Tips for Explaining the Concept of Death to Children

By: Myles O'Riordan
Monday, February 8, 2016

Everything has its time, and everything dies. An important part of growing up is realizing and accepting that we have but a limited time on this earth. The problem is, how do you explain this to a small child? If you suffer a loss, be it a grandparent, parent or family friend, your child will have questions about the person sized hole in their life.

Things you need to consider

There are a few factors in deciding how much you should tell your child. Consider how old your child is, how important the deceased was to the child, and how mature the child is before you start explaining death to them. Obviously, you'll know the child better than we do, so you need to trust your own judgment to some extent.

“Even infants and toddlers have the capacity to grieve,” says Linda Goldman, a Maryland-based grief therapist who specializes in children. Children are aware of when those around them are sad, and they are very empathetic. Don't underestimate their intelligence, emotional or otherwise.

Honesty is often the best policy

Young children especially tend to think in literal terms, so telling them that a loved one "went away" or "went to sleep" could accidentally make them afraid to go to sleep or worried whenever someone goes away. At the same time, you need to be careful with how much to share.

Donna Maria Johnson had a very good way of explaining her father's death to Vanessa, then 5, and Brooks, then 3: "when people get very old, their bodies stop working, just like when a toy's batteries run out." Be sure to make sure that they understand that you can't change the batteries, like you can a toy. There are other ways of explaining, like talking about leaves changing color during autumn and winter. Take what you know about the child and use it to best explain the concept.

If you are a religious family, your child may find comfort in being told their loved one is watching over them from the afterlife, and even allow you to share thoughts and ideas with them about the afterlife in a healthy way.

Mourning

A death is shocking for everyone, and emotions run high in the aftermath. Many psychologists extol the virtues of sharing your emotions with loved ones, but where a child is concerned, you need to be careful about over-sharing and distressing the child. Talk to them honestly about your feelings, and listen to theirs, and be sure to remind them of the good times they had with their loved ones. Teach them that what they're feeling is normal, natural and healthy, and how to regulate their emotions safely.

 

Leave a comment
Name*:
Email:
Comment*:
Please enter the numbers and letters you see in the image. Note that the case of the letters entered matters.

Comments

Please wait

Previous Posts

What Is Funeral Crowdfunding?

When a family member passes away, in addition to coming to terms with your loss, you also have to organize the funeral service in the best way you can. Most people that are handling this for the fi...

We Personalize So Much In Our Lives, Why Should Our Funeral Be Any Different

Most of us like to make sure that the things we do are as per our preferences. We want to personalize almost everything ranging from the decor in our house, to how we set the dining table. Tips to...

How to Tell Someone a Loved One Has Died

In case a family member passes away, it may become your responsibility to inform the rest of your family and close friends about the death. This can be quite a challenging aspect of the process bec...

How To Talk To Your Loved Ones About Your Final Wishes

It isn't very comfortable to discuss death with anyone, let alone someone who loves you a lot. However, if you feel that it is time to discuss your last wishes with your family members, it is neces...

How To Personalize An Obituary

If you are in charge of creating the obituary for a deceased loved one, you may find the task a little difficult to handle, especially if you haven't written one in the past. This is why it isn't u...

What Does It Mean When Someone Is In Hospice Care?

Many people have heard about hospice care but want to know more about exactly who is eligible for it and what it means when someone is in hospice care. Let's take a look at what it entails. When...

The Importance of an End of Life Conversation with Your Loved One

It can be extremely stressful to have an end of life conversation with a loved one. In fact, most people don’t even want to venture on that path and defer having this talk as much as possible. But ...

Etiquette for Social Media Condolences

Social media is used extensively by people all around the world. It allows us to keep in touch with acquaintances, family and friends even if they live in a different country. Social media has also...

Personalizing a Funeral Service

Today, many people are choosing to veer away from traditional forms of conducting funeral services. The focus is now on celebrating the life of the person that has passed, in a unique and memorable...

Dealing With Unresolved Grief

Most people that experience the death of a loved one, find it extremely difficult to deal with the loss. Most of us prefer joy over sadness, life over death and winning over losing. This is exactly...