Explain the Death of a Parent to a Small Child
Edited by Ian Gabriel T. Tolledo, Eng, Robbi, Lynn
How do you explain death to someone who isn't even aware that such a thing exists? How do you say that the person who brought him or her into the world is gone forever? How do you reassure him that everything is going to be alright?
It's never easy to explain someone's death to anyone, much less a death of a parent to a small child. However, doing so is inevitable and the faster the child understands the concept of death and dying, the better he or she can adjust to the situation. Below are steps you can follow:
Things to know prior to "the talk"
You are treading on thin ice here. You can either make or break the child if you rush in and haphazardly inform the child of his or her parent's death. Now if you're the remaining parent, you may also be suffering on your own; do not let this seep into your conversation with your child.
- 1Know where to start. Think through the whole situation and the circumstances that LED to the death of a parent. You WILL NOT say in detail all the things which the parent suffered to the child. Pick your words and do not incorporate morbid words when you speak to the child. Words like torture, corpse, graveyard, blood, etc., are definite no-nos.Advertisement
- 2Be honest. You must be honest with the child, and do not discourage them when they ask questions, although you may not have answers to most of them. If you don't know the answer to a particular question, like "Is mommy in heaven now?", then just say so, and say it mildly to her.Advertisement
- 3Environment. As much as possible, you should create an atmosphere of comfort and openness, and send subtle hints that there's no right or wrong way to feel. You can even share any spiritual beliefs you have personally about death.
- 4Meltdown. Prepare a glass of water and a face tissue beforehand. While some child can take the news with bravery, others can't, especially when its their parent.
- 1Kids under the age of 6 view the world very literally.
3 C's to Remember after "The Talk"
- 2Care. Physical care is important during these times. Give the child plenty of hugs and kisses. Grieving can take a toll on the body and can be a really lonely experience for the child, as well as for you. You may ask other family members and friends to assist you to care for the child in the weeks following the death of a loved one, especially when your own grief is taking its toll on you.
Tips, Tricks and Warnings
- Children can react to death in a variety of ways. Be prepared to understand and keep the child comfortable and at ease at all times.
- The child may engage in odd behaviors like playing dead. This is normal, despite being morbid. Don't discourage this because this might be his or her way to work through her emotions. Be ready when she's ready to talk.
- Children needs continuity of normal activities, so give them plenty of hugs and cuddles. Connect with them so that he will know that everything will be alright.