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How to tell a child about the death of his relative?

Should I tell a child about the death and how to do it correctly? Should I hide my emotions and how to behave with a child? The answers to these questions were given by the psychologist of our Headquarters and the psychological center “Bez paniky” Daria Selivanova.

  • Should I tell a child about the loss?

It is necessary to talk about the death of a relative, the sooner the better. It is natural that you want to protect your child from unpleasant experience.

However, no matter how hard we try to hide the reality, the child will still understand that something has happened and will have unpleasant experience. Plus, silence is an obstacle for a child to realize a loss.

  • How to talk to a child about loss?

People who care for a child who is experiencing a loss often live through it themselves. Therefore, it is primarily important to realize the matters yourself a loss and take care of yourself. In order to help your child, you need to have the strength and courage to do so.

  • Who should talk to a child about loss?

Talking to a child is important to those whom it trusts, who is the one closest to it, who is recognizes as a supporter. And for those who can understand the emotions of the child and have the strength to do so, at least minimal. This can be a mother, father or someone with whom the child has a good relationship of trust or can establish it.

  • What should you discuss with a child who experienced a loss?

Choose the words that are clear to the child. Tell the truth. The child must know the cause of death, without details. Tell the child that no thoughts, actions, or emotions could provoke death.

Do not use metaphors, as this may interfere with the child’s correct understanding of you and bring additional difficulties [for example, “in the heaven”, ” watching over us from heaven “, etc.]. It is important to say outright that death is the cessation of the body’s existence, that we will never see this person again, but we will be able to remember it.

  • How to cope with child’s emotions related to the loss?

The child may get angry and blame the deceased for leaving it, this is normal and the child should not be blamed, it has the right to be angry. It is not necessary to blame the child for its reactions and emotions that may arise in connection with the death of a relative.

It should be remembered that children can get information of their mind quickly, so after learning about death after a while they can play, watch cartoons and so on. This is normal. There is no need to demand constant sorrow or grief from the child.

  • Should I hide my feelings of loss?

Speak more slowly than usual and watch your child’s reaction, it may not immediately understand what you are talking about. Ask a child what it understood from what you said. Give a child the opportunity to ask questions if they arise.

It is important to look the child in the eyes and not hide your emotions.

You can say: “I am in great pain, grief, I’m scared. I see that it is also difficult / sad / scary for you now. We are together, we will cope with it “

  • Should a child attend funeral rites?

It is better not to take a child under 7 to the funeral, it can scare it, but if you still decide to take, a loved one should always be around and watch the child, if necessary, should quickly pick up the child from the funeral and take to a familiar safe place. If possible, tell what will happen before, during and after the funeral rite.

If the child did not attend the funeral, you should conduct your own ritual of farewell to the deceased. This can be done in any way – write a letter, make a postcard, make conversation, visit a church, and so on.

  • Is it worth explaining what will happen at the funeral?

Explain what will happen next. If the death of a loved one means a change in a child’s life or daily routine, explain what will happen. This will help the child feel more determined, which it really needs.

For example, “Aunt will pick you up from school, like Grandma before.” Or: “I need to stay with my grandfather for a few days. This means that you and your dad will be at home and take care of each other. But I will talk to you every day and come back on Sunday. “

  • When should you consult a specialist?

Get extra help if needed. If the death of a loved one was sudden, was accompanied by severe or was caused by war, the child and adult may need psychological support. If the distress from losing a child lasts more than a few weeks or if you think your family needs extra help, try to see a specialist.