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Do's and Don'ts in Talking with Your Children about Death

September 6, 2017

 

DON’T say the person “went away.” The child may feel abandoned or think he or she did something wrong and is no longer loved.

• DON’T say death is the same as sleep. The child might become afraid of going to sleep himself.

• DON’T say that being sick causes death. Even if a sickness did lead to the death, you must be very careful to explain the difference between a fatal illness and a simple one which can be treated and cured.

• DO let a child attend the funeral or other services if he wants to. Children should be allowed to express their grief with other members of the family. Seeing that everyone feels sad, helps the child deal with his own feelings.

• DO tell your child that it is okay to feel sad and cry. It’s much better to express feelings of sadness. That helps to make a death more manageable for children and adults.

• DO try and prepare the child ahead of time, if possible, so he can understand what is happening. For example, if a pet dies, discuss what that means. Discuss the different life spans of animals and humans, talk about how the leaves change in the fall, or describe how plants grow in the spring and die in the winter.

• DO help your child remember all the wonderful things he can about the person who has died. “Memory is the lasting link that can help children and adults accept a death.” (Hazen, 1985)

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