“Always tell the truth”. Any psychologist we ask how we can explain the death of a parent or loved one to a child will always tell us the same thing. There is no other. As much as we want to protect them, the sooner they know what has happened, the sooner they can come to terms with it and begin to get over it.
If they are very young they will hardly be aware of what happened, but after five or six years they do ask questions and know that they will never see the person who has died again. As hard as it is for us, we must talk to them and tell them what has happened. The way we do it will depend on the age of each child.
EXPLAIN THE DEATH OF A PARENT ACCORDING TO AGE
When they are babies they will not know what is happening, but they will notice that something strange is happening. So it is best to try to stay calm in front of them and stick with the routines they are used to .
The slightly older children do not understand that the person who has died is not going to come back. They may ask any questions, so we must be prepared to answer clearly.
Also, remember that they take everything literally, so avoid responses like “Dad is in heaven” because they will want to know how they can go visit him. Similarly, saying that he is gone will give them false hope that he may return.
From the age of 6 they begin to reason and have a notion of what death is. They even understand that death is something final, but they believe that it only affects the elderly.
It is not until they are approximately 9 years old that they are aware that anyone can die. And that’s when they worry that one of their loved ones will die.
In fact, at any moment they can ask us if we are going to die too. Then we must tell them that we hope to spend a lot of time with them, but that, in any case, there are many people who love them and who will take care of them .
At this stage they may want to go to the funeral, so you must first explain to them what is going to happen, what they are going to find. We must also answer all the doubts that will arise.
When they are over 10 years old, the important thing is to be close to them so that they can lean on us. If they want to talk about their emotions, we must always be willing to listen to them.
TIPS FOR EXPLAINING THE DEATH OF A PARENT
Whether it is to protect children or because we are not prepared to face the situation, we do not always act in the right way. What should we take into account when facing this bad drink?
- Psychologists recommend that the news be given by the other parent.
- Children should be told what happened as soon as possible, but not all at once.
- It is also important to talk to the school so that they are aware and understand the process the child is going through.
- The best thing is to be clear, say that dad or mom has died and that they will not be able to see him/her again.
- Avoid giving details about the causes of death. Although if they start asking if the death was their fault, you have to make it clear to them that it wasn’t, that dad/mom was very sick or had an accident.
- If the child is too young to go to the funeral, we should encourage him to say goodbye, either through a drawing or a letter.
- Give the child enough time to face the mourning and overcome 5 usual phases:
A resource that you can use to explain the death of a parent to a child in a simple way is to read with them a story that deals with the subject . For children from 3 to 6 years old you have, for example, “ Forever ” (Camino García), “ Grandpa’s Island ” (Benji Davies) or “ That’s Life ” (Ana-Luisa Ramírez). For their part, titles such as “ Jack and Death ” (Tim Bowley) are aimed at children between the ages of 9 and 12.