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How to Talk to Your Kids About Death and Loss

Death and loss are never easy topics to deal with or talk about, and when children go through these experiences, you can imagine their thoughts and grief. Psychologists believe that it is essential to have a conversation with your kids, and depending on their age, you will have to tailor your talk on a level they can comprehend. Still, it can be done quite gracefully as you use comfort, honesty, and reassurance when you speak. Here are some great tips for opening up that conversation.

Explaining Death

Young children don’t always grasp every detail you tell them in everyday matters, and when it comes to death, you want to use science and facts to explain the loss rather than using euphemisms.

For example, “Fido has been put to sleep.” Or “Fido went away.”

These kinds of explanations can be confusing to a kid on how to cope with the loss of a pet.

Psychologists say that you should explain what happens during death in animals and humans in that the heart stops beating. You do not breathe; you do not eat or drink, etc.

Be on the up and up, and tell the child about the state of our bodies when we die and how it is part of the cycle of life.

Having Several Conversations

Children are very curious about things around them, and when you have that talk about death and loss, your kid may return for more questions, and that is quite normal and alright.

In other words, take your time in speaking with them. Children will come to absorb the loss in their own time as they filter in bits and pieces of your conversations.

A kid may think that it was their fault that their mother passed away, for instance. Child behavioral experts recommend always being a comforting and reassuring presence.

Never lose your patience. Always explain what happened with the facts that surround the personal loss.

Showing Emotion

Some parents and caregivers are embarrassed to cry in front of their children when explaining a personal death or a loss. However, showing grief to kids is empowering, honest, and tender.

In this way, children can see that emotions are something to be proud of, sad feelings are normal and that there is nothing to be ashamed about in expressing themselves.

A parent should tell the child why they are crying and that crying is something that happens. It helps to prepare a kid for future moments when life disappoints them again and takes someone or something very dear away from them.

Looking Ahead

It’s okay not to have an answer for each question that a grieving child may ask you, and saying. “I am not sure” is a proper answer.

Explaining to a child that things will get better is a good approach. Life goes on, and there are many wonderful things to look forward to. It’s about keeping hope alive and showing that there is birth after death in the circle of life.

As Sesame Street’s iconic, favorite, yellow feathered character once said: “Gee, you know what the nice thing is about new babies?” Big Bird asks. “One day they’re not here, and the next day, here they are!”

Processing Emotions

As your child comes to terms with the death and loss of a person or pet, you can add arts and crafts to help them communicate without words. Sometimes, this helps them channel their emotions, according to psychologists.

Kids enjoy playing with clay, drawing, painting or building stuff, and this allows them to create something that can freely express what’s in their heart and mind. It’s a safe place for them.

By giving children the power to paint, draw, or make whatever they wish, they can learn to regain a sense of control.

Death and loss are never easy for an adult, and when it comes to children, the experience can be confusing, devastating, and even frightening. Having conversations with your kids is important and helps them understand life and the good, bad, and ugly things that can occur to each of us. Whether you’ve lost a pet or person, it hurts deeply, and children need that reassuring love.

Tim Esterdahl

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