Helping Kids Cope with a Death in the Family

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If your family has suffered a recent death, or if you want to help prepare your kids for the passing of a family member, here are a few tips to help you all cope.

By: Rainier Fuclan

There is a lot to deal with when we experience a death in the family. From a pet to a close family member, you may have to juggle financial, legal and your own emotional concerns in the wake of a loved one’s passing. Many times, however, it can be easy to overlook the confusion and pain of your children immediately following a death in the family.

Helping children understand and cope with their emotions regarding death can be a great challenge for parents, but it is one of the most important challenges a parent can assist their kids with. If you and your family have suffered a recent death, or if you want to help prepare your kids for the passing of a family member, here are a few tips to help you all cope.

Explain It To Them Clearly

This can be the toughest part for many parents, but it’s important to explain death in a way that children can understand. Children younger than 5 or 6 are often very literal, so it may be best to explain that the deceased’s body stopped working. Since young children take things so literally, you should avoid using euphemisms like “went to sleep” or “gone away,” as your child may expect them to wake up or come back in the future.

Slightly older children may believe that they could have helped keep someone alive by making a wish or performing better at certain tasks. It is important that you give them accurate and honest conversation regarding a death in the family to avoid any feelings of guilt. For teens, it may be best to empathize with them – especially in the case of a tragic death. Understanding teenage emotion can be a trial at the best of times, so you should encourage them to express their feelings fully and to help them share their grief.

Give Them a Token of Remembrance

Many children – and adults, for that matter – will find it easier to manage their emotions over a loved one if they can keep a memento or token from that person’s life. Diaries, jewelry and other personal possessions can help your child draw strength and a close memory connection to the person they miss. If there are no small possessions that your child closely links to that person or pet, you can provide another means of comfort. The Serious Teddy Bear offers bereavement teddy bear gifts than can help give mourners comfort and hope.

Allow Them to Choose How They Grieve

This can be the hardest part for many parents, since you want your children to take part in any rituals or ceremonies you have for a loved one. While you may feel hurt if children don’t want to participate in these remembrances, try not to push them past their comfort zone. Later, sit down and discuss those choices for participating or not participating to make sure they’re not hiding any negative feelings.

Make a Slideshow or Photobook of Old Pictures

While you may have old shoeboxes full of photographs of your loved ones, you probably also have a few memory cards or computer files stuffed with pictures of your kids and your deceased loved one. While nothing can take the place of having them back, you can help your kids hold on to their early memories of their loved one. Sites like Shutterfly have a number of options to make slideshows, videos or photo albums to help you and your kids create a story together from your shared memories.

The most important thing you can do to help your children cope with death is to talk with them simply and honestly. Make sure to answer all of these questions as best you can, while coping with your own emotions. It is important that you manage your own emotions, as your children are likely to mirror your own actions and emotions. Don’t push any conversations your children don’t want to have, but let them know that you can get through any loss together as a family.

About the Author:
Rainier Fuclan is a blogger and freelance writer for The Serious Teddy Bear, their unique custom teddy bears are the best way to send a hug.

Photo: Martin Bakker