How to Help Your Child Cope With Death

By: Natalie Williams, Guest Blogger

Parents can feel perplexed when children react to death without emotion. Young children who don't yet fully understand the concept of death may react with indifference, according to Parenting.org. Other children may become afraid or act out. During the time period after the death of a loved one, provide your child with guidance and emotional support.

Simple Language

Be careful how you word the explanation of a loved one's death. KidsHealth recommends that you should avoid using euphemisms to describe the death, such as the person went to "sleep," because young children may actually become afraid to go to bed. Instead, you need to talk to your child in simple language about death and dying without going into unnecessary or frightening details about the reasons for why the person has passed away.

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Funeral Attendance

Although you may assume a funeral is "boring" to your child, give them the choice to attend or not. If your child wants to attend, encourage it. A funeral can provide feelings of closure. On the other hand, if your child has expressed an unwillingness to attend the funeral and the person was not a close family member, the Dougy Center recommends that you shouldn't feel like you need to force your little one to go.

Coping Mechanisms

Depending on the age of your child, celebrate and honor the life of the deceased loved one by giving or doing something special. As a family, bring flowers for a funeral — choosing a flower arrangement together and sending them to the family teaches your little one about the power of a kind gesture. If the person who died was someone close to your child, such as a teacher, bake a dessert to complement the flowers and add a sympathy card. Participating in a gesture to express sympathy helps serve as a coping mechanism for your child.

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Professional Guidance

Don't hesitate to enlist the help of professionals when dealing with a child who's having a hard time handling the grief. For example, the death of a classmate can be especially hard for a school-age child to understand and cope with. According to Scholastic, don't be afraid to take advantage of professional resources, such as the guidance counselors in your school. Most counselors have age-appropriate books that can help your child understand the concept of death and dying. If your child has questions relating to death and faith, reach out to a clergy member and ask if he or she could speak to your child.

Support & Understanding

Expect your child to ask you the same questions over and over again about the death. Your little one is not being forgetful, trying to be annoying, or becoming strangely fascinated with the death. Your son or daughter is trying to process this information, and it may take time and repeated questions to do so. Your patience, support, and understanding during the grieving and mourning process are important at this time. Try to avoid snapping at your child or being dismissive or his or her concerns.


Natalie Williams is a stay-at-home mom who loves to blog about parenting and happy homemaking tips.

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This is excellent advice. For an additional, brief article, “Helping Children Cope with Loss,” see: http://www.kellybear.com/TeacherArticles/TeacherTip1.html

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