Author of "No One Has to Die Alone – Preparing for a Meaningful Death"
How to Help a Child Understand Death
Listen Actively to learn what the child does and does not understand about death; what vocabulary, sequences, and concepts they is she able to use in questions or descriptions of the events?
Ask your child direct, simple questions that focus on full understanding of the event and the ramifications.
Respond to what they do and do not understand.
Use everyday living experiences and “teaching moments” to discuss the reality that has happened.
Answer questions when the child asks. Answer simply and honestly rather than protecting the child from a “harsh reality” and evade the truth. Answer the same questions repeatedly if asked, with patience; your child is processing and weaving together complex concepts that require repetition and context.
Temper and adjust your response and answers to reflect the child’s age, experience, maturity, and capacity for emotion and facts.
Answer the question that is asked; do not overwhelm with detail, but ask what she heard and now understands.
Give the child time alone to reflect.
Provide opportunities and experiences for the child to show you what he or she understands or is confused about reglarding illness, death, and dying. Activities including movies, art, music, writing, or play acting can all provide feedback about how the child is processing information.