10 pointers on how to explain death and grief to young kids

Tragedy is an inevitable part of the cycle of life, but explaining death to children can be difficult.

Child psychologist Kerry Lee Kirkman says children are exposed to death and can be more aware of it than adults often think.

Death is a part of our lives on many different levels.

Kerry Lee Kirkman, child psychologist

Kirkman explains that children learn from their parents' behaviour and attitudes and are very sensitive observers.

She unpacks the common difficulties faced by parents and offers the following advice:

  • it's okay for parents not to have the answers to everything
  • ensure that you have open channels of communication
  • consider your child's developmental stage before raising the subject
  • don't downplay the feeling of loss felt by your child
  • see yourself as a mirror that models appropriate behaviour regarding death
  • give sympathy to those around you, acknowledge loss and express care
  • do not be afraid to show emotions to your kids
  • introduce the concept of death by commenting on something happening outside the family first
  • do not avoid questions around death, even if your child hasn't experienced personal loss yet
  • give brief and simple answers: explain death in terms of physical functions

If parents hesitate to talk, children hesitate to ask.. That can create worry and anxiety for children.

Kerry Lee Kirkman, child psychologist

Take a listen to the in-depth discussion:

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