Discussing Death with Children
Besides the birds and the bees, death is another topic you want to avoid discussing with your kids as much as possible. You may be able to do that but not for a very long time. Your family would go through it; and your children would hear and see death everywhere—in school, in movies, in televisions.
As a parent you need to be prepared. Learn how to handle talks about death with these tips:
1. Don’t evade the question. Parents make the mistake of ignoring the children’s question, perhaps thinking they couldn’t handle the truth. Well, there are many ways on how to be honest without being too brutal about it. Answer the question. The more you hide it, the more they feel that something is terribly wrong.
2. Consider your answers very carefully. You’d normally answer the question based on their age. For example, the very little ones don’t have any idea about death at all but they would like to know why it happens. They could not easily grasp the concept of mortality, so you may just want to say that the body just stops working.
Avoid the use of euphemisms when talking to them. This means don’t associate “sleep” or “went away” or “travel” to death. They would also learn to take the comparison literally. They would struggle going to sleep at night and would become too clingy.
3. Structure sentences properly when you’re talking about religious beliefs. If you have some religious beliefs, especially on the concept of the afterlife, you may be able to share them with your kids. You may say that her grandmother is already in heaven now or that she is at peace. Nevertheless be careful on how you say things, as children can be very inquisitive and observant. For example, don’t say that “Your grandmother is happy now because she’s in heaven,” but you’ve been crying for the past few days. They wouldn’t be able to reconcile your explanation with the reality.
4. Prep the kids when going to memorials or funerals. It’s best to sit down with your kids first at least a day before the memorial or funeral visit. You don’t want them to be overwhelmed with the sad emotions around them, as well as the confusion of why a loved one is in the coffin. Talk to them about what they can expect and encourage them to ask a lot of questions.
5. Give them a sense of encouragement. When your children see a lot of people crying and grieving, it’s only normal for them to be worried and discouraged. Moreover, they feelings would become worse if they couldn’t cheer you up.
As much as possible, you should ease up their worries. By doing so, you will allow them to heal a lot faster. You can use subliminal messages for this. Every time you get together with your kids, tell them that the sadness will not last for a very long time, that the sadness doesn’t mean that they are not loved.