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8 Tips on How to Talk to Your Kids About Death

8 Tips on How to Talk to Your Kids About Death

Death is a part of life. When it occurs due to natural causes it can be a bit easier to handle. Yet, when unexpected, the process of explaining death to a child becomes that much more difficult. While it may be easier to tell a child that the special someone is “sleeping,” the child grows up with a sense of betrayal when the person never returns. Certainly it is a most difficult task, but the best policy is to be straightforward and gentle.

1. Base Your Discussion On The Child And The Situation

Provide only enough information that answers the child’s questions about the death. Assure the child that the person is no longer in any pain, but sadly not returning. Assure the child that they are well-loved and will be taken care of. Discuss happier memories of the person and reassure the child that even though the person is gone they will never be forgotten.

2. Allow The Child To Grieve

Grieving is a natural process, and it is unnatural and cruel not to make allowances for grief. Provide appropriate outlets for grief, such as allowing them to go to the funeral, sharing memories of the deceased with others, and talking about the loved one. Remember there are no strict time lines for grieving. Talk with the child as he or she needs to be listened to.

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3. Be Honest But Avoid Potentially Traumatizing Information

Answer a child’s questions honestly. Exclude every last detail of the death; these are details the child simply has no need of knowing. For example, if it was a sudden accident, there is simply no need to traumatize the child further with details about the accident. Always reassure the child that they are safe and protected and that while accidents do happen, the child does not need to worry.

4. Watch Out For Unusual Behavior After The Discussion

The child may exhibit unusual behavior after a death occurs. The child may think they can reunite with the loved one after a death and may consider or attempt suicide; seek professional help immediately in that case. The child may withdraw socially and no longer wish to play as he or she once did. Encourage play by engaging the child in activities he or she enjoys.

5. Be A Good Listener

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    Ask the child open-ended questions to encourage discussion and then simply listen. Allowing the child to air his or her grief is a good way on the path to grief recovery. The child may get “stuck” in a particular discussion, in which case it is good simply to continue listening until the child is fully prepared to move forward.

    6. Avoid Lying About The Death

    While it may seem easier to simply tell the child that the person has simply “gone away” as if on a vacation, the result is that the child will learn that you cannot be trusted in being truthful. Yes, in a sense, the person has “gone away,” but be sure to emphasize that the person cannot come back or that there are no possibilities of visitation.

    7. Create A Ritual Of The Death

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      While it may see counterintuitive, a death ritual helps a child come to terms with the death. In the West, this normally includes families reuniting, a wake, and then the funeral. Prepare the child by letting them now that people are coming and some may be new faces. Tell them what happens in a wake and what to expect during the funeral.

      8. Prepare To Answer Questions

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        Again, the key here is to be honest. Answer to the best of your knowledge; it is absolutely fine to tell the child that there is something you don’t know. Be aware of age appropriate answers and avoid providing too much detail.

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        Featured photo credit: Flowers rest on headstone in cemetery via shutterstock.com

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        Last Updated on December 2, 2019

        10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

        10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

        Plato knew that the body and mind are intimately linked. And in the late 1800s, the Mayo brothers, famous physicians, estimated that over half of all hospital beds are filled with people suffering from frustration, anxiety, worry and despair. Causes of worry are everywhere, in our relationships and our jobs, so it’s key we find ways to take charge of the stress.

        In his classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers tools to ditch excessive worrying that help you make a worry-free environment for your private and professional life.

        These are the top 10 tips to grab worry by the horns and wrestle it to the ground:

        1. Make Your Decision and Never Look Back

        Have you ever made a decision in life only to second-guess it afterwards? Of course you have! It’s hard not to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing and whether there might still be time to take another path.

        But keep this in mind: you’ve already made your decision, so act decisively on it and dismiss all your anxiety about it.

        Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver.

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        2. Live for Today, Package Things up in “Day-Tight Compartments”

        You know that feeling: tossing, turning and worrying over something that happened or something that might, well into the wee hours. To avoid this pointless worrying, you need “day-tight compartments”. Much as a ship has different watertight compartments, your own “day-tight” ones are a way to limit your attention to the present day.

        The rule is simple: whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future must not intrude upon today. Everything else has to wait its turn for tomorrow’s box or stay stuck in the past.

        3. Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario and Strategize to Offset It

        If you’re worried about something, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Could you lose your job? Be jailed? Get killed?

        Whatever the “worst” might be, it’s probably not so world-ending. You could probably even bounce back from it!

        If, for example, you lose your job, you could always find another. Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer.

        4. Put a Lid on Your Worrying

        Sometimes we stress endlessly about negative experiences when just walking away from them would serve us far better.

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        To make squashing that worry easier, try this strategy, straight from stock traders: it’s called the “stop-loss” order, where shares are bought at a certain price, and then their price development is observed. If things go badly and the share price hits a certain point, they are sold off immediately. This stops the loss from increasing further.

        In the same manner, you can put a stop-loss order on things that cause you stress and grief.

        5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Happiness, That Is

        We can’t directly influence how we feel, but we can nudge ourselves to change through how we think and act.

        If you’re feeling sad or low, slap a big grin on your face and whistle a chipper tune. You’ll find it impossible to be blue when acting cheerful. But you don’t necessarily need to act outwardly happy; you can simply think happier thoughts instead.

        Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly:

        “Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

        6. Give for the Joy of Giving

        When we perform acts of kindness, we often do so with the expectation of gratitude. But harboring such expectations will probably leave you disappointed.

        One person well aware of this fact was the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz. Over the course of his career, Leibowitz saved 78 people from going to the electric chair. Guess how many thanked him? None.

        So stop expecting gratitude when you’re kind to someone. Instead, take joy from the act yourself.

        7. Dump Envy – Enjoy Being Uniquely You

        Your genes are completely unique. Even if someone had the same parents as you, the likelihood of someone identical to you being born is just one in 300,000 billion.

        Despite this amazing fact, many of us long to be someone else, thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But living your life this way is pointless. Embrace your uniqueness and get comfortable with who you really are: How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

        8. Haters Will Hate — It Just Means You’re Doing It Right

        When you’re criticized, it often means you’re accomplishing something noteworthy. In fact, let’s take it a step further and consider this: the more you’re criticized, the more influential and important a person you likely are.

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        So the next time somebody talks you down, don’t let it get to you. Take it as a compliment!

        9. Chill Out! Learn to Rest Before You Get Tired

        Scientists agree that emotions are the most common cause of fatigue. And it works the other way around, too: fatigue produces more worries and negative emotions.

        It should be clear, therefore, that you’ve got to relax regularly before you feel tired. Otherwise, worries and fatigue will accumulate on top of each other.

        It’s impossible to worry when you are relaxed, and regular rest helps you maintain your ability to work effectively.

        10. Get Organized and Enjoy Your Work

        There are few greater sources of misery in life than having to work, day in, day out, in a job you despise. It would make sense then that you shouldn’t pick a job you hate, or even just dislike doing.

        But say you already have a job. How can you make it more enjoyable and worry-free? One way is to stay organized: a desk full of unanswered mails and memos is sure to breed worries.

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        Better yet, rethink about the job you’re doing: What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

        More About Living a Fulfilling Life

        Featured photo credit: Tyler Nix via unsplash.com

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