It's difficult to lose a parent at any age. However dealing with the death of a parent as a teenager presents specific challenges. Teens are in a period of transition and are trying to become independent. They may have a harder time expressing grief than a younger child. Teenagers may feel they have to act grown up and hide the sorrow they are feeling.
Ask what you can do to help. Not all adolescents will need the same thing. Some teenagers may want to discuss their feelings. Other teenagers may need help with younger siblings or school work. Let a teen know she has someone to turn to.
Expect feels of anger. Teenagers are trying to figure the world out. The death of a parent may seem unfair. Anger may be misdirected. A teen may even feel anger at the deceased parent. Realize this is normal and don't be judgmental.
Watch for signs a teenager is having serious problems. Some teens may be at a stage when they are vulnerable to using drugs and alcohol to cope. Watch for sighs of drug use such as withdrawing from activities, a drastic change in weight or stealing money.
Use community resources. An agency providing hospice services in your area may have support services geared for teens. Call the teen's school and ask about counseling services available.
Suggest a support group. Teenagers often need to speed a lot of time with their peers. Support groups are available in which teens will meet with others their age to discuss dealing with the death of a parent.
Encourage participation in normal activities. Teenagers like younger children still need to have some structure in their life. Encourage a teen to return to school, see friends and participate in sports and other after school activities.
- Share stories about the teen's parent. Encourage conversation. Let the teen know it is normal to cry or express sadness.
- Don't push. Allow a teen time to grieve. A teen will return to a normal routine when he feels ready.
- Don't expect a teenager to have the maturity of an adult. However keep in mind he or she may grieve differently than a young child.