Death, how to tell children

Many adults have been affected by the way they have been excluded as children when it came to death. It is not uncommon for therapists to see adult clients who were traumatised as children by being left out of the death of someone close to them. At the age of four we can understand death, yet most children are considered too young to be included when adults are grieving.

Children need to be told what has happened with words they can understand for their age. They should never be told the person has 'gone away' or is 'sleeping' this is confusing and may be very frightening. Children need to be a part of what is happening, it is not a bad thing for children to see adults crying, it is a natural way for them to understand what is going on and it is normal to grieve when someone dies. 

Children should never be forced to see the deceased or kiss them, touch them, but if the child wants to with support of adults, it should not cause issues later. Communication and inclusion with the child, with words relevant to their age, is the key to their understanding. Having pets in childhood can help children to understand death. Some pets naturally only live a short life, a couple of years or so, this can be the start of children understanding when someone close to them dies.  

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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