Grief counselors provide tips for helping kids properly cope with grief following tragedy

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. -- By now dozens of kids have either witnessed or heard details about the death of Caleb Schwab at Schlitterbahn water park.

Grief counselors say it’s important to make sure they’re coping with it the right way. Naturally, kids may have some questions and some concerns about Caleb’s death, and how they should feel about it all.

Experts say the last thing parents want to do is not have a conversation about it. Images of Schlitterbahn’s Verruckt water slide have popped up just about everywhere, and so has the image of the boy killed.

The tragedy comes at time when kids are soaking in the last days of summer, and getting ready to head back to school. Solace House program manager Lisa Farmer, says parents need to make the time to start a conversation with their kids about what they’re feeling.

“Finding a time when it’s kind of quiet, there’s not tons of distractions, but it doesn’t seems super serious, and saying 'maybe you’ve heard' or 'I know we saw something really scary, and you might have questions about that, lets’s talk about it.' What are wondering? What are you curious about?” said Farmer.

Solace House offers grief counseling for children as young as age 3, up to adults. Farmer says children may seem fine one minute, and worried the next, which isn’t uncommon.

“Younger kids are going to grieve for 10 minutes at a time and then be out playing and seem just fine, and then go back to it. So that’s something parents need to know and be prepared for,” said Farmer.

Parents should be prepared to revisit the concerns as much as their child needs then to. Repetition is how experts say young children master concepts.

“So they’re going to have to hear some of the same information multiple times before their questions start to make sense to them,” said Farmer.

While some parents may be quick to try and give their child a comforting answer, Farmer suggests parents first make sure they understand exactly what they’re child has concerns about.

“That’s why I think it’s helpful to continue to try to check in with your child, and say i think this is what you’re asking and did my answer satisfy your question?” said Farmer.

“Listening to them, being where they are, normalizing that how they’re feeling is pretty normal, and that it won’t always be like this,” Farmer continued.

Farmer also suggests you make sure you keep the discussions age appropriate, comparing it to the language you use when you’re explaining going to the doctor for the first time, for instance. She also encourages parents to seek the help of school guidance counselors and social workers, and members of the faith community who know the developmental stages of children.