How to Explain Death to Children: 6 Tips for How to Tell Kids Someone Died
Adults feel an incredible burden when faced with the responsibility of telling a child that someone important to them has died. We often struggle to talk about death with other adults, so we often feel helpless when the need arises to inform a child someone has died.
How to tell a child someone has died depends on the timing and nature of the relationship with the person who has died. Because news of this nature spreads very quickly, a child may first learn of a death from another source.
What is important to keep in mind is that having an open dialogue with children about someone’s death helps build their understanding and provides them an opportunity to express themselves. Talking openly about death with children allows them to share, explore their reactions, and learn about this normal part of what it means to be human.
6 Tips for Explaining Death to Children
Parents and adults can play a vital role in how children hear about and come to understand the death of a family member or someone important to them. Here are six tips for starting the conversation.
Tip 1: Honesty
Kids need to know the truth about death, so do not lie or distort the facts. Start with a few facts and provide more details as children ask for them. Be careful not to overwhelm your child with too much information too soon.
Tip 2: Safety
When learning that someone important to them has died, children can experience an increased sense of fear for their safety and yours. Assure your child that their needs are going to be met and that you will be there for them.
Tip 3: No False Promises
Some children tend to ask their parents to ‘promise them not to die.’ You can’t make that promise. Instead focus on ensuring their safety.
Tip 4: Preparation
In advance of a funeral, prepare a child for what they might see, feel, or hear in the coming days. Ensuring that the child knows what they’ll see and what to expect is an important step in helping the child understand death and the rituals around honoring someone who has died.
Tip 5: Inclusion
Don’t exclude anyone from the conversation. Empower your children to make decisions about their participation in funeral rituals and give them opportunities to contribute.
Tip 6: No Expectations
Each child responds differently to news about the death of a family member or someone important to them. One child may respond with fear, while another may seem indifferent to the news. That is okay. There are no right or wrong reactions.
When Someone Dies, Good Grief Can Help
Starting the conversation about death can be difficult, but the goal is not to get it perfect. Assure the child that they can talk openly about the death and their feelings with you. If you are looking for other resources to support a grieving child, Good Grief is here to help. Reach out to us by contacting Good Grief online.