Discussing death is never an easy thing to do, even with fellow adults who have been through bereavement before. That’s why we often need to turn to experts such as Beyond to help with all matters of the afterlife.
But when dealing with children it is a whole new task.
Youngsters may not have been through the process before and losing a loved one can be hard to accept. This may also lead to a number of further tough talks as more and more questions need to be answered.
Here are some dos and don’ts when talking to children about death…
Do Keep It Factual
The sense of loss will not go away. With that in mind, don’t dance around reality because you will not be doing your children any favours in the long run. If they go away believing everything will be fine then they will be coming back to you and asking why things don’t feel that way sometime further down the line when they don’t have any closure. Half truths such as saying a loved one has ‘gone to sleep’ could make children afraid of bedtime. In the same way, giving too much information about the reasons for the death could make them fear simple everyday tasks. For example, death in a car accident could make the kids petrified of travel. Give them the facts but no more than they ask for.
Do Find Ways To Make It Relatable
Although this may be the first time your children have had to deal with the death of a loved one, it may not be the first time they have come across death itself. Perhaps a neighbour, a pet or a friend’s pet has passed away. It may not have had the same effect on the child, but it remains relatable. Don’t be afraid to use children’s films such as Bambi, Coco and the Lion King all deal with this difficult subject, as well as the theme of moving on. Also, check out books such as Charlotte’s Web and Goodnight Mr Tom.
Do Remain Calm
Children pick up on your behaviour. If you appear panicked or scared when talking about death then these could be feelings the children will instantly relate to the topic for the rest of their lives.
Don’t Expect It To Be Easy
Loss is hard for adults to take, so don’t expect kids to just shrug and take it in their stride. Even if a simple conversation is dealt with maturely, expect the young ones to need time to process what you have spoken about. They will come back with more questions, often at times when you least expect them to. Always be patient.
Don’t Play It Down
When talking to your heartbroken children it may seem easy to sugarcoat your stories to soften the blow. But kids aren’t stupid, so only tell them what you truly believe in otherwise, you could find yourself tied up in knots as they ask further questions. Coming a cropper will only confuse them more and leave them with much more troubling questions and doubts in their own minds.
Don’t Be Afraid To Seek Further Advice
We all want to be a rock for our children. But losing someone you all loved will be hard for you to take too. If you feel that you may need support – you yourself or to aid talking to young ones – then don’t keep it all to yourself.