Experts have offered five simple tips for parents
and other adults to help a grieving teenager.
As if adolescence is not difficult enough, a
teen's life becomes even more complex when a father, mother or other
significant person dies. It's a life-shattering experience faced by one in 10
children before the age of 18. While all young people struggle with such
losses, teenagers often have a particularly difficult time adjusting after the
death of a loved one.
Teens often try to mask their grief to avoid appearing
vulnerable, especially males who are taught from an early age to hide their
emotions. Teens will go to great lengths not to appear different from their
peers. On the outside they may act nonchalant, but inside they may feel deep
pain, sorrow and fear. Sometimes teens may even take on the role of caregiver
to family members or friends, serving only to ignore their own grief.
No matter how hard a parent or another adult
tries to reach out, teens often trust only their friends. They believe that
only people their age can understand what they are going through and feel more
comfortable communicating with people in their own age group.
Because teens are most open to fellow teens, one
approach to providing help is through peers. Peer counseling is now an elective
course in many schools. Peer counselors are trained to look at life's problems
on a personal level and then explore ways to help their peers. These
counselors are introduced to difficult situations that may occur in young
people's lives, and speakers are brought in to teach them about coping
Peer counseling can play a critical role in
opening communication with bereaved classmates and friends, as well as guiding
them to professional help if needed. The young counselors learn the basics about
depression, grief, communicating with parents and other adults and about the
warning signs of suicide. They also learn their limitations while being assured
of the support and expertise of their peer counseling teachers.
• Listen nonjudgmentally and be
• Express interest in their views, their ideas and thoughts, and in them;
• Show them that you like and care for them;
• Support their ideas or gently introduce new ways to approach their ideas;
• Acknowledge their grief, as well as your own, and offer your thoughts of how
to cope during the grieving process.