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How to talk about death with your children? Here are some ideas

It’s a conversation you wish you’d never had with your kids. However, there is little chance that you can escape it. Here are some keys to peacefully talking about death with your family.

A few months ago, I was casually sunbathing when my 5-year-old daughter came out screaming that the rabbit was dead. Half suspicious and half panicked, I run to Tinder (you can’t make that up!). I then found him with his four irons in the air and his (open) eye lifeless. There is no possible doubt, the lagomorph mammal has in fact lost its ghost, and in front of my daughter’s sad look I understand that the time has come to face the crucial issue of death.

Talking about death with your children, a delicate mission

A delicate mission that is accompanied by a series of questions. For example, should we talk to him openly? If so, what words should I use? Is there a good age to do this? “ There is no precise protocol to follow, just advice to keep in mind: the truth is better than a lie, even if the latter, in its primary intention, would be to protect those close to you.The psychologist Simon Gessiaume who I called for help immediately responds.

As regards the choice of words, the latter recommends adopting a clear vocabulary suited to the child’s age. “Unequivocal” terms, adds Sophie Gidrol, palliative therapist and author of the website Duntempsalautre.com. “ Say it specifically “Grandpa is dead” instead of “Grandpa is gone” or “He left us”. Your explanations must also be consistent with what you think about death. In short, be yourself without trying to downplay reality. »

Death of loved ones: the right timing

When faced with the loss of a loved one, we are not the same. Depending on our personality, our experiences, our family history, our age, our reactions differ from one individual to another. Silence, tears, the incongruous… these can also be children’s reactions.

It is important to “validate their emotions” to reassure them. If they feel that what is happening is described without embarrassment, they will accept the finality of death even more. They will learn that this is certainly a great upheaval, but that it is also in the order of things. Enough to offer him the right tools to overcome the deaths that will occur in his life.

Despite her teary look, my daughter didn’t cry, but she overwhelmed me with very concrete questions, like ” Why do we die? “, ” Can you come back after death? “, ” Where are we going ? “, ” Will you die too? “. My job, and that of every parent, is to answer these questions. Otherwise the imagination can run wild and welcome nights of anxiety to console them.


To ensure you have a peaceful sleep, I decided to provide you with the most sincere explanations possible; if necessary, I repeated until I felt she had calmed down. This was another piece of advice that Simon Gessiaume gave me, that is to take the time to exchange, taking a moment to listen to each other.

Get ready

Let’s say that this type of discussion cannot take place between two doors. So say goodbye to the few minutes before bed or the morning rush before school. Likewise, it is best to avoid the moment immediately following the announcement, especially if it involves a “sudden” death.

The ideal is to have already digested the information a little so as not to send a message of widespread anxiety to the child. » suggests the psychologist with his voice as sweet as my fabric softener. But be careful not to push the deadline too far! Likewise, if a family member is ill and their end of life is inevitable, it will be much easier to “get the news” if they have been kept regularly informed about the health status of their loved one.

In any case, it may happen that the child has no questions. This doesn’t mean that she won’t understand it later or that he didn’t understand the information. “ He will assimilate, say nothing for several days, and suddenly return. It is up to the adult to make himself available to listen. On the other hand, any sudden change in his behavior or mood should cause concern. It may therefore be necessary to consult a third party » warns Sophie Gidrol.

The question of the body remains: should we allow him to see it or not? To take him to the funeral or not? This approach is everyone’s choice. What matters is giving him the opportunity, if he wishes, to come and visit the person he loved or to give him a final farewell during the ceremony or at the cemetery. All these words addressed to the deceased and the people close to him are precious in helping them in the grieving process.

As for me, I took advantage of a moment of my daughter’s inattention to make the rabbit “disappear”, with a slight pang in my heart all the same. Moral of the story: next time she’ll adopt a blob (do blobs die?).


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Source: Madmoizelle

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