Talking about death can be very difficult for adults, and especially for kids. For a lot of them, the concept of death and passing is confusing and very difficult to understand. Even though we know that it is an inevitable part of life, it’s very difficult to talk about it because it brings us so much pain. Discussing death with your children can be an even more difficult task, and it’s very common to avoid the topic. However, talking about death is important to prepare them and guide them through the pain they are experiencing. Read on to see how to talk to kids about death in the best possible way.
Prepare your children for the death of your loved ones if you already know the end is near. Talking to them before it happens will prepare them and make it less scary. They will understand it more and not experience a possible shock. Try to help them understand before it touches their life. An easier way to do this is to point out cycles happening in nature.
You can show your children dead house plants or insects outside, or even rotten fruit. It all shows a picture of the life cycle. Show them and say that the plant or animal is no longer living and give meaning like they can’t eat or drink water anymore. This simple method show that their life has stopped. Make sure to add that they cannot be brought back to life. It may seem harsh to you, but children will appreciate explanations that have meaning to them.
Share the News Directly
Being direct is the best policy in these situations. Saying things like “He/She is in a better place” can be very confusing and scary to children because they won’t understand what that place is. Don’t bring up the subject in random places. Talk to your child in their familiar spot with their favorite toy or blanket nearby for support. Even if it sounds harsh, be honest with them.
What to Say
For example, you can say “Grandpa/Grandma has died. If someone dies, they can’t walk, eat and play anymore, and you won’t be able to see them.” Since the concept of death is difficult for children to grasp, they can have some further questions like “Can they be fixed?“ Tell them that a body that stops working can never start working again.
It’s also normal for kids not to have any questions when you talk to them about death. They don’t attach the same level of emotion to death because they can’t understand it fully. It’s very likely they won’t even cry. Lastly, make sure your child knows the death of a loved one is not their fault. They can be afraid that they said something wrong to them, and that it’s their fault someone died. Explain that there was nothing anyone did or said that made them go away.
Handling the First Days
The first few days after the loved one’s passing can be very difficult for everyone. It’s very important to try and stick to your normal routine as much as you can. Children need consistency, so make sure you follow your routines. Doing this may help in behavioral changes that can happen in young children. There are many things to tend to during the first days, and it can be a very stressful time. Consider hiring professionals who work in deceased estates cleaning, as this will lift a significant burden. Whether you have many matters to resolve or just can’t handle the sadness, it’s okay to ask for help.
A common question is whether children should or shouldn’t attend funerals. The answers are simple: if a child says they want to go they should, and if they don’t, make sure you don’t pressure them to go. Prepare your children for how the funeral will look and what will happen. It’s important to know that there will be people crying and feeling sad. Make sure you have another person on hand who can help take care of your kid if you are not able or need to grieve. Kids at the funeral can bring you a bright spot on a sad day.
After the funeral, continue answering your child’s questions and help them remember the family member. The questions may be repetitive, but it’s a way of accepting what happened. Healing takes time, so be patient.
About the Author
Stella Ryne is an art historian, traveller, conscious consumer and a proud mother. When she is not trying to improve the things around her (and herself, for that matter), she likes to lose herself in a good book. Stay in touch with Stella via Twitter and Facebook.