Talking to a child about death

Psychotherapist Amy Luster, MA, MFT, shares advice for parents on the best way to explain the concept of death with a child and which euphemisms you should be sure to avoid
Explaining Death To Children - How To Talk To Kids About Death
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Talking to a child about death

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The best way to explain the concept of death to a child, is to use simple, concrete terms. Avoid the use of euphemisms, such as, "they've gone to sleep," or "gone to a better place." Instead, use understandable terms, such as, death is when a person's body no longer works. They no longer breathe, think, or feel anything anymore. We will never see this person alive ever again. It is important to use frequent conversations with children based on their desire to talk about death, as opposed to one long conversation. If you have the opportunity, look for ways to illustrate the life cycle for your child before they experience the loss of a loved one. For example, there is a dead fly on the window sill. That fly has come to the end of it's life cycle. Start this when your child is very young, so they have the language for understanding that death is a part of life. Anticipate and convey your understanding of death. If your child can understand the permanence of death. This will depend on your child's stage of development. The younger they are, the more confused they are going to be. If you think about it, as adults it is hard for us to accept a death when we hear about it. You can imagine how hard it is for a young child to accept the meaning of a loved one that is no longer going to be a part of their life.

Psychotherapist Amy Luster, MA, MFT, shares advice for parents on the best way to explain the concept of death with a child and which euphemisms you should be sure to avoid

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Amy Luster, MA, MFT

Psychotherapist

Amy Luster, MA, is a psychotherapist and author. She holds a Masters in Clinical Psychology and is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and provides psychotherapy to individuals, couples, and families. She runs a group entitled, Parenting After a Loss which offers support, guidance, and education. Her emphasis is on assisting parents who have experienced a child-bearing loss whether from ongoing infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth or the death of a baby. Her goal is to help families function in a healthy, satisfying way despite their past loss. Amy, her husband and their four children live in Santa Monica, CA. 

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