How to Explain Death to a Child?

While they do not yet know what death means, children may encounter this reality at a young age. Fear of death can occur in children due to misinformation. So, how to explain death to the child in order not to cause such fears or traumas, what do the experts recommend on this subject? We told it for you, let’s get started.

How to Explain Death to a Child?

Death is an inevitable part of the life cycle. Sometimes it is an expected result of a long disease process, and sometimes it can happen unexpectedly. At this point, even if the child does not know what death means, he needs the right guidance to cope with the absence of this person in his life. 

As hard as it is for children to try to understand the concept of death, it is just as difficult for adults to talk to the child about death and try to explain it. The advice of Senior Psychologist Seniha Naşit Gürçağ from the Institute of Relationship Psychotherapies on explaining death to a child is eye-opening in this regard.

1. Explain that death is nothing to be afraid of

First of all, you should tell your child that death is a part of life. You have to explain that it’s okay to feel sorry for someone who has died, but it’s nothing to be afraid of. 

2. Answer their questions directly, in plain language

Children who are faced with death, which is an abstract concept, can ask questions such as where people go after death and what happened to them in order to understand this. You should explain such questions directly. You could say that most people live long lives and do not die of old age. The idea of ​​a human being buried in a coffin can be frightening for children. Instead of making such statements, planting a tree and creating a memory book together in memory of the deceased will help your child to accept death more easily and understand that there is nothing to be afraid of. It can also be helpful to look at photos of the deceased and talk about them.

3. Use concrete language

When explaining death to the child, it is necessary to use a concrete language that he can understand. Death and so on, especially for preschool children. It is important to explain abstract concepts by concretizing them. It may be more appropriate to say “not alive” rather than “dead”. his death; It will be more understandable if you describe it with definitions as the end of body functions such as breathing, getting hungry and cold.

4. Don’t associate death with sleep

One of the biggest mistakes made is to associate death with sleep. Trying to explain death with an analogy such as “falling asleep” can cause children to fear falling asleep or to have the feeling that other loved ones will fall asleep and never wake up. Analogies like flying to infinity are abstract and confusing for children, so you should avoid such explanations.

5. Explain the true cause of death

It is also important to explain the true cause of death to the child in appropriate and plain language. This helps the child to understand death a little more easily and to prevent the feeling of guilt. Because young children see themselves in the center of the event, they can associate the situations with themselves. You should especially emphasize to your child that this is not their fault and that there is nothing they can do to prevent this situation or make the person come back.

How do children react to death?

When children meet the concept of death, their reactions may vary according to their age and personality traits. Various reactions can be given, such as extreme fear, crying, freezing, refusing to die, or returning to daily routine without reacting at all. However, after these instantaneous reactions, other reactions with a longer mourning process may occur. These are mostly;

  • Don’t turn inside
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • seeing nightmares,
  • Thumb sucking, bed wetting, etc. showing developments such as
  • Fear of losing another loved one (more attachment to parents),
  • changes in appetite,
  • Angry and unusual behavior occurs.

What can be done to help the child cope with death?

  • You shouldn’t hide your own feelings. Make your child feel that feelings such as longing and sadness after death are normal, so that he can easily share his feelings with you.
  • You should not immediately dispose of personal belongings and photographs of the deceased. On the contrary, it would be good to have a special corner or photo album that your child can look at when he is longing.
  • You can also take your child to cemetery visits. This is an important step to embody death, but don’t put pressure on your child if he or she doesn’t want to.
  • You should make your child feel that he is not alone and helpless, and that you will continue to be with the people who love him.
  • Despite all these explanations, of course, the child may have difficulty in understanding this abstract concept and the situation. Adapting to this situation will not be easy. In this process, you should continue to give concrete, clear and short answers to the questions asked about the deceased person.
  • The child may also be worried about the death of another loved one. This is a very common situation. That is, a child who has lost his father may be afraid of losing his mother as well. He may fear losing his own parents over the death of a friend’s mother. In such situations, you should listen carefully to him and make him feel that you understand his fears and anxieties.
  • If your child is too introverted or acts as if nothing has happened, you should not put pressure on him, but you should create environments that will allow him to talk about this situation and let him reflect his feelings. It is more difficult for children to reflect their emotions than us adults. To make it easier for him to express his feelings, you can turn to forms of expression such as painting and games. He can reflect what’s on his mind, even during a game with a doctor’s kit.

In which cases is it necessary to seek expert support?

  • The child refuses to go to school because of fear that something bad will happen to him or his parents.
  • If there is no problem as a result of the examination, but if he or she has problems similar to the discomfort of the deceased,
  • If he has intense fear and anxiety that interferes with his daily life,
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