Being a parent means having necessary discussions with your children about touchy subjects, some of which can make both parties emotional. Children have an individualized grieving process, and it’s important to inform your children about death in a way that is comforting and easy to understand. Here we’ll discuss some dos and don’ts of explaining death to children and how you can effectively communicate during a sensitive time.
Do: When discussing death with a child, start with highlighting life’s journey. Begin the conversation by explaining how everything that lives, must eventually die. Emphasize that the order of life naturally comes with an ending, and the whole point on earth is to love and make a positive impact.
Don’t: Consider relating life and death examples to items like plants and NOT animals or humans. Since children have emotional connections to household pets and family, referring to those could possibly raise emotions that they may not understand.
Do: Keep the details of death and the process vague. This may help keep fearful thoughts at bay and halt negative thoughts before they invade the mind. Also, presenting a lot of facts can cause children to continue questioning, opening a rabbit hole that may get uncomfortable for both parties.
Don’t: Disclose possible physical or mental pain that may affect people during the dying process. This creates an immediate morbid view of death that will likely frighten children. As they get older, they will discover details through experiences and stories, when they are more mentally capable to understand the process.
Do: Acknowledge death is a hard process and comfort your child if they may be grieving. Many different emotions arise with death including anger, depression, and erratic behavior, and can unfold differently in children. It’s important to face these emotions and let them come naturally as suppression could result in an elongated process.
Don’t: Compressing feelings only pushes them down, waiting to be released at a later date. If your child is not emitting emotions right away, understand they may come in different stages. Trusting they are on their own path of grieving will help the process go much smoother.