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Children, Loss & the Holidays: 4 ways parents and/or caregivers can support grieving children through the holiday season

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child_ornament_tree_decoratingHolidays are usually depicted as a happy time to celebrate with families. For some families, holidays can bring a lot of joy, togetherness, and closeness with family and friends. For other families, it can be a very stressful and sad time.

Children who have experienced loss in their family, whether through their parent’s divorce or the death of a loved one, face their own set of challenges and struggles during the Holiday season. However, there are steps that parents and caregivers can take to help alleviate some of the difficulties.


  1. Remember the old and the new. The holidays mark a time to grieve old traditions. It is important for both children and parents to mourn the time when their family looked and felt different, while also trying to embrace new traditions and a new structure to their family unit.
  2. Allow for sadness and excitement. Parents should be mindful to create space for their children to express their emotions of sadness and grief around the loss of what they used to know within their family, while also encouraging excitement around creating new family traditions.
  3. Unite the fronts. If possible, parents should try and work together to create a collaborative atmosphere in which they can present as a united front in communicating these messages to their children.
  4. Model the emotions. It can be helpful for parents to role model to their children the feelings of both sadness around the holidays and also the hope around creating new memories.


In essence, parents and/or caretakers really have a lot of power and opportunity when it comes to supporting their children throughout the holiday season. By being mindful of these issues and following these steps, they can help move their family forward by mourning the past and encouraging hope for the future.


This content comes from Mallory Rose, LMFT, a Family Institute staff clinician who facilitates the Institute’s Rainbows groups.

The Family Institute at Northwestern University’s Rainbows groups provide peer support for children who have suffered the death of a parent/loved one, divorce, or military deployment, at no cost to families.

Through our partnership with Rainbows, an international not-for-profit organization that assists children through their grief, we offer this safe, nurturing environment for children to mourn the loss of their relatives and/or nuclear family.

When: Mondays & Wednesdays, after school

Location: The Family Institute at Northwestern University, 666 Dundee Road, Suite 1501, Northbrook

Cost: No charge

Age: Elementary school

Advanced registration is required. Space is limited.


The Family Institute’s Rainbows support groups are led by certified Rainbows facilitators who guide elementary school-age children struggling with parental loss such as separation, divorce or death. The groups meet at The Family Institute’s Northbrook location.

If you are the parent of an elementary school-aged child going through a loss, or know a child who is, please contact Mallory Rose, Rainbows coordinator, at 847-733-4300, ext. 806 or to learn more about the Rainbows Program.

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