If your child has experienced a recent traumatic event such as the loss of a loved one, he or she may be battling a host of emotions. Children often have a difficult time expressing their feelings after such a loss and often suppress them until the stress interferes with their schoolwork and everyday life. As a parent or concerned guardian, it helps to know the signs of a troubled child who may benefit from bereavement therapy from a pediatric counselor. Has the child suddenly begun having nightmares or shown a change in behavior or lack of interest in daily activities? If you believe your child might benefit from bereavement counseling, here are 5 red flag warning signs to look out for:
1. Difficulty Sleeping
Has your child's sleeping habits changed after a personal loss? Perhaps he or she is hesitant to go to sleep, wants to sleep with the light on, or wakes up in the middle of the night crying. Maybe he or she has been having frequent nightmares. Don't just dismiss this as a normal part of childhood because it may be due to pent-up emotions after the loss of a loved one or another traumatic event. Before it gets out of control, it is important to intervene.
You might want to ask your child to share the details of the bad dreams. Sometimes talking about the bad dreams may help. If he or she is unwilling or unable to speak about it, it may be time to see a professional. A certified pediatric counselor with training and experience in dealing with bereaved children may be able to get your child to open up and express those underlying feelings that are disrupting his or her sleep.
2. A Preoccupation with Death
Has your child begun talking about death a lot? Does he or she have questions that you find difficult to answer, such as what happens after death or where their loved one has gone? While this curiosity may seem normal, if this preoccupation with death seems to be overwhelming or interferes with school or daily activities, you might want to turn to a professional counselor to help you cope and to help your child gain a better understanding. If you have strong religious beliefs, you might want to seek a counselor experienced in spiritual healing that may delve into the religious aspect of death.
3. A Sudden Decline in School Grades or Difficulty Concentrating in Class
This is another tell-tale sign of the bereaved child. If your child is grieving, his or her schoolwork may suffer. Look for signs such as a poor grades (especially if your child was previously a good student) or being inattentive in class. In such a case, you might want to speak with his or her teacher to learn more about what is going on in class. The school guidance counselor may be able to help as well, or perhaps refer you to a specialist in child bereavement counseling.
4. Detachment from Reality or Living in the Past
While the loss of a loved one may be hard to accept at first, eventually the child must be able to move forward with his or her life. Does your child speak of the loved one in a present tense, as though that person were still alive? Is the child constantly talking about past events and unable to think about the present or look ahead to future? This could be a sign that your child needs counseling because this matter may be too complicated for a parent to address or find a solution to.
5. Disinterest in Activities or Becoming Withdrawn
Has your once-outgoing child suddenly become withdrawn from friends and family? Has he or she suddenly become disinterested in once-enjoyed activities? This may be a tell-tale sign that your child's grief has become difficult to handle.
If you've had no success encouraging him or her to become more involved, it may be time to seek a professional grief counselor. Don't wait until the situation becomes overwhelming or the child retreats further. You might want to ask your child's pediatrician, school psychologist, or clergy member for the recommendation of a pediatric grief therapist. You can also speak with a representative from a company like the Living Hope Clinic for further information.