Explaining Death to a Child

Examples of Inappropriate Attitudes When Discussing Death with a Child

Hello again my dear readers and valuable visitors of our site. I will continue to post as much as I can. Because the intense interest I receive from you encourages and excites me to write my next article. As I explained in my previous article, I was preparing a series of articles on how to tell a child the news of a relative’s death, how to convey it. Today I will share the second part of the article series with you. I try to use as simple and understandable language as possible. I would like to write immediately without choking you with concepts and without getting tired.

I tried to form the basis of the concept of death in my previous article. Now, I would like to talk and convey the attitudes and behaviors of parents in general. When parents talk about death, they adopt two kinds of inappropriate attitudes. The first of these is to “avoid”, that is, the parent does not want to tell the child the news of his death. For this reason, parents resort to different stories. Of course, the person who will tell the story may want to prevent a second pain, perhaps by wanting to prevent his child from getting upset. But remember, telling is essentially sharing, and sharing makes one feel comfortable. The child is born with a very, very developed ability to read gestures. Therefore, the child observes. He looks at his parents. His face, tone of voice, posture show that the parent is upset. Then he thinks that it must be a bad thing because it makes my parents sad. It’s best I don’t talk either. Because talking about it makes my parents sad. Such a situation prevents the child from worrying more, telling and conveying what he/she feels to the parent. Remember, the fear of uncertainty may hurt more children than hearing the truth.

The second attitude a parent should not do when talking about death is “confrontation.” In other words, the parent exhibits such an attitude that he says such things, tells; In fact, the child does not need them. Maybe even if we ask the child, he will not want to know or learn what is being told. It is also important for the child to understand. What did the child understand from what the parent told? Comparing the child with information that children do not understand, do not even want to learn or even want to know, may harm the child more.

Attitudes for Parents to Consider When Discussing Death with Children

  • Always use the word death when explaining death to children. It would be more accurate to say that the deceased is dead, instead of using expressions such as sleeping, gone, that is, using a clear expression instead of covering up and evasive expressions.

  • Speaking of death; It would be better to say that death is the last stage of life and that the deceased will never return.

  • Say that death means that all functions in the body have completely stopped, and expand this sentence a little, give examples, make it concrete; say that the deceased can no longer feel, move, see, hear, touch, eat, smell. This example-concretization will be a good behavior for the child to understand.

  • It’s not enough to just say he got sick and died. Why? Because this sentence is very bad for the child, or the child’s life can change drastically with the fear of getting sick and the obsessive-compulsive reactions it will bring. Instead, try to explain that getting sick is not actually a bad thing, that it contributes to the strengthening of the body’s immune system, but that there are mild illnesses and severe illnesses. Let’s explain these things so that the child does not worry about whether he will die every time he or the people around him get sick.

  • Just as we should be careful not to associate death with illness, let us not associate it with old age. So let’s not say he got old and died. Let’s say that all of us, even all living things in the world, actually have a lifespan. It would also be more useful if we try to explain that most people age, but not all of them live long.

  • Abstract thoughts are not yet developed in the pre-school period, that is, in the early childhood period. Therefore, when talking about death, especially with children in this period, let’s be careful not to confuse religion with death. Children in this period may be afraid of death and religion suddenly coming to the fore. Adults may be relieved to hear such things. But the child in this period may be frightened. I think it’s worth paying attention to.

  • Again, it would be much more accurate to try to explain death to children in this period by embodying it. In fact, it would be more appropriate to explain all abstract concepts by embodying them as much as possible. In this sense, instead of the word dead, it may be more appropriate to say that he is no longer alive. You can describe it as the end of the body’s functions of metabolism, such as breathing, cold, tired, hungry.

  • Children learn by repeating information just like everyone else. If he asks again and again, please try to answer in the same way without getting tired of it.

  • Sometimes I observe that the parents think that the house will not be very suitable for various reasons after death and try to remove the child from the house. I think this is extremely wrong. Because such a behavior can develop separation anxiety and fear of loss in the child. Isn’t the child also a member of that family? In that case, the child should also experience this mourning process with his family. Children can grieve like adults, and even do. Grief can also make the child pour out and treat the child in this sense.

  • Try to explain that it is perfectly normal to cry, be sad, especially after someone who has died, to miss and be sad. Therefore, try to express that this is nothing to be afraid of, that it should not be feared. Do not hide your feelings so that your child will share these feelings with you.

  • Please observe if your child is ready or willing to talk about death. You see that there is such a request and even such attempts, it would be more correct to respond with a calm and open approach.

  • There are various ways to remember the deceased. When appropriate, their pictures can be looked at and their memories can be talked about. In this way, feelings are shared and you understand and understand each other.

  • Again, going to the grave with your child and planting a tree or creating a memory book about the person will also contribute to your child’s acceptance of death more easily and that it is something not to be feared at the same time. If he does not want to come to the cemetery, do not put pressure on him, do not force him.

  • Be honest with your child. Your feelings, your feelings, your experiences. If you don’t know the answer to a question from the child, say, “I don’t know, but I can find out for you.”

  • “We can’t see the dead people again, but we always feel the love and respect we feel for them. What do you say, let’s look at their pictures together and talk?” We can make sentences like this and ensure that we stand next to him and convey our feelings.

  • Please do not compare death to sleep. I’d say it’s the biggest mistake your parents make. Let me try to explain why this is dangerous. If he associates it with sleep, he may be afraid of going to sleep, or he may be worried about whether his loved ones will wake up again after sleeping or if he will die if he sleeps.

  • Do not use abstract sentences such as flying to infinity.

  • Try to convey to your child the message that he is not alone, that he is with you and I plan to live with you for a long time, that he is not helpless, that he will continue to stay with the people who love him, try to make him feel.

  • It would be more appropriate not to take the child to the burial ceremony of the deceased.

  • Children, in general, may blame themselves for some events that take place around them because they put themselves at the center of the world. It could also be related to someone’s death. For this reason, it should be clearly stated to the child that this is not about him, that it has no effect.

  • Reactions such as crying, extreme fear, freezing or refusing to die are reactions that vary according to the child’s age and personality traits. Apart from this, it also gives other reactions, which show that it extends the grieving process over the long term. For example; introversion, having nightmares, changes in appetite, fear of losing another loved one, difficulty falling asleep, thumb sucking, angry behavior, bedwetting, acting different from one’s own. In such reactions, it is necessary to get support from a psychologist.

  • Ultimately, death is a traumatizing event. Adults and children should definitely get support from a psychologist.

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