AAP Policy Statement on Childhood Bereavement - Brief Article

Author: Monica Preboth
Date: Sept 15, 2000

The Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued a policy statement on the role of the physician in childhood bereavement. The AAP policy statement appears in the February 2000 issue of Pediatrics.

According to the AAP committee, the death of an important person in a child's life is one of the most stressful events a child can experience. Because the family's physician is already familiar with the family interactions and individual coping skills, he or she is in a position to help evaluate and understand a child's reactions and to advise and assist the family in responding to the child's needs. Knowing the child's temperament and typical responses to stress can help the physician counsel the child and family. Cultural and religious background and circumstances of the death are important considerations in dealing with the bereaved family.

The AAP committee recommends that the child be told about a death honestly and in language that is developmentally appropriate. Children need to be reassured that they will be cared for and loved by a consistent adult who is sensitive to their needs. They must also be assured that they did not cause the death, could not have prevented it and cannot bring back the deceased. Parents should be encouraged to continue family routines and discipline.

For children, grief is a process that unfolds over time. The physician should be aware of the range of manifestations of childhood grief and be alert to prolonged or severe behavior change that signals the need for more intensive intervention. The AAP committee feels that referral to a mental health professional or clergy should be considered when progress is not being made or if the physician would feel more comfortable having someone else work with the family.

COPYRIGHT 2000 American Academy of Family PhysiciansCOPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

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