Bereaved Children Need Individualized Response

The Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre has published an up-to-date literature review that "provides a brief overview of educational and psychological outcomes for children and young people bereaved of a parent or sibling, and the effectiveness of services provided for this group."

One of the main conclusions of the review "is the importance of a differentiated response to childhood bereavement, taking account of each child's needs and circumstances."

A common message from the research is that effective approaches to supporting bereaved children need to be appropriate to their circumstances, including age and stage of development as well as degree of distress and the presence of protective factors in their environment.

In general, interventions ought to be structured in multiple levels, for instance, beginning with general bereavement information for everyone, including support for parents and caregivers, and offering targeted, customized assistance for individuals who are struggling with their grief.

This could include both proactive elements applied to whole schools (for example programmes to strengthen all children's resilience or educate teachers in the way that children grieve) and, for children who have experienced bereavement, different levels of support and interventions according to their needs.

The review also concluded that, while "most children do experience some negative impact on psychological wellbeing in the short term," only a fraction of bereaved children experience long-term difficulties that require professional support:

When children do experience a significant negative impact from their experience of bereavement, there is some evidence that specialist interventions and programmes can be helpful, especially those which also strengthen the protective factors within a child's life for example by providing support to parents as well.

Because most children do not require professional intervention and those who do benefit from individualized attention, it is extremely important for intervention programs "to screen for and select children who were actually showing difficulties at the start of the treatment."

The literature review is available as a free download.