Death as a part of life is a principle that most of us have had the benefit of many years to come to terms with. However, when a loved one dies, it can be challenging to try to explain death to a child. This is especially difficult when the person who dies is special to your child or has been active in your child’s life.
Listen to the Child
Children have some grasp on the concept of death from an early age. Most children have seen dead insects or other animals, and they’ve probably seen death in television shows or movies as well. They might not understand it, but it will help you understand your child if you take the time to learn what he or she thinks and knows about death.
Be Open in Communication
Kids pick up on emotions and non-verbal communication, so it helps to be upfront and honest with them in the face of a tragedy. This doesn’t mean that you need to share gory or disturbing details, but you can let them know if you feel sad. At the same time, create a safe environment in which the child can feel free to express negative emotions surrounding the death of a loved one.
Keep It Simple
Try to provide brief, simple and honest answers to a child’s questions about death. No, the person we love is not coming back. Yes, we can keep them alive in our hearts by remembering the good times we enjoyed with them. Don’t try to be too philosophical with them, especially if the child is reacting strongly to the loss—stay positive, stay simple, and show them through your words and actions that life continues after loss.
Practice Unconditional Love and Acceptance
When learning about death, children might respond by asking questions that adults would find inappropriate. They often ask important people in their lives, “When will you die?” Accept these questions without judgment. Explain gently that although everyone dies eventually, we don’t know exactly when this will happen. Many people live long, healthy lives, and we don’t need to live in fear of death.
Don’t Try to Have All the Answers
No one has all the answers, so don’t worry about it if you’re just as confused, at times, as your child. Just be honest with the child who asks a question you don’t know the answer to.
It’s never easy to deal with the death of a loved one, and it can be especially difficult when you have to explain death to a young child. Use the tips above, and remember to stay open and loving. Love and honesty will get you through the trying times.
Informational Credit for this article to Hollywood Forever Funeral Home