Talking to Children about Death

How to Explain Death to Children

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Death is inevitable and affects both the young and old. It is a topic that some parents wish they would never have to talk about with their children.

The idea of death can scare children if not properly explained. It is thus vital to tell children the truth about death but in an age-appropriate manner. Explaining to your child what happens when death occurs in an honest manner, helps them in understanding this phase of life.

Early preparation

Do not wait until your child loses a loved one so as to explain death to them. Do this immediately they are aware of the joy of living so that they can also learn about the pain of death.

“The more often you talk about death—and what it means—the less scared and confused your child will be when it happens to a family member,” says Schopen a Certified Child Life Specialist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

You can begin doing this by explaining the death of your natural flowers in the flower base. Or the death of your neighbour’s puppy. Begin by such then move on to explain the closeness of death. This could be the loss of a teacher, friend or classmate.

Avoid using euphemisms

Do not find comfort in using euphemisms in explaining death to a child. This can be very confusing to them…use the words ‘death’, ‘dead’ and ‘funeral’ since using realistic words helps them understand better.

When you tell your child his father is in a better place, they might think daddy died because the home wasn’t good enough for them. Or worse because of something they did and thus shoulder the blame.

Ensure that your child knows death isn’t their fault but rather something we have no control over.

Teach on what to expect

Your child will deal with the death of a loved one better when they know what to expect. When grandma is critically ill let them know what will change when she is no longer alive. How the visits countryside will be limited and the gifts from grandma are not to be expected. This will help the child cope better when a loved dies.

Talk about feelings and thoughts

When death occurs in your child’s life, it is important to talk with them about what they think and how they feel. Since mourning is a process then your talks may take weeks or months. There are days you will even have to re-live the whole trauma. Do not let your child bottle up their feelings as this can be harmful to their health.

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