Death is a part of life and is accompanied by the intense emotion of grief. It’s difficult for adults to talk about death and handle our grief, let alone help our children or teens.
So, what is the proper way to handle death with children?
1. Be honest.
Honestly respond in a way that is appropriate to the child or adolescent. For a younger child you might say, “Yes, he died. That means he stopped breathing and is not coming back to our home.”
2. Let them own their emotions.
Sit with your child while they are dealing with the pain. Don’t try to stop them from crying or being angry. Now is the time for them to get those emotions out. Try saying something like, “You are so sad right now. That tells me your grandmother was very special to you.”
3. Talk about the loss.
Don’t pretend the loved one didn’t exist. Talk about the deceased person. Refer to them by name. Look at pictures together and encourage your child to share memories.
4. Let them see you grieve.
Everyone handles grief differently. Just remember—your child will model his or her behavior after you. If you lock yourself in a room and stay by yourself all the time, so will your child. It’s important that you get help handling your emotions so you can also help your child.
5. Teach them about your faith.
Beliefs are something we instill in our children. When someone dies, you have the opportunity to discuss further how your faith and beliefs can help them handle death.
6. Answer their questions.
Respond honestly and openly to any questions your child or teenager may have.
7. Get back into your routine as soon as possible.
A feeling of normalcy helps both parents and children feel safe. And while your routine may be different now, try to adhere to it as much as possible. For example, send your children back to school as soon as they are ready instead of keeping them at home.