How To Talk To Your Kids About Death

parenting Nov 07, 2019
How To Talk To Your Kids About Death

Dying is a natural part of life, but it’s not always an easy topic to discuss. Even us adults hesitate to talk about such a deep and sad subject. However, our kids are naturally curious. We can try to shield them, but they will soon start asking questions, especially when someone they know dies. What is the best approach to this topic? Dad University has shared some handy tips on how to talk to kids about death. Read on to see how to tactfully broach this sensitive topic.

It’s Alright if You Don’t Know What To Say at First

Many of us may have grown up figuring out death on our own. Some never experience a major death of a loved one until they are older, so they already have the mental faculties to understand what death entails. Such circumstances leave us unequipped with the right skills to explain death to children. Add the fact that we might also be grieving if the person who died is someone close to us. 

It’s okay if you don’t know how to explain things at first. Instead, you can always ask for help. Grief counselors, relatives, and other people you know who’ve experienced similar situations can provide help. Their words and advice can serve as your starting point before you have the discussion with your child.

Be Honest

Whenever difficult topics like death come up, our first instinct is to sweep things under the rug and shield our children from the knowledge. Some may dismiss any discussion of the event and even pretend that it didn’t happen. However, the better thing to do is to be honest about the death. Your child may not immediately understand the concepts, but they can at least understand that someone they knew or loved is gone. This knowledge can help your child begin the process of grieving and allows them to cope with the fact that a person is no longer with us.

Be Empathetic

When you’re trying to explain death to your child, make sure to put yourself in their shoes. Assess the type of relationship they had with the person who died and see how that could change your approach. Some kids may feel indifferent if the deceased is a distant uncle who they didn’t interact with very much, so you can take on a more matter-of-fact approach. If your child was close to the deceased person, then a more sensitive and delicate discussion is better.

Use the Word ‘Death’

We’re used to the euphemisms that make death feel less agonizing. We say that someone has passed away or is sleeping forever. As adults, we know perfectly well what these idioms mean. However, children may not understand. Kids grieving may take things too literally and ask themselves where a deceased person passed on to or if they can sleep forever as well. Using the word “death” and its variations can make things more concrete for your kid. They can associate the meaning of the word with the event and stop feeling confused.

Allow Yourself To Grieve

Death can have different effects on people, but one of the most universal emotions associated with the event is grief. Men are often told to suppress their emotions and remain stoic. We must be the rock the rest of the family can cling to, so we have to remain strong. However, we should express our grief in a healthy way. There’s no need to keep it all in. If you allow yourself to grieve, you’ll have a better understanding of the emotions that come with death — knowledge you can teach your child later on.

Let Your Children See Your Emotions

If you’re going to grieve, don’t hide it from your children and pretend that everything is fine. Seeing that their father is upset helps kids understand the gravity of the situation. Plus, openly expressing your emotions makes you more approachable to your child. You become more human in their eyes — not some robot who’s just there to explain what death is. When they see you grieving, they may become more receptive to your explanations about death.

Be Inclusive

As adults, we have a tendency to exclude children when it comes to activities related to death. However, it’s important to make children part of funerals, family meetings, and other similar situations. This practice provides two benefits: it makes kids feel included and makes death less of a foreign idea.

Let the Child Lead

Don’t dump information about death on your child even before they start asking questions. The better way is to let them initiate the conversation. Your child will likely ask questions about the event, and your role is to provide the details as honestly as you can. You can start the discussion yourself if your kid isn’t the type to start asking questions, but don’t pepper them with details they don’t need. It may be enough to help them understand the finality of death and offer your support as they process their emotions. 

Wrapping Up: Discussing Death With Children

A loved one dying affects us all, even children. However, their young age and lack of experience may make kids confused about the idea of death. It’s up to us to teach them about the finality of life so they understand what’s happening and properly process their emotions. Follow the tips we shared above so you’ll have an idea of how to best approach this serious subject with tact and discernment. 

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