Type “how to talk to kids about death” into Google and a myriad of suggestions will pop up, all offering different ways to approach the difficult and sometimes emotional topic.
While death and grief are things everyone will have to deal with at some point throughout their life, explaining that grandma, grandad or the beloved family dog is not coming back is tricky and quite confusing for inquisitive children to understand.
The Project host Carrie Bickmore stumbled upon this awkward situation recently when her three-year-old daughter Evie asked, “where does grandma go now she is dead?”.
Detailing the challenging conversation in Stellar Magazine, the 37-year-old explained how they went for the biological answer instead of going down a more spiritual path.
“We said the grandma had died now and her time on earth was done, and sadly she won’t come back and her body would be buried in the ground,” Carrie said.
This prompted little Evie’s next question as she asked whether grandma would get dirty, to which Carrie replied: “She can’t feel dirty, sweetie. She doesn’t hurt anymore. She doesn’t feel love anymore. She doesn’t feel anything anymore”.
Carrie’s approach was just one of many that parents and grandparents could take when asked about death; in the end it really depends on the child’s age and ability to understand the concept.
Starts at 60 previously spoke to a number of experts who gave a few tips on how to discuss the topic without causing too much stress and worry.
One of the main points highlighted was to make sure all parents, guardians, grandparents and other relatives or close friends are on the same page when approaching the conversation to ensure they’re passing on the same information to the child.
“There has to be a consistent message,” practice specialist for therapeutic services at Relationships Australia, Sian Khuman explained. “Even sometimes holding off on that conversation, until you’ve had a conversation with the parents, to plan how to say it can be good, especially if the kids are younger, from two to around six or seven.”
While the Raising Children Network said timing is key, so they don’t hear about it from someone else and become confused and angry. Once they understand that a person has become seriously ill or died, the network says that there are methods to help children cope with the worries that may cause them.
“It’s a good idea to let [them] know that most people die only when they’re really old and very sick,” it advises. “If the death involved a young person, let your child know that this doesn’t happen very often. You could also point out how many other people he knows of the same age who are alive and well.”