It is a good idea to have some kind of idea about how you might like to approach the subject.
As parents, we want to create a positive, happy world for our children to live in.
For this reason, we tend to keep the topics of conversation light and with a positive focus.
Children are intuitive little beings though. They often ask questions about topics that you may have never brought up yourself.
They may have been prompted by something as simple as a line in a TV show or a photograph in a book. Answering uncomfortable questions that our children ask is one of the more difficult parts of a parenting journey.
These topics often shape our children’s understanding of really important topics and this can really affect them on an emotional level.
One such topic is death. This is a topic that nobody can really prepare you for. When your child mentions something regarding the topic of death it will probably completely catch you off guard.
For this reason, it is a good idea to have some kind of idea about how you might like to approach the subject.
There are a number of ways to sensitively answer questions about this uncomfortable topic to satisfy your child’s curiosities without scaring them.
1. It helps to start the topic with something less intense than the idea of a person dying. A house plant or a bug for example. You could talk about the fact that because it is no longer living it won’t be able to fly or grow any more. Remember our children have to begin with the basics. Some psychologists even suggest using a bubble because it is a very simple way of showing how things can come to an end.
2. Young children won't truly grasp the finality of death so don’t be surprised if their questions continuously come back to when they will see the person again. It doesn’t mean you haven’t explained it well.
3. If the topic relates to someone in your life that may be sick, it is really important to emphasise that the person will always be able to hear and protect them but their body won’t work any more. Many children find this comforting as it may come across as a special kind of bond or superpower that the person possesses.
4. Try to talk about this topic in a familiar and comfortable place to your child. It is important that they feel secure as they hear about something that will possibly upset them or confuse them at the very least.
5. In the case where someone close to the child has died, it is important to be direct rather than vague. They may not grasp what you are saying if you describe it in a colourful way. It is important that they know that the person will no longer be able to talk to them or play with them any more. It is a really difficult thing to explain but it is important that they know the truth from the beginning.
6. Pay close attention to your child’s reaction. In many cases, a child may experience some kind of guilt or feel that they are somehow to blame. It is important that they know that nobody, including them, could have fixed anything for this person.
7. If you have any spiritual beliefs as a family this can be a good time to introduce some of the comforting elements of it, like heaven. It may reassure your child.
8. Keep it as brief as possible. Less is more when it comes to a topic like this. Answer their questions honestly and gently but when the opportunity comes to move on to a lighter topic then take it.
Tracey is a happy mammy to four-year-old Billy. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can find her at www.loveofliving.ie.