July 15, 2019

The Importance of Peer Support for Grieving Teens

The middle school and high school years are a unique time in life. Teenagers are outgrowing childhood but have not yet fully developed in a social, cognitive or emotional capacity. Because of the developmental challenges faced by teens, they have specific grief needs that are distinct from both child and adult grief.

Grief counselors who work with teens often recommend strengthening their support network. This can include time with not only family, school and faith community, but also time with peers. Teens who have experienced a loss sometimes feel that although family members care about them, it is only other teens who can truly understand how they feel.

Ideally, teens can participate in grief programs that allow them to learn about grief and share experiences among people their own age. These programs normalize grief emotions through expressive activities and provide a chance for teens to mingle with grieving peers in a low-pressure environment.

“I Thought I Was the Only One”

An important part of individual grief counseling for teens is normalizing the emotions and behaviors that can be triggered by loss. However, teens are most likely to believe that other teens go through similar situations when they are able to meet those others and hear their stories for themselves. At a time when teens need peer support the most, they may not know anyone at school or in their community with a similar loss. Teen grief programs offer a chance to bond with other teens who have lost a loved one.

A Safe Place to Talk About Grief

For teens, it often feels important to fit in and seem normal to peers. They may minimize or hide their experience of loss in an effort to avoid having to discuss what happened with people at school or in the community. A grief program designed for teens can provide a safe space for teens to express grief emotions, speak their truth about their experience or simply just be genuine without having to put on a mask of normalcy.

Kids Path counselors design and facilitate programming to meet the unique grief needs of teens in 6th through 12th grade. These include frequent Teen Night events featuring specific activities or speakers, as well as an annual Pathfinders four-week support group with an expressive arts focus.

Kids Path provides grief services for children and teens from age 4 through high school. To learn whether your child or teen may be appropriate for Kids Path programs, call 336.544.5437.