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How to Explain Death To Your Children

by MM

As parents, all we want to do is protect our children. We keep them shielded when Bambi’s mother dies and we don’t show them the scary parts of The Lion King. Shielding them from the frightening things in life is what we do best, so when someone close to us or a pet dies, you wade into a whole new conversation requiring grace and gentleness. Adults have a lifetime worth of experience in handling grief, but children are brand new. To expose them to grief as a parent feels like you’re hurting them. The thing is, you’re not hurting them; you’re helping them to shape their minds into understanding, which is vital in their development.

With your guidance, you can ensure that your children are prepared for death. It comes to all, including their pets, and with your careful and gentle guidance, you can make a terrifying concept easy to understand. You handle death with appointments to wills solicitors to prepare your family, and you handle it with tissues, self-care and time. Children don’t have all of these luxuries, so you need to explain the process of death and you have to use simple terms to make it easy to understand. You don’t have to shy away from death and all of its realities; but you do have to make your explanation short while avoiding long explanations.

How to Explain Death To Your Children

How to Explain Death To Your Children

Some of the phrases you can include in your explanation include:

  • “Everything living one day stops living and dies.”
  • “The body stops working when someone dies. They don’t need to eat, drink or even breathe.”
  • “Dying is not like sleeping. When you fall asleep, you wake up again and you dream and breathe. When you die, you can’t wake up and you stop dreaming.”

Let your children ask you questions and don’t embellish. Don’t tell them the person is up in the sky, as they will literally believe that the physical body of a grandparent or someone else is in the sky. We want to avoid confusion and we want to ensure that they have an environment in which they are happy to ask questions and share their feelings with you. When it comes to this important discussion, here are three things to remember when explaining death to a child.

  1. Be Honest. In everything your children will ask you, be honest in your responses. If there is something they ask that you’re not sure of, tell them so. It’s okay for them to know that you don’t know everything in the world. Answer each question as truthfully as you can.
  2. Validate Their Emotions. Children are going to go a few ways when they learn about debt: they’ll be emotionless and let it wash over them, they’ll be upset and confused or they’re going to feel worried and afraid. No matter what they’re feeling, let them feel it and let them know that their emotions are perfectly fine to feel. 
  3. Share. It’s important that you share your feelings about death with your children. Show them that you know that your feelings matter, too and that your feelings about death are healthy. Children are resilient and if they’re old enough to ask questions about death, you’re fine to answer.

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