What do you say to children when they ask you about death? Do you wait until they bring the topic up or do you talk about it when someone they know dies? We believe that the when and where of such a conversation is a personal decision parents must make on an individual basis.
Because the odds are great that your children will have questions about death, think about what you’d like them to know about this inevitable fact of life. Here are some basics that child development experts suggest might be helpful:
When children ask questions, give them age-appropriate answers. This information will help them when dealing with death. A parent’s ability to listen to what children have to say may be especially important if they are grieving. This can apply regardless of the death they are concerned about is that of a dead insect, a family pet or something that occurs in a story book or a movie.
The best approach often involved an understanding of your attitudes, thoughts, and feelings about death. If you are uncomfortable with the topic, your attempts at conversation may reflect that. What do you do if the topic a taboo in your community? Don’t have all the answers? That’s okay. No one does.
The idea is to be prepared when the time comes. Research age-appropriate explanations. Talk with your funeral director or clergy. Hospice guidelines designed for children may also be useful resources.
Fear and anxiety can be eased when children know their parents are helping them to understand this fact of life, even if it means parents have to repeat themselves again and again because it may take a while for the information to make sense. Such attention and care can make all the difference.