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How Do I Inform a Child?

How Do I Inform a Child?

Your personal views and spiritual inclinations will influence how to inform and respond to young children on the difficult topic of death. The suggestions below may be helpful when you have to explain what happens when there is a death in the family and the events that follow. Russell Brothers Funeral Directors can provide further advice if necessary.

  • It is a good idea to begin by finding out what they already know about death or any misconceptions they may have picked up from others.
  • Ensure there is comforting body contact, such as holding or touching them, to give them security and dispel any fears.
  • Do not be embarrassed to say you don’t know if questions asked in this serious conversation leave you stranded. But on no account make up a story, which may subsequently confuse and upset the children.
  • Show them your emotions and explain you feel sad and weep if you want to. Reassure the children that they may feel sad and cry if they feel like it and there is nothing to be ashamed about.
  • Be honest and tell the truth. Telling white lies to protect them may result in resentment later.
  • Simple answers will be more easily understood even though it may be difficult for children to understand the full meaning of death.
  • Never say to children the person has gone abroad and will be back.
  • Do not say that death is like a deep sleep as children will only be further confused. It may also make them frightened to sleep themselves.
  • Even when you say the person will not return, some children will keep asking when the person is coming back. This is a natural reaction in the circumstances. So keep telling the truth that the person will not be coming back.
  • Some children may feel guilty that it was something they did or didn’t do that caused the death. Reassure them that it is not so.
  • If they feel angry with the deceased for dying, let it be. It is a normal reaction and sometimes adults too feel that way.
  • Children may fear that you will die or that anyone who is sick and goes to the hospital will also die. Reassure them that you intend to stay alive and that illness does not necessarily end in death.
  • Never force, but always encourage children to attend the funeral and memorial services and to follow up on visits to the cemetery. As part of the family, they should be included on such occasions. It will help clear any misconceptions or fears they may harbour.
  • Wherever possible, let the children take an active part in the service. It will make them feel important and closer to the deceased.
  • Finally, occasional visits to the cemetery may help them express their feelings about the loss.
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