Coping with a family death

Psychologist & Author Charlotte Reznick, PhD, shares advice for parents on the best way to help children cope with the death of a family member or pet
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Coping with a family death

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Death happens in families, whether it’s a pet or a family member and it could be shocking and devastating for kids just as it is for adults. But when kids connect with their imagination, they could find tools to help soothe what’s going on and help them through their grief. I’m thinking about a little girl who lost a dog and she knew her dog for her whole life, Little Buddy. And where I usually start with is, I ask the kids what do they believe happens when someone dies. And for her, she believed the dog went to doggy heaven and she described, she drew a picture of doggy heaven and there was no cats allowed, you could eat whatever you want, you could climb on the furniture. He was playing with this other friends, his mother who had passed on, the across the street neighbor. It was such a loving place that this comforted her and she could visit doggy heaven because if you have someone there, you could visit. So by her visiting, she felt comforted. And it kept his memory alive. Or another girl I’m thinking of who lost her grandfather which can be devastating and often happens when kids are growing up. But for her, she believed her grandfather was above, kind of looking over. So I’ll asked her, or I’ll ask any child, “Well, what would you like to say to your grandfather that you didn’t get a chance to say?” And what she wanted to say is, “I love you.” Which she said many times but she wanted him to know, “I love you.” And he looked down on her in her imagination and said, “I love you too. I’m happy. Be happy too.” And that really helped her feel that she could move on a little bit. And it takes time, but it made a difference for her to know that she can connect with her own imagination.

Psychologist & Author Charlotte Reznick, PhD, shares advice for parents on the best way to help children cope with the death of a family member or pet

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Charlotte Reznick, PhD

Psychologist & Author

Charlotte Reznick, PhD, is a child educational psychologist, a former UCLA Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology, and author of the Los Angeles Times bestselling book, The Power of Your Child's Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success. Dr. Reznick is also creator of Imagery For Kids: Breakthrough for Learning, Creativity and Empowerment, a mindful, positive coping skills program, and writer/producer of several therapeutic relaxation CDs for children, teens and parents. In addition to her private practice, she is a frequent media consultant, and teaches workshops internationally on the healing power of children's imagination.

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