While it’s never a pleasant topic, death is something that touches us all at one time or another and as with every other part of parenting, talking with them about it can make it easier to understand and cope with. Here are six tips to make talking to children about death a little easier.
Explain that death is a natural part of life
By helping children to understand that passing on is a natural part of life, we take away a lot of the anxiety and heaviness around the subject. Instead of avoiding the topic or trying to change the subject, be open and honest with the children and let them know that it’s a natural part of life and actually nothing to be frightened of.
Deal with your own feelings first
Losing a loved one can bring up a lot of mixed emotions, which your child will naturally pick up on. Let them see that it’s ok to have these feelings but try to deal with yours before sitting down to explain the situation so that you can be there for them to provide reassurance and comfort in a calm manner.
Use language that your child will understand
As much as you can, try and use language that your child will understand and relate to when discussing what’s happened. If you need to take some time to practice what you are doing to say, it can help to go over it with your partner or a close friend so that you are comfortable with what you would like to say.
Allow them to have their feelings
It is important to allow your child to feel comfortable expressing whatever feelings come up for them. The loss of a loved one can naturally bring up a mix of different feelings and emotions and it’s important that everyone involved feels safe to share and express theirs.
Also bear in mind that death and loss aren’t things you can fully comprehend until they’ve touched you personally and sometimes children can be pretty cruel and thoughtless in their comments and questions, so it is up to us as adults to understand that they simply don’t have the experience or comprehension to know how it may hurt.
Let them ask questions
Children might have a lot of questions to ask while they come to terms with the situation and process their feelings. Let them know that they are safe to ask whatever questions they have and that you are there to support them as much as they need.
Talk to them about the practical side of things
As well as a mix of emotions during times like these, there is also a practical side that needs to be taken care of as well. Try and talk to your children as much as you can about practical steps that need to be taken when someone passes on – you can view some tips from Sun life here – and, especially when they’re a little older, allowing them to help with the practical stuff wherever possible, can help them feel less out of control too.