When you are faced with talking to your children about a loved one’s passing, it can be incredibly difficult. Especially when you are grieving yourself, you will likely worry about how much they will understand and how they will react to the news.
However, no matter their age, it is important to tell a child when someone close to them has passed away.
Death is an inevitable part of life and it occurs in many different ways, so making death a part of normal conversion is vital for children.
Below we have collated some ways that you can gently bring up the topic of a loved one’s passing with a child, written in collaboration with The Elms Funeral Directors, leading providers of funeral plans Kewstoke.
Ways to Talk to Your Children About Death
When you’re talking to a child about death, it is important for you to be as open as possible and answer any questions they ask as honestly as possible. Unfortunately, what children imagine can become much worse than the truth. Here are some of our top tips that will make talking about death easier;
Be Honest About What Happened
Children need to know what happened to cause that person to pass away. However, when it comes to explaining it, use simple and clear language that is right of their age.
Similarly, you could try giving them small snippets of information at a time, as this can make it easier for young children to understand.
Once you have explained simply that their loved one has passed away, the details can follow later.
Use Simple Language
It is much easier to explain that someone has died rather than using any euphemisms.
Explanations such as ‘gone away’ or ‘gone to sleep’ are not advised. Unfortunately, they can make the child frightened to do things such as go to sleep or when someone leaves the house, just in case they don’t come back.
Give Them the Reassurance They Need
It’s common for children to feel as though it is their fault or a result of something they did when a loved one passes away.
This is why it is important to explain to them why they are not to blame. It might be more helpful to give them an example, such as that the person passed away because their heart stopped working. This will help to reassure them that it was nothing that anyone said, or did that caused this.
Ask Them to Tell Their Story
It’s very often for adults to avoid talking about someone after they have passed, simply to protect children.
However, sometimes it will be incredibly healing for the child to talk about the person. Telling their story and remembering the person who’s passed away could do more good rather than bad.
Listening to them will also help you to understand how they are coping with the situation and how much they understand. You can also correct anything that isn’t quite right.
What’s more, make sure to avoid telling them how they should feel. Instead, let them know that the feelings they have are okay.
People Who’ll be able to Help You
When you’re helping a bereaved child, make sure to take things one day at a time.
Remember that you are not alone and if you are struggling to cope, this is nothing to feel ashamed of.
Friends, family, healthcare professionals and teachers at your child’s school will be happy to help you. What’s more, there are many child bereavement specialist services that you’ll be able to use.
Explaining Funerals to Children
Whilst a very young child, or baby, can attend a funeral with the rest of the family without really understanding what is going on, older children will appreciate that they are part of this event once it is explained to them.
You’ll have to make sure that the child is prepared for what will happen and what they will see, first, however.
If you wish, you may also involve the child in the funeral planning in some way, to help them feel more a part of the event. This could be a drawing or a card that can be placed on the coffin, or they may like to choose one of their favourite poems or songs to be included in the ceremony.
It might be helpful to take the child to the funeral location first, just to look around and so that they know what to anticipate.
At the end of the day, it is important that you take care of yourself, including both your physical and mental well-being. Whilst you are grieving, make sure to get sufficient sleep, eat properly, exercise and take time to relax when you can.