Coping with trauma - Talking about death with children

Talking about Death with Pre-schoolers

Talking about death can be difficult for any parent. Loss of a family member brings a tough emotional drain situation for everyone. However, we need to keep in mind that death is an inevitable part of life, and we need to discuss this with our children.

Death is a part of our lives, and you might be surprised that your preschooler already has some understanding about it. Most children are aware of death as they see television, listen to stories and find dead insects or birds around them.
Despite understanding this, they are not clear about various aspects of death. It might be difficult to explain to them about the causes of death, even if you have lost a family member. Kids may react in various ways. The child may resort to tantrums, disturbance in toilet routine, revert to baby talk or become very clingy. Your preschooler is trying to understand the grieving atmosphere and he doesn’t know how to make things better.
Preschoolers do not understand that the dead people are not going to return. It is only after the age of 6 that children understand that the death is permanent. Sometimes your kid’s questions are much deeper than you think. He might have questions about life after death and heaven, take this opportunity to share your religious beliefs. Discuss and try to understand where he is going with the conversation.

How to Explain Death to a Pre-schooler

1. Discuss

Do not try to avoid and delay the topic. Openly give answers of all his questions and get him prepared for any such news in the future. Sometimes, you may use story references to explain death to your child, but give simple and brief answers that he can understand.

2. Express emotions

Express your own emotions about grief so that your child feels it is normal to be sad. You may cry in front of your child so that the child understands it is okay for adults to cry sometimes.

3. Reassure

If you have lost a family member because of illness, reassure the child that all the people who are sick won’t die. Your child might feel scared with his sickness too.

4. Natural process

Remember to teach your child that death is a natural process. Let him have faith in God and come to terms with the almighty.

Every child is an individual, and he might react differently from other children in the family. It might take some time before he actually understands what has happened. Your child needs a lot of love and reassurance. He should feel loved and cared for. You should use such opportunities to clear all confusion in your child’s mind regarding death, instead of forcing your child away from such a situation.
If your child has problems coping with such a situation, you may discuss this with another family member who is close to the child. An elder sibling can be of a great help for both of you. You may seek professional help if you feel that even after a few months your child is not able to cope with the situation.

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