Children have many things to learn when they’re growing up, some things they understand, some do not. Some can be truly confusing even when in adulthood. But as parents, it’s always important to ensure we carefully explain certain elements of life, or neglect to elaborate on topics they are too young to understand.
However, often, you cannot completely ignore the hard topics, and doing so will only lead to a child becoming misinformed and maladapted. Death is one of these hard topics. Unfortunately, unlike sexual intimacy, it is never a topic you rightfully conceal until they become old enough to understand it in their maturity. It is something they might be experiencing now. The death of a pet, a relative, or even a parent can be a devastating thing to a household, of course increasing in intensity the closer it is to home or family.
We must have this conversation with our children. We must do so carefully, but clearly. If you can do this, then you can immediately help them learn one of the hardest facts of life, and care practiced here can help them begin to process and absorb it. Let’s have a look at how to possibly broach the loss:
Be Clear, And Careful
It’s important to allow your child time to digest the words you speak to them. But it’s also important to find the right news. Make no efforts at deception, or to make light of something. They will understand it is bad news. Taking them aside, gently, in your living room or their bedroom (preferably somewhere they feel safe,) and telling them you have some sad news, so-and-so has died is all you need. If you pause, you can allow them time to process it, and they might ask you a question or two. Let them react in their own way.
Let Them Know It’s Okay
It’s important to comfort them. It’s also okay to let them know how they’re feeling is normal. Tell them that it’s okay to be sad, you are sad too. This way, you can share your emotions with one another, so they don’t feel as though they’re going through it alone. It can also be important to let them know how things might change. For example, they might not play at Grandma’s house every other weekend now, but we can do something to remember her. Let them process their sadness, and take it in. It’s not easy, but it’s something we all have to go through, and the more you comfort them but not stifle them, the healthier it can be.
Use Appropriate Details
It could be that using appropriate details is important. For example, saying their Grandma passed away peacefully could be a nicer way to explain a bad illness they might have had. Children don’t need to know the full details at this very young age. However, you might tell them what to expect. You may suggest that in a few weeks, you will all go to the funeral so you can remember and talk about Grandma. Don’t talk about funeral planning or funeral costs, it’s not their consideration to think about. But telling them what you’ll all wear, choosing a nice outfit and how the burial is expected to happen etc can be a great help.
They’ll likely feel a little vulnerable for a while. Let them hold your hand or relax with them on the sofa in the evenings. This can be a tough time, but if you do it right, you’ll have done the best you can.
Using these tips may help the loss become a little easier over time.