How to Talk to Children About Death

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Death can be tricky to talk about with anyone, no matter the age of the person, we are all human and have big feelings. Though we know that death is an inevitable part of life and talking about it can be painful to discuss, it is good to know how to navigate talking about it with our little ones.

Always tell the child as soon as possible in a safe place for them to absorb the information. It is a good idea to have the child be around items that bring them comfort such as a baby blanket, a beloved stuffed animal, or a favorite person or pet to be present when speaking to them about a hard topic. 

Here are some helpful tips to consider when talking to children about death:

  • Be honest – the truth gives an explanation for the pain your child sees you experiencing and allows them to understand it’s okay to be sad and open up emotionally so they can see how to mourn. 
  • Be prepared for many responses – however you approach the topic of a loved one passing away, it will be hard for them. The child can come off as angry, not understanding, constant checking to confirm what you said is true; but accept their reactions and allow them time to process. 
  • Understanding – You won’t have all the answers for the child, and that’s perfectly fine. Be okay with telling the child “I don’t know” or allow them to know that you may not have all the answers and that’s fine too. 

As a parent, it’s okay to know that grief is a process for yourself and for your children. You do not have to put on a brave face for them, but showing your emotions and allowing them to see your pain or that you’re crying because you miss Grandpa Joe or your beloved dog, Max is necessary for them to learn the concept of death. 

If a loved one’s death was sudden, deeply stressful, or presents continuous hidden emotions without a proper outlet to let them out, it may be time to find a therapist that can assist when that.

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