Care package goodies for grieving kids?
August 25, 2016 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Suggestions, please, for small, cheerful objects to include in a care package for two kids, somewhere around 11 and 16, grieving a sudden loss.

The kids have suddenly lost their much-loved step-mother. What can I send them to make them smile a little, or have a little bit of distraction? He's older, she's younger, and, while I don't know them well, I know they enjoy things like "My Little Pony" and chess and probably "Steven Universe." They're also just starting school; what might be useful or fun for a locker? Are there fun candies (non-melty, as it's still summer here) or other food items that might be good? No food allergies, afaik. Specific suggestions encouraged, as I am not good at picking out presents. Thank you!
posted by MonkeyToes to Shopping (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Those ages seem like the right age to be totally in to screens. You could find out whether they have an apple, android or PC and include a small gift card for itunes, google play, or Steam.
posted by ReluctantViking at 7:57 AM on August 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'd recommend two presents for this situation -- one that acknowledges their loss and provides them some way to process it (photo album, memory box, picture frame, etc), and a fun one as you suggest.
posted by cubby at 8:01 AM on August 25, 2016 [9 favorites]

The Amazing You is a workbook that helps kids communicate their feelings through creativity, and letting them work out who is there to support them. This isn't a distraction present, but it might help them process their grief in a positive way.
posted by jillithd at 8:39 AM on August 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

I was chatting with an acquaintance who makes books with her kids any time there's a big event in their lives - including some traumatic events. Having had loss at both those ages myself, I know there's definitely a need to grieve on their own terms, but also a need to know and connect with sympathetic friends and family.

Are you able to spend time with them while their remaining parent deals with some inevitable post-loss errands? Were you close to their step-mother? If so, maybe you could help them put together a small book of shared memories and go out for ice cream or do something fun. (There's a chance they wouldn't be interested in doing something loss-related that's scheduled, so plan to do only something fun as well.)

Otherwise, if you're geographically and/or emotionally removed from the situation, and given the age differences between the kids, perhaps two separate small pocket scrapbooks (maybe little blank Moleskines (I love these, I just wish they weren't black) and pocket marker sets like these that you can help them assemble (or let them keep for later collections), and gift cards.

Thank you for being a caring friend!
posted by metarkest at 9:35 AM on August 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Depending what their physical situation is like at home (how much space they have), maybe a jigsaw puzzle or Lego kit type of thing -- something they could work on with their hands, optionally with each other or their other family members. I found it good to have a wordless little task that you can get absorbed in together.

Some rec's for jigsaw puzzles (just since I've been doing them a lot and you asked for specific rec's):

Pomegranate has a series of Charley Harper artwork jigsaw puzzles - these are great, nice bright colors and not too hard (though don't get the Mystery of Missing Migrants one, it has a section that's all flat blue and is impossible).

White Mountain puzzles has several series that are good - very wide range of neutral subjects with lots of little details that make it easy to figure out where pieces go:
- collages of objects - e.g. Postcards of America or candy bar wrappers, license plates
- regional maps with trivia - e.g. US map and trivia
- collections of animals - e.g. World of Dogs
- more conventional Thomas Kinkade-esque single image puzzles (winter cottage, autumn harvest, that kind of thing)

Ravensburger has the Bizarre Bookshop series (by Colin Thompson) which have a million little interesting details and joke book titles. These take a longish time to do but are very engrossing for someone with the right sense of humor.
- Lots of other more conventional single-image puzzles in themes that might appeal: Pixar artist, Bright fishes, or fantasy dragon, or wild horses, etc.

-Finally, there are three kind of Mad Magaziney cartoon artists who have series:
- One Hundred Cats and a Fish (and others in same series of "find the different thing" images) by Kevin Whitlark for Paul Lamond Games
- Dragontown by Mario Degano for Heye
- Deep Sea Adventures by Jan Van Haasteren for Jumbo
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:07 AM on August 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

When my neighbor died, the kids were given squishy pillows to sleep with (I think because they had technically outgrown stuffed animals, but might want something to cuddle with) and stress toys to fidget with.
posted by momochan at 12:41 PM on August 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

An adult (at least not little kiddish) coloring book and/or a bead set -- something pretty to make with your hands, while you either talk or spend time thinking. (Though the sixteen year old may appreciate the swearing coloring book.)

One of my younger friends lost someone close at age eleven or twelve and a family friend showed up that first day with a bead kit. I think it helped to make lots of bracelets and just be around the adults talking (and only participate when she wanted to). I still have the bracelet she made me.
posted by Margalo Epps at 4:50 PM on August 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

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