How to Discuss Death with Children

Death is a difficult subject especially when try to discuss death with children. It is an unavoidable part of life and it is inevitable that you will have to discuss death with your children at some point. Opening up the subject for discussion will help them when they are upset about the loss of a grandparent or loved one. Parents should support their communication by being open, honest, at ease with their emotions. Paying attention when their children open up. You may be surprised by how informed your children are about suicide and death. Children read about death in fairy tales, role-play death in school, and even watch it in cartoons. They don’t putt much thought to it and without knowing that it is a normal part of life.

The Child’s Timeline of Understanding Death

The most important thing to remember when trying to talk to your children about death is that all children develop at different rates. Every child is unique and possesses their own way of handling emotions.

  • It’s not entirely uncommon for a child at the age of three to either play dead or even ask questions about death.
  • Children between the age of two and five perceive death as impersonal, reversible and temporary. Since the stories they watch or read in storybooks and cartoons present characters that unexpectedly rise and live again after being destroyed. It is appropriate for them to think this way at their age level.
  • Most children between the age of five and nine begin to understand that death is final and all living things die. They also do not associate it with themselves and feel like they can avoid it. Furthermore, they may relate images like skeletons to death. Some even get nightmares when they see images that they associate with death.
  • Generally, it isn’t until the age of nine through adolescence. This is when children start fully understanding that death cannot be reversed and that they will die one day.

The Keys to Discussing Death with Children

Talk About It

Many parents avoid talking about things that might upset them, including the unattended death of a loved one, on the belief that their silence will help them cope with the grief and guilt of the situation. However, children are very sensitive and keen observers, too. They quickly realize when something is wrong by watching the behavior of their parents. When you choose not to speak about a disturbing issue with your kids, they also shy away from asking questions because they feel that you must have held it back because it is really bad. This makes them worry and stress more because they do not understand how they are feeling.

Be Honest

Children feel connected to our openness and respond well to honesty. As a parent, you should be honest with your kids even when you do not have all the answers. When talking about death, we may come across different answers at various stages of the mourning process. You should share your beliefs about death with your children and also expose them to what others believe. For instance, a few people believe in afterlife while others do not. Let your kids feel comforted by your beliefs and allow them decide their own.

Spend More Time Together

In many cultures, families are close and generations of family live under the same roof. The notion of comforting each other and grieving together after losing a loved one is natural. However, in American culture, death has grown lonelier, since many people die in isolation and fail to share their last moments with their loved ones. Living has been separated from death in some way and the thought of death adds fear and mystery to many people. It is essential that you pull together in these trying times, especially for your children. Find ways to spend more time together after the loss of a loved one.

Share Your Feelings

Being honest with your feelings and emotions is crucial for helping children to learn to cope with death. For instance, throughout their early development, express your empathy when a friend loses a loved one. This way, they will understand what the loss means and express it towards others. Do not try too hard to hide your own emotions when discussing the topic of death with your children. When your child see you grieve, he will know it is acceptable and normal to show emotion.

Keep It Simple

Always keep the explanation simple by defining death in terms of physical functions of the body coming to an end. For example, you can use statements like, ‘’Now that Grandpa has died, his body has stopped working. He cannot walk, talk, eat or see any more and he doesn’t feel any pain.’’ Encourage and consent to the grieving process since it is a very fundamental part of healing. Let your child know that it is normal to feel sad and cry. Explain to your child that adults sometimes cry too but do not frighten him with excessive grief over dying and death.

Be Patient

Patience is key throughout the explanation process because your child may ask the same questions repeatedly as he tries to understand the nature of death. Recurring questions about dying and death are normal. Do not get tired; just keep answering their questions patiently and honestly.

Avoid Euphemisms

Avoid using common death euphemisms like ‘’in eternal sleep’’ or ‘’resting in peace’’ when discussing death with your child. In addition, avoid referring to dead people as ‘’sleeping’’ or using terms like ‘’has one away.”

Talk About Good Memories

Help your child in remembering the person who has died. Let him remember about the good relationship he had with the deceased. Do this by keeping the dead person’s memories alive through discussion of happy times and muse over pictures.

Depending on his level of understanding and age, your child may have dozens of questions about death. More than anything, children need a clear channel of communication to allow them to process their own feelings about death. Never ignore the questions asked because they can provide clues about what is on his mind and what steps you need to take to help your child along. Grief, dying and death can significantly affect kids’ behaviors and attitudes towards life. Some may show no reaction to death at all while others may refuse to go to school or become clingy. The key is to always be prepared.

As for being prepared for the occurrence of death, Advanced Bio Treatment offers professional death cleanup services. This is designed to return any home to a clean, safe state, so families and those affected by a tragedy can move forward. Our compassionate technicians at ABT are experienced with those who have been through challenging and emotionally difficult situations. Our operators also play a big role. Walking customers through the insurance process and answering any questions to ensure the house is restored to its normal state. At ABT, we want you to be able to focus on your own recovery from the experience of any type of death. Let us handle the rest.

Ted Pelot Owner & President of Crime Scene Cleanup Company - Advanced Bio-Treatment