Seattle's Child

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kids and grief

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5 tips to help kids cope with the loss of a pet or a person

'Freeda the Frog' author offers parents simple advice

Kids and grief: How do you say goodbye to someone you love, whether it’s a pet or a grandparent? Dealing with death can be difficult and painful for grownups, let alone for little children.

In one of the newest books in the “Freeda the Frog” series, “Freeda the Frog Says Farewell to Her Fish,” author Nadine Haruni presents a story focusing on the loss of the frog family’s beloved pet fish, Goldie, to help families struggling with loss and the often-overwhelming feelings surrounding it.

Whether reeling from the unexpected loss of a pet or a person — or facing the approaching death of an ailing or elderly family member — parents and kids can find comfort in sitting together and reading about how parents Freeda and Samson helped their tadpoles cope with Goldie’s death.

Kids and grief: 5 tips for parents

Haruni offers these tips to help parents “struggling to find the right words or actions to express their feelings or condolences” when they are explaining loss or the grieving process to a child:

  • Use simple, direct words to talk about death. Give your child a moment to take your words in, and prepare them for rituals or events that will happen.
  • Give them an age-appropriate book. Relatable characters can help kids explore the feelings that they will likely be experiencing.
  • Listen, provide comfort, and encourage them to talk. Remind them that you are here, and it’s OK to cry or openly discuss their feelings with you or a professional.
  • Remind them that loved ones aren’t forgotten. Encourage them to talk or write about treasured memories with their loved one who passed to keep them close.
  • Teach them an appropriate condolence gesture. A handwritten condolence note, food or flowers for the grieving family may be appropriate.

“Hugs, sharing memories, having a ceremony to say goodbye and letting yourself cry are all ways to ease mourning, heal and teach your kids at an early age how to do the right thing, be a good friend and prepare for inevitably going through loss,” Haruni says.

About the author: Nadine Haruni is an award-winning children’s book author and a mother to five kids in a blended family. Her Freeda the Frog series follows a frog family as they go through various real-life “stuff”— from a parent’s divorce and remarriage to adjusting to a blended family, moving, starting a new school and meeting the gay family on the lily pad next door. Along with writing and parenting, Haruni is a practicing attorney and a certified yoga instructor. She lives in Bergen County, New Jersey, with her family.

More in Seattle’s Child:

Dad Next Door: When the unimaginable happens: Walking through grief with a child

About the Author

Nadine Haruni