Former primary school teacher Catherine Lynch, of education resources and lesson plan experts PlanBee, has step-by-step advice for parents.
1. Don’t shy away from difficult information
Children are likely to overhear conversations and pick up on emotions. This makes it highly likely they will become frightened and confused about the unknown. Where possible be honest with children in an age-appropriate way.
2. Tell them if a relative is unwell
Talk to them about what is happening and answer their questions as best you can. Talk about how you are feeling. Don’t be shocked or worried if your child doesn’t seem to engage with the conversation. Follow their lead, give them time to process the news and be ready to talk to them when they approach you.
3. Anger is OK as well as sadness
Acknowledge all feelings after a bereavement. These can include sadness, anger, worry, relief, guilt, happiness, numbness. Feeling any of these emotions is normal. While it can feel frustrating when your child loses the plot over their brick tower falling down, remember that they are processing a lot of complicated emotions. If they are seeking much more attention than usual it may feel smothering, especially while our support networks are so different from usual. Arrange video calls with friends and family and don’t feel guilty about extra cuddles on the sofa.
4. Use direct language
Talk to your child in simple, direct language to explain when someone dies. Avoid comparing dying with falling to sleep. This can make children incredibly anxious about going to sleep themselves. Also avoid euphemisms that can be confusing for children. You may want to read a picture book about bereavement together. Stories are excellent for sharing difficult concepts with children in an accessible way.
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