How to tell your child somebody died

Maggie Kline, LMFT, School Psychologist & Therapist, shares advice for parents on the best way to tell your child that someone close to them has died in a way they will understand and not be frightened by
How To Tell Your Child That A Loved One Has Died
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How to tell your child somebody died

Telling a child that someone has died, especially someone really close to them, it's never easy. It's never easy for anyone. It's very important that if the person that died was close to the parent as well, that the parent spend a little time to deal with the feelings going on inside of them. Because children bodies are smaller and younger, and you want to make sure that they don't take on the anxiety of the parent. And then when you feel relatively calm, you can approach your child and say, "I have something to tell you, and this isn't easy. I want us to both sit down and spend a little time. Your friend has died. And I know that's a shock to you and to me. So we're going to pause. And I want you to know that I'm here with you, and we'll be able to handle this together. You're not alone. And let's just take a little time to breathe. Because I know -" If you are mommy or daddy you can say, "Mommy or daddy just - I stopped breathing for a moment just telling you. So, let's take some time to breathe. To feel our feet. And then I'll answer your questions to the best that I can." And then you proceed from there. One of the problems that happens is when something traumatic happens, people tend to talk very fast. They speed up time. Ask a lot of questions. Try to get answers and solutions. But the body doesn't care about that. The body needs to have time to assimilate and digest what happened and to come out of shock. So, that's the most important thing. And to let your child, no matter what age, know that their not alone with it. That you're going to be there with them. That you're going to help them with every stage of it. The grieving, preparing for the memorial service, answering questions, holding them. Doing everything that you can to be there with them. And that they don't have to handle this all by themselves in their bedroom. Which a lot of teenagers will do. They'll slam the door. Go into their room and hibernate. And with trauma you want to make sure that the children don't isolate. That they know you're there when you need them. And you can say, "It's okay to go in your bedroom and slam the door. I understand. But I'm here when you come out. And I'll help you with everything that you need to know."

Maggie Kline, LMFT, School Psychologist & Therapist, shares advice for parents on the best way to tell your child that someone close to them has died in a way they will understand and not be frightened by


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Maggie Kline, LMFT

School Psychologist & Therapist

Maggie Kline has been a marriage, family, and child therapist for almost 30 years, and is a retired school psychologist.  After beginning her professional career as a teacher in 1970, Maggie has continued to garner vast experience with children of all ages from pre-schoolers through teens. She uses Somatic Experiencing (SE) with individuals, couples and families in psychotherapy. She also integrates SE with art, dream work and play when helping youngsters recover from trauma. Maggie is a senior faculty member for the SE Trauma Institute, currently teaching on five continents. She has co-authored two books (listed below) with Peter A. Levine which have been translated into 11 languages,  and has also written "It Won't Hurt Forever", which was published in Mothering  Magazine in 2002.  Most recently, Maggie has originated two seminars for professionals who help traumatized children:  "SE for Kids, A Games-Based Approach" and "Conscious Connections, Providing Reparative Opportunities for Healthy Attachment". She has presented her work in schools and agencies, at conferences, and in mass disaster settings such as the Southeast Asian Tsunami and the Oslo Massacre.

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