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How to explain the death of a loved one to a child

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Until just a couple of generations ago, the deceased relative was veiled in the house and the children participated in the entire ritual like any other member of the family. Although this is no longer done that way, removing children from these kinds of moments makes them feel excluded from the family unit at a time when they especially need your protection.

It has spread in recent years the tendency to overprotect minors using euphemisms and even lying to them about death to spare them pain. However, death is a natural part of life and preparing children to face it is essential so that they can normalize the phases of grief when the time comes. However... how to do it?

  • Related article: "Grief: coping with the loss of a loved one"

Communicate the death of a loved one to a child

The death must always be communicated by one of the parents or, if this is not possible, by a family member or person very close to the child's emotional circle. We must choose a quiet and calm environment, under cover, where he can feel protected: the most suitable place is his own room.

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We will sit next to him and establish physical contactWhether it's hugging him or holding his hand, putting ours on one of his legs... eye contact is equally important. Our tone of voice will be calm and we will use simple words that the child can understand, with short sentences and without avoiding words such as “dead” or “death”.

  • You may be interested: "The 8 types of grief and their characteristics"

Boys and girls up to 6 years old

They are still not clear on the concept of irreversibility of death, so we have to be very concise. For example, we can tell him that he has died and will never come back, that we will never see him anymore, that he is dead forever.

It is important for him to understand that death is not something mutable so that he can focus on the fact. His next concern will be how it will affect him. that to him in his life, and there we will have to answer him honestly, explaining the changes that will take place (if for example he has deceased one of the parents), if he will continue going to the same school and living in the same house, who is going to take care of him now...

6 to 9 years

You already know that death is not a reversible event but they continue to have doubts as if being dead hurts, if they can hear us, where do the dead go... We must be honest in our answers and try to give open answers so that he can get his own idea about it.

For example, we can tell you that for some people the deceased go to paradise, that for others they are born again after a while, for others everything ends with death. death... and that no one really knows for sure, explaining to him what comforts us to think but that he can think and believe what makes him feel better.

  • Related article: "Magical thinking: causes, functions and examples"

From 9 onwards

They already understand death just like us and his utmost concern will be his own safety, keeping his world as intact as possible. It is essential to respect her times and give them space if they prefer to be alone or be in the company of boys their age. Just let them know that we are there if he needs anything from us.

It is important to explain to the child that going through a grief is a process that takes time, that little by little he will recover normality and respect it if she is in a bad mood or does not want to talk, since bad answers and anger are often the way to express tears. It is also worth highlighting the importance of respecting the child's pain, regardless of her age, if it is the death of a pet because she is another member of the family.

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