Many parents and pastors contact me with parenting questions. Recently a Children’s Pastor emailed me and asked me for the best way to talk with kids about death. Sadly, his question comes from the place of needing to be prepared for the loss the Covid19 virus may bring and how it may affect the kids in his church.
I thought that maybe some of my other readers may have the same question. So here are some things to do and not to do when talking with a young child about death:
1. Pray for God’s words and wisdom before approaching your child.
2. Don’t be afraid to use the “D” words. Death, Died, Dying, Dead.
3. Don’t use euphemisms like passed on, transitioned, eternal slumber. State it simply, “She died.”
4. Don’t say she died because she was sick. If the person was sick say, “She was really BIG sick. Not regular sick (sore throat, flu, cold). If the death was due to a disease, don’t be afraid to name it. “She had a disease called cancer. the cancer made her body BIG sick, not regular sick.”
5. Do say you are sad and will miss the deceased. This gives your child permission to feel and grieve as well.
After you finish with the telling part, talk about faith. Jesus prepared a place for ________ in heaven. In heaven there are no more tears, pain, or sadness.
The final step is often forgotten but critical to implement.Just as adults need to put compassion into action so do children. But little ones need our assistance in coming up with a plan to help the family heal and feel loved. A few ideas are: make a card, make a meal, or help with a pet.
The supportive activity provides a sense of closure and helps the child to refocus from death to the helping.
Be honest. Don’t give more information than necessary. Be available to hang with your child. Your availability is important. Death, like birth, is a part of life.
© LoriWildenberg. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Lori Wildenberg is a licensed parent and family educator, parent coach, and co-founder of 1Corinthians13 Parenting.com. She has written 6 books including Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home; The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connections; and her most recent book, Messy Hope: Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety, Depression, or Suicidal Ideation. Contact Lori for your next event or for parent consulting or parent training courses. Lori can also be found mentoring over at the MOMS Together Group on Facebook.