5 Tips for Explaining Death to Children

By: Les Fee
Monday, March 21, 2016

It’s a topic we rarely discuss, even between adults. But death is a process we all must face. And it’s inevitable that your children will encounter death at some point in their lives. To make sure they have a full understanding of the subject when that time arrives, it’s helpful to explain death from your own perspective to your children. In this post, we’ll present our five tips for explaining death to children.

1.    Avoid Using Terms Like “Sleep” and “Rest”

It might be simple to offer children a euphemism for death, such as “sleep” or “rest” but these terms can often be confusing and harmful. A child might believe that, because their relative went to sleep and never woke up, they will die when they go to bed. This can make the child fearful of going to sleep. Try to speak in the most direct and honest terms possible without scaring your child.

2.    Encourage them to Ask Questions

When communicating with your child on the subject of death, try to encourage them to ask questions. A question such as “What do you think this means?” can be a great way to open children up to the process and to help them understand death. You can begin this process by getting children to explore the death of flowers and trees, to help give them a foundation to build upon.

3.    Don’t be Afraid to Say You Don’t Know

It’s important that children aren’t given the wrong impression about death and what it means in their lives. Instead of trying to make up an answer to a challenging question, tell your children you don’t know the answer and speak with them about what they think the answer might be. This process can help your children build their own understanding of the world around them.

4.    Calmly Detail What has Happened

If a person close to the child has died, it’s important that you try to remain calm and rational in answering their questions. Children may repeatedly ask the same question and this can be a challenge if you’re in the grieving process. Try to answer the child calmly each time and tell them that the person isn’t coming back but that they’re happy now.

5.    Don’t Hide Your Own Emotions

While it’s important to be calm when speaking with your children, you shouldn’t try to hide your own emotions when talking to children about someone that was close to you. It can help them to learn the value of life and death if you show your emotions. It may also bring you closer with your kids if they’re able to grieve alongside you.

By presenting death as a process and by communicating carefully with your children, you can ensure they have a firm understanding of what death means. Contact our team today to learn more about the grieving process.


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