How to Talk About Death: 5 Tips to Help Kids Cope With the Loss of a Pet or Loved One by Nadine Haruni
How do you say goodbye to someone you love, whether it’s a pet or a grandparent? Dealing with death can be difficult and painful for grownups, let alone for little children.
Whether reeling from the unexpected loss of a pet or a person – or facing the approaching death of an ailing or elderly family member – parents and kids can find comfort in sitting together and reading about how parents Freeda and Samson helped their tadpoles cope with Goldie’s death in my book, Freeda the Frog Says Farewell to Her Fish.
Here are tips to help parents struggling to find the right words or actions to express their feelings or condolences when they are explaining loss or the grieving process to a child:
- Use simple, direct words to talk about death. Give your child a moment to take your words in, and prepare them for rituals or events that will happen.
- Give them an age-appropriate book. Relatable characters can help kids explore the feelings that they will likely be experiencing.
- Listen, provide comfort and encourage them to talk. Remind them that you are here, and it's OK to cry or openly discuss their feelings with you or a professional.
- Remind them that loved ones aren’t forgotten. Encourage them to talk or write about treasured memories with their loved one who passed to keep them close.
- Teach them an appropriate condolence gesture. A handwritten condolence note, food or flowers for the grieving family may be appropriate.
Hugs, sharing memories, having a ceremony to say goodbye and letting yourself cry are all ways to ease mourning, heal and teach your kids at an early age how to do the right thing, be a good friend and prepare for inevitably going through loss.
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