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Signs of Grief in Children and Teens
Even children who are able to express their feelings of grief through words, still at times will show signs of grief through verbal, emotional, and physical behaviors at times. Each child is unique so each child will express grief in his or her own way and own time. There is a wide range of normal behavior. Remember that the only normal you will ever find is a setting on a dryer.
These are some of the normal and worrisome behaviors that may be signs of grief in children or teenagers.
Normal Verbal Behaviors:
Normal Emotional Behaviors
Normal Physical behaviors:
High Risk Students (For Educators and Counselors)
In a grieving student, the following changes in behavior and/or occurrence of symptoms constitute a high risk student for whom a referral for professional evaluation may be appropriate.
Drop in grades: It is not uncommon for students to have a lapse in their grade point average for a short time after a loss. Although some students struggle with school work more than others. Grief takes top priority so studying, concentrating and retaining information are difficult. However if there is no improvement after some time, consider seeking further support for the student. Try to understand when a student is avoiding homework because of associated depression or inability to focus. Often teachers can work with such students and break down assignments or have them get support from a homework buddy.
Depression and/or Anxiety
Discussions about wanting to die: Watch for the student expressing a wish to die through writing, speaking or drawing. In young children be attentive to their play, however remember that it is also normal for children to re-enact their experiences through play.
Changes in Physical Symptoms: Watch for symptoms like lack of appetite, nightmares, restlessness, inability to concentrate, clinging to parents or physical complaints.
Feelings of Guilt: Watch for students who express a responsibility for the death of a loved one or friend. He or she may blame themselves for something they said, did, or didn't say or didn't do.
Lack of communication: Watch for students who don't want to talk about the loss or exhibit prolonged inability to acknowledge a loss.
Identity Change: Watch for students who seem to be assuming the identity of the person who died.
Isolation or Withdrawal: Watch for the student who becomes isolated, drops out of clubs or sports, or cancels events with friends. Early on this is normal but this should not continue.
Use of drugs or alcohol, self injurious behaviors, or other risky behaviors.
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