NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — One week ago, the world was touched by the tragic deaths of Kobe Bryant, his young daughter and seven other people in a helicopter crash in California.
For many, Bryant was an idol and his fans included many children, who may be dealing with some overwhelming emotions.
So how can we talk to our kids about these tragedies?
Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, a pediatric mental health expert and psychologist, has some tips.
Some signs and symptoms of grief to look out for include regressive behavior, sleep problems, cleanliness, emotional outbursts, crying and withdrawn behaviors.
Capanna-Hodge says always start by asking kids what they know and go from there with developmentally appropriate wording. Don’t overwhelm them with too many details or technical information. Always think about how your kid best receives information: short bits? Visual? Kids love to hear things to relatable stories.
Always approach the topic with hope so they can come to acceptance more easily. If you’re spiritual, incorporating spirituality into your discussion has been shown to be comforting and also helps with acceptance.
Capanna-Hodge says grief is normal and there are five stages. You would expect a child or an adult to go through those stages but if a person really gets stuck in one stage, especially in anger and depression, it’s always a good idea to seek help.
Allow time for grief and focus on comfort. Just being there to listen and with close proximity can be very helpful for somebody who is grieving. Snuggling on the couch and watching a movie together, reading a book or holding your hands while you take a walk can bring comfort.
Children, and adults, can find some sensory items very helpful when they’re feeling distressed due to grief. Those items include weighted blankets, Play-Doh or kinetic sand, and stress balls or toys. Painting, doodling and coloring can also be helpful.
It’s also important to have movement when you’re feeling grief or depressed. Movement helps to bring our energy levels up and can be a way to feel connected. Examples include walking, yoga, brain-gym type exercises and connecting with nature outdoors.