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Related Resources
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) AACAP offers up-to-date information on child and adolescent development and issues.
OrganizationAmerican Psychological Association (APA) The APA provides information and education about a variety of mental health issues for people of all ages.
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