Helping your child cope with death

Helping Kids Cope with Loss and Death

The death of a loved one can be a stressful event for your child. Death is a difficult concept to explain to a child. Most kids do not fully comprehend the concept of death. It is a hard task for any parent to explain these concepts, more so if they are grieving themselves. Find out how to go about it.

When anyone in the family dies, parents face difficulty to understand how to help children cope with the loss. Here are some tips to help your kid overcome the grief and how to answer the questions he is likely to ask you.

1. Be honest

It is very important to be honest with your child. Do not use euphemisms like the dead person has ‘passed away’ or ‘gone away’. Children are unable to look beyond the literal meaning and will be confused or will expect the person to come back. Use clear expressions that he can understand like ‘his body stopped working’. You could include your religious beliefs like ‘he has gone to heaven’ or the concept of rebirth.

2. Make sure the child doesn’t feel guilty about the death

Preschoolers are very centered on themselves and consider themselves responsible for things happening around them. Make sure your child does not, in any way, feel responsible or guilty for the death; especially, if it’s someone he interacted with regularly. Explain to him that being angry with someone or fighting with them or wishing them gone cannot make them die. Also, make sure they do not feel guilty if they want to get back to playing.

3. Talk to him

Help him recognize and express his feelings. Ask him how he’s feeling. Help him identify sadness or anger and help him verbalise it. Talking about feelings is a great way to start resolving them. Sharing your own grief with him will encourage him to share his feelings with you.

4. Give ideas to your child on handling grief

You could ask him to come to you for a hug or cuddle up with a favourite toy when he remembers the person who died. If your child seems reluctant to talk, try to get him express his feelings through toys, books or drawings.

5. Try to keep the routine going:

It is very important to keep the routine going because your child derives a certain comfort from it.

6. Do not get annoyed at unusual behavior

Some children regress due to grief. They might start thumb sucking, bed wetting or talking in baby language. The changes are often temporary, and your child will get over them with time.

Questions You Can Expect

Preschoolers are curious by nature. Be prepared for a barrage of questions. Also, be prepared to answer the same questions over and over again because they process feelings and information in short spells over a long time. They might seem to have forgotten the person and then will come back to you with a query about him.

Here are Some Questions you Need to be Prepared with

  • What is ‘dead’?
  • Is dying the same as sleeping?
  • Are they hurting, feeling cold?
  • Will they come back?
  • Will they come back if I am good?
  • How did it happen?

Try to answer his questions as honestly as you can. If you do not have an answer, do not hesitate to say you do not know it. With an open atmosphere at home, the child will learn to handle his feelings and overcome them soon.

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