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Father and Son

When to Worry




Kids, just like adults, need support in dealing with grief. Often parents and other family members are sufficient to provide this support, but it is not unusual for professional help to be useful, too. When is a child’s mourning process become worrisome, veering from health reactions? Although this list is not meant to take the place of the family doctor’s advice, there are signs that a child may be having trouble coping:


  • Any sign of self-harm or behaviors that are threatening to others. This not only includes actions, but also discussion of aggressive or injurious intent. Threats should be taken seriously.

  • Social withdrawal and lack of interest that is pervasive and lasts for weeks or months, long enough to seriously impact a child’s life by hurting school performance, losing friends, or missing other opportunities that cannot be relived.

  • Risk-taking behavior which may suggest lack of concern for one’s own safety.

  • Substance use or abuse.

  • Major changes in eating and sleeping habits that lead to health problems.


It is normal to feel sad, scared, mad, and even hopeless for a period after suffering a loss. There is no absolute time after which grieving is abnormal; these feelings can persist in some form for years. But long-term disruption of normal functioning is problematical. The bottom line: Use your best judgment. You know your child, and if you suspect that there is a problem, trust your instincts. Do not be afraid to ask for help. There is no shame in asking for assistance. Truly, it is a sign of intelligence and strength to recognize when you need a helping hand or expert advice. The main points is to encourage healthy growth in a hurting child. Use whatever assistance is available to attain this goal.

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