Talking to kids about death

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Talking to kids about death

The most important part about talking to your children about death is, talking to your children about death. It is incredibly important that you talk to your children about death and all the important questions that they are going to have. Somewhere around the age of four, most children will start to wonder about what it means to be dead. What is dead? What is dying? But the lesson about death, doesn't happen at age four; it happens at age two or even younger. When a parent is walking on the street after a rain and sees a bunch of dead worms and says, "Oh, look the worms are dead. They all died." Life is full of wonderful examples about death. Death is a very important and inevitable part of life that children need to learn about. Most parents are afraid even to use the word "death." But I recommend calling dead, dead. When somebody dies and the parent says, "He passed away," or the dog went play in the farm in the country. We are not helping our children to learn. The first lesson in talking about death is talking it using really language, using real words. What death means, what being dead means; is that a person is no longer living or alive. None of the parts of that person or in that animal works anymore. He doesn't eat. He doesn't sleep. He doesn't think. He doesn't move. He doesn't pee. He doesn't breathe. Dead means, you are all done living. Everything that is alive is going to die. I am not going to die -- I'm the mommy talking -- for a long, long time. Daddy is not going to die for a long, long time. You are not going to die. Death is about separation, so as a child learns about death, we need to reassure that you, daddy, sister, and the brother are not going to die for a very long time. The more we allow the reality of death to be a part of a child's regular life, whether it's leaves falling from a tree that are now dead because it is Fall or a rose that fell off a bush, or the snail or the dead bird in the road. The more we allow death to become a part of life, children will be able to understand it as well as they possibly can; which is really hard.

See Betsy Brown Braun, MA's video on Talking to kids about death...


Expert Bio

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Betsy Brown Braun, MA

Parent Educator & Author

Betsy Brown Braun, best-selling author of both Just Tell Me What to Say: Sensible Tips and Scripts for Perplexed Parents and You’re Not The Boss Of Me: Brat-proofing Your Four To Twelve Year-Old, is a child development and behavior specialist, parent educator, multiple birth parenting consultant, and founder of Parenting Pathways, Inc.

With over 40 years of experience in public and private early childhood and elementary education, Betsy has directed and founded school programs, taught in both public and private schools, has been a school director, and was the founding director of Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Early Childhood Center. She holds an MA in Human Development and teaching credentials from Pacific Oaks College.

In 2001 Betsy founded Parenting Pathways, Inc. to provide guidance to parents seeking the skills and confidence needed to negotiate the often-challenging parenting pathway. She leads parenting groups, seminars, and offers private parent consultations throughout the nation.

Her bestseller, Just Tell Me What To Say, in its fourth printing,presents the tried and true tools her clients use daily to handle situations that inevitably accompany raising children ages two to six and beyond. Her second book, and second bestseller, You’re Not The Boss Of Me: Brat-Proofing Your Kidsalso in its fourth printing, is the ultimate hands-on guide to cultivating character traits that are tried-and-true "bratbusters." 

Betsy brings her vast knowledge, sensitivity, and special brand of humor to her parent consultations, to her groups, and to her presentations.

Her parenting expertise has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Cookie, Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, In Style, Parenting, Parents, Pregnancy and Newborn, Twins, Woman’s Day, and Working Mother, among other publications. She has shared her expertise on the Today Show multiple times. Other television appearances have included The Early Show, Good Morning America Now!, Fox & Friends, Rachel Ray, Dr. Phil,  The Talk, Entertainment Tonight, KCBS, KNBC, and Fox News LA. She contributes to KNX news radio on child development, and has been a guest on countless radio programs nationwide, including NPR. She writes for and has been cited in numerous websites and parenting blogs. Betsy is a frequent speaker at educational conferences, schools, and businesses.

Betsy and her husband Ray Braun are parents of adult triplets.

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