Death can be a difficult subject to deal with at any age, it can be difficult for a young child to understand and equally tough for the parents to explain. Until a relative, grandparent or even a pet dies it probably isn’t a subject you have talked about with your child.
I can safely say that October 2017 has been one of the hardest months for me and my family. Unfortunately, my younger brother passed away quite unexpectedly. Up until then, death was not a subject that had been spoken about with my children aged seven and five.
Though helped by it possibly being a subject that was talked about before in school, it was extremely difficult to sit them down and tell them that their uncle had died and they would not see him again.
I was genuinely surprised how well they understood and their overall reaction to the situation. They had questions which we answered and they were sad about it for a little while.
For me, they have been a medication of laughter and joy when I have been low. Offering me extra cuddles when I have looked sad. They have helped keep my mind occupied and us all in a routine that is important for a family to have, with school runs and homework etc.
Why should you prepare your children?
In the past, death was a natural part of life that children were part of with people born and dying at home, compared to now where hospitals are used much more often. Many parents want to do their best and protect their children by not talking about death and its sorrows.
Sooner or later your child will be confronted with the subject so it helps to give them some understanding and allowing them to be better equipped to deal with the situation. Death and grief are inevitable and not things that can be avoided, so preparing children is beneficial for the whole family.
How to talk to your child about death?
The death of a pet is an excellent opportunity to talk about the subject. Many pets have short lifespans and along with teaching the responsibility of looking after a pet it also ensures the subject of death is raised while children are young.
There are many books in the library and reading a book together gives you the opportunity to talk about it after and the feelings it has aroused. Talk about flowers and other things around you that naturally wither and die.
You don’t need to sit for hours but be honest and tell them how you feel. They need to know its ok to feel sad and cry (even boys). Be prepared for questions, their reactions and gives them time to think about things. They will talk about it when they want too and its natural for them to change the subject and return to it at a later date.