Telling a child that a loved one has died is never easy. Your emotions are likely to be heightened, which can make breaking the news even harder and, due to their age, you may be anxious about the language you should use and how to respond to their grief. These concerns are normal, but there are some useful strategies that can help both you and the child to cope with the situation.
Tips for telling a child about a death
Speak to the child as soon as possible, preferably somewhere free from distractions.
Avoid confusing phrases such as ‘she has passed away’. Clear language, such as ‘she has died’, is more easily understood.
Young children may not immediately understand the implications of what you have told them, so be prepared to repeat the information.
Be prepared to answer the child’s questions honestly, in language that is age-appropriate. If you don’t know an answer to a question, just say so.
Explain that it’s okay for the child to feel sad, but don’t worry if they appear to show no emotion to begin with. This is entirely normal and may not happen for some time.
Explain the plans for the next few days, such as whether the child will attend school or who will look after them.
Telling a young child about a death
Children who are younger than six often do not understand what death means. They may receive the news matter-of-factly or think they will see the deceased person again. Informing a young child of a death is still important, even if you think they won’t comprehend.
Picture books are a good way to illustrate the concept of death, and there are numerous titles available, including Farewell, Grandpa Elephant, The Heart and the Bottle and The Elephant in the Room.
Also, you could talk about pets who have previously died, so that the child can relate the current situation to something they have already experienced.
Understanding a child’s reactions
There is no set way for a child to react to the news of a loved one’s death. They may be upset, confused or angry – or may not display any emotion at all and want to resume their normal activities. This is not a sign that they don’t care!
Remember that the grieving process can be lengthy and complicated. An open, honest approach that answers the child’s questions, with opportunities to discuss their thoughts and explore their happy memories will help your child to come to terms with their loss.
Planning a funeral in Manchester
At Far and Beyond Funerals, our trained staff are on-hand to support everyone in your family, whatever their age, and our help doesn’t end the moment the funeral is over. If you’re searching for a compassionate funeral director in Manchester who can support you and your children as you come to terms with your loss, simply get in touch and we’ll be ready to help.