Application: Action Plan 2: Supporting Young Children Through a Family Loss

This week, you have been learning about the vital role of the family in the socialization of children. The course text highlighted many changes in the composition and functioning of families over time, notably the influence of divorce, single parenting, and step-parenting. This week, for your second Action Plan, you will focus on ways to support children through an event that was not covered in your text but one that, as an early childhood professional, you may face while working with young children and their families: the death of a close family member. You may already be aware that children respond to and have a different understanding of death than adults. Use the knowledge of child development that you have gained so far, your perception of family ecology from the readings this week, and the specific articles provided below in developing your Action Plan.
Action Plan Professional Scenario: Imagine you are working in an early childhood setting that cares for and teaches children ages 0–5. Two families in your program share a grandmother who has been an active and loving caregiver for their children—an infant, a toddler, and a preschooler. The grandmother has recently passed away and you want to support these families by helping them understand how infants, toddlers, and preschoolers grieve in order to help the children with this loss.
Before you create your Action Plan, consider:
What does an early childhood professional need to know in order to understand the situation and needs of these children and families?
What ideas and advice from experts may be useful in assisting children and families?
What can early childhood professionals do to help, either directly, by suggesting activities and advice, or by referring the family to other community resources and professionals?
As you prepare this Action Plan, keep the focus on gathering and identifying the knowledge and ideas that you can best share with parents and other key adults. Remember that working directly with children as a grief counselor is an area of expertise that you may choose to pursue. However, as an early childhood professional, you are most qualified to help young children in this area by supporting the significant adults in their lives and remaining consistent, sensitive, and caring.
Follow these steps to create your Action Plan:
1. What You Need to Know: Learning About How Children at Different Ages Respond to Death
Naturally, children respond to situations in their own ways often based on where they are developmentally; sometimes based on temperament. Keep this uniqueness in mind as you read the following articles on children and grief. Although there is some overlap, you will find that all three help to clarify how young children of different ages respond to death. As you read, take notes on important developmental information and ideas that you think are important to share with parents/family members:
Young Children and Grief (PDF)
Magical Thinking: Children May Blame Themselves for a Parent’s Illness and Death (PDF)
2. Ideas and Advice: Checking Resources
Think concretely about how best to help the parents/family members of an infant, a toddler, and a preschooler. Check your notes from reading the articles above. As needed, skim the articles again for key concepts about how young children perceive death and specific ways to support each age to share with parents/family members. Access these articles below as additional resources:
Infant and Toddler Grief (PDF)
Helping Your Child Deal with Death and Loss (PDF)
Facts for Families: Children and Grief
3. Taking Action: Supporting the Whole Family in Responding to Loss
With knowledge and ideas in hand, you’re ready to suggest ways to support young children in dealing with a family loss. Use the information and advice from the articles to make your plan. Think of it as preparing a script for meeting with the parents or other significant family adults. Include the following in your plan:
Part I: Supporting an Infant
Explain in your own words:
Developmental information about what an infant may feel or understand about a family death
Possible ways that an infant may respond to a family death
Specific advice from experts on how to help an infant through a family loss
Part II: Supporting a Toddler
Explain in your own words:
Developmental information about what a toddler may feel, believe, or understand about a family death
Possible ways that a toddler may respond to a family death
Specific advice from experts on how to help a toddler through a family loss
Part III: Supporting a Preschooler
Explain in your own words:
Developmental information about what a preschooler may feel, believe, or understand about a family death
Possible ways that a preschooler may respond to a family death
Three specific ideas or activities the family can do at home to help a preschooler through a family loss
As you write your plan, remember the following:
Your goal is to help parents/family members understand how infants, toddlers, and preschoolers may respond to the family loss.
Parents/family members are most likely grieving, too. Consider their feelings in explaining their children’s needs.
Choose language that you would feel comfortable using—language that is respectful and sensitive—to create a model presentation for talking with adult family members.
Assignment length: 2–3 pages

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