Barnardo’s is releasing some tips for parents about how to help their children cope with the death of a family member during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Before Covid-19, official stats showed one in 29 five-16 year olds had been bereaved of a parent or sibling – that’s at least one child in every average class.
With more than 140,000 deaths from Covid-19 in the UK (deaths with Covid-19 on the death certificate), Barnardo’s says many more children and young people will be experiencing bereavement.
Black people and men of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage are almost twice as likely to die from Covid-19 as White people meaning children from these communities are more likely to experience loss.
The guidance is released on the same day the UK’s leading children’s charity broadcasts its latest TV advert in its Believe in Me campaign. It highlights the importance of support services for children and young people who have experienced bereavement, loss or grief.
In the ad, to be aired on television from 24 March 2021, a computer generated crow symbolises the feelings of loss and grief a young boy experiences from losing his mum, before receiving support from a Barnardo’s counsellor.
Viewers who see the advert on television or on social media can help Barnardo’s to help children like the boy in the advert by donating to its Children in Crisis appeal.
All the money raised goes towards helping children who are suffering due to the devastating impact of the pandemic.
The children’s charity hopes its seven tips for parents and carers about how to help a child cope with the death of a loved one will be useful:
1. Be open and honest
During these unusual times it is natural to want to shield children when someone dies. However, it is important to support children and young people and help them to cope with their big emotions.
Parents and other adults need to help them understand the concept of death and this is best done by giving your child clear, age-appropriate, honest information on a frequent basis.
2. How to explain a death to a child
When explaining a death to a child it is important to try to use the word ‘dead’ or ‘death’ rather than phrases such as ‘gone to sleep’, ‘lost’’ or ’gone to a better place’. These phrases cause confusion for young children and can lead to unnecessary anxiety, with some children becoming worried about what will happen to them when they go to sleep or if they see their parents fall asleep.
Young children need to be told repeatedly that when someone dies they can never come back. It is important to explain that the dead person doesn’t eat, sleep, or feel any pain.
3. Explain how a person died
Children benefit from having the cause of the death explained to them.
This should be done simply and in a language that the child understands. There is a risk that if children are not given a clear explanation, they may blame themselves or create their own story around the death.
4. Help them to understand the concept of death
It is important that a child understands that everyone dies at some time, but most people don’t die until they are older.
Following a death, children, can become very anxious and often have difficulty separating from family members. It helps them to regain confidence in the world if they can understand the concept of death.
5. Help them understand it isn’t their fault
Children often blame themselves when someone special dies so need to hear that nothing we think or say can cause death.
It is important to emphasise to them that it was not their fault.
6. Help them to say goodbye
Sadly, as result of infection control many families will not have the opportunity to spend time with someone who is dying or say goodbye in person.
Where it is possible, maybe suggest to the children that you write your own book about favourite memories of time spent together. This may help your family capture some memories.
7. Take care of yourself
Doing the best you can at this time is all that your children need. Take time to care for yourself.
Allow yourself to feel even though it is painful.
Keep talking to those who are closest to you even if they are they physically far away and try to phone someone each day.
Keep to routines such as mealtimes, getting up time and getting washed and dressed as well as bed time. As well as helping yourself, keeping to routines and boundaries following a bereavement helps children to feel safe.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:
“Our latest TV advert features a young boy suffering from grief after the death of his mother. Sadly, these raw emotions will be familiar to thousands of children and families across the UK, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Children have suffered a huge amount of loss in the last year. For most this has meant missing out on school and playing with their friends, but for too many children it has meant the loss of parents, grandparents and members of their family or community – especially those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities.
“I hope that parents find our tips useful in supporting their children through their grief and coming to terms with what has happened.”
Viewers of the advert are also encouraged to donate to Barnardo’s Children in Crisis appeal, if they are able to.
Javed Khan added:
“At Barnardo’s we believe that with the right support all children can recover from trauma and work towards a positive future. We provide this support across the country – but we can’t do it alone. Now more than ever we rely on the support of our friends and partners, and the generosity of the public, to continue our vital work.”
You can sign up to support Barnardo’s through your pay here