“Oh, they’re too little to understand,” or “She’s so young, she’ll just bounce back.” That’s how many people think children react to loss or death. But the truth is, no child is too young to experience grief. If mom was healthy and then she’s not, or she’s there and then she’s gone, it’s traumatic, no matter how old the child. There are a lot of misconceptions around the way children respond to a parent’s illness or death, and it’s important to remember that no matter how young they are, children are more perceptive and feel more deeply than many adults give them credit for.
But while children’s grief is just as valid as what an adult would experience, it looks and feels different – they may appear to be happy and playful, unaware, or even uncaring. Adults have an intellectual understanding of what’s going on, whereas with children, especially very young ones, they just know something is wrong, but don’t know how to process or express feelings.
As a Nanny Angel with the parents’ cooperation, you can help the family talk about the parents’ cancer or death with their children, address their worries, and help them cope. To do that, it’s helpful to understand the misconceptions that can prevent a child who is grieving from getting the same support as a grieving adult.