The Talk: Death of a Family Member
Talking to Children About Death
By Laura Betts, LICSW, MSW
We will all face the challenge of explaining the death of a relative or close family friend to our children at some point in their lives. Understandably, at the same time, you will be going through your own grieving process due to the loss. While beginning these conversations can be difficult, it is very helpful for your child to know that their questions and feelings about death and loss are not off-limits. The nature of the talks you have with your child will depend on many factors, including: their temperament, your child’s personality, their level of development, and your family’s beliefs and rituals about death.
We have chosen to address the death of an extended family member or family friend, because the death of an immediate family member (sibling, parent, or even grandparent) or close friend requires a different level of conversation and attitude toward the situation. Should you have concerns about your child and how they are reacting to the loss of a loved one, contact your pediatrician or mental health professional (someone who specializes in working with children and adolescents in your area).
Remember: you know your child, family, and personal values best, so this article is intended to be used as a starting point.