More of us have had to cope with loss than ever over the past year. It’s an awful experience for anyone – but when you’re a young child who can’t fully comprehend death, it can be a traumatic experience.
Helping your kids cope with loss is essential to their development into tiny adults who grieve healthily. But how can you help them to develop in this way?
Talk to your kids about what has happened
It might feel kinder to spare your child from the reality of death, but to understand what’s happening, your child needs to know why death happens. Don’t give every detail – that would be very traumatising – but share enough to ensure your child has a firm grasp of the fact their relative isn’t going to be around again. Make sure your explanations are age-appropriate and straightforward.
Encourage them to ask questions
Death is a complex subject – especially for a child who might be experiencing it for the first time. They are likely to have a lot of questions. Remember: asking questions is how children learn. It makes sense they’d want to ask questions about their relative’s death.
Ensure to create an environment where they feel like they can ask questions. Once you’ve explained the facts, ask them at the end: “Do you have any questions about what I’ve told you.” They might not have any questions straight away, so make sure to tell them: “If you think of any questions later, please ask me.”
Once they’ve had some time to think and have seen grief around them, they might find new questions popping up.
Answer their questions truthfully
When children ask hard-hitting questions like: “What happens to Granny now she’s died,” it can be easy to give a brush-off answer. This isn’t a good way to answer.
Of course, many of these questions don’t have a definitive answer – that’s the nature of death: it’s mostly a mystery. But being open and clear with your child about these things will help them treat death in a healthy way. If you don’t know, say you don’t know.
Children need to feel listened to – especially when they are going through something as difficult as grief. Therefore, you must respect their questions with a serious answer.
Bring your child to the funeral
Compassionate funerals might set off some difficulties in your child’s emotions, but it can also give them a chance to say goodbye. As long as you talk through it all with them, this experience doesn’t have to be a negative one.
Talk to your child about their emotions
When people go through grief, they often have a lot of feelings. This can range from sadness to anger to confusion to depression and anxiety. This is no different for your children.
Make sure to talk to your children about their feelings. Tell them it’s okay to feel these things – that it makes sense.
By talking to you about their feelings, your child won’t feel as alone in their struggle. Often, vocalising their feelings can help children to feel less overwhelmed by their emotions.