BereavementMany adults avoid speaking directly to children about death and dying because they think it will make them sad or anxious. These concerns are understandable but are usually misplaced. Talking openly about death helps children to cope with the concept and makes them less worried about it. This is true even for young children.
Research over 60 years has shown that adults have far more difficulty talking about death than children. Children can talk openly with each other about death and dying and can ask and answer very direct questions without feeling uncomfortable.
Sadly, some children suffer bereavement at a very early age, when a grandparent, parent, brother or sister dies. It is important that they are given information about what has happened and encouraged to ask questions and talk about the person who has died.
Parents, consumed with their own grief, can find it difficult to communicate with their children at this time, but it is important for children to be able to talk about their feelings and worries. This is particularly true if a person has died by suicide. A child who has lost a parent or sibling may feel angry or guilty, and bottling up these feelings may cause problems years later. Even if a child becomes very emotional, s/he will appreciate being able to talk openly.
It is important, though, to respond to each child on his or her own level, listening carefully to his or her feelings and questions and giving clear, honest information.
More information and advice
- Helping children to cope with change and loss
- Talking to children about death
- Other helpful websites