How To Tell Young Children

  • boy-writing-in-window-fog-746365-m[1]Guard young children from hearing all the explicit details. (Some adults or relatives may not be sensitve to this.)
  • Answer questions with simple, age-appropriate answers.
  • YOUNG CHILDREN DO NOT NEED ALL THE INFORMATION RIGHT AWAY. Limit any details that are not necessary to their basic understanding of the situation or anything you are not comfortable sharing (including the term “suicide”).
  • In time, when they ask more questions, children may be told “he hurt himself with a gun” or “she hurt her body with a rope”.
  • Expect each of your answers to be followed with another question. Put a cap on this anytime you want. DON’T BE AFRAID TO SAY, “I will tell you when you get a little older.”
  • And then keep your promise.
  • Expect that many more questions will follow as a child’s understanding matures. Additional information can be added to build upon the basic explanation.
  • If you don’t know the answer, honestly admit it.
  • Affirm your love for the person who died. Separate the suicide act from the loved one’s life. It was one bad choice on one sad day, not their entire life.
  • Offer children language to use to talk with their friends. Something like, “Uncle Kyle was so sad that he no longer wanted to live. He hurt himself and made his body die. We still love him very much because he was such a kind and funny uncle.”
  • Children learn to grieve by watching adults. Don’t be afraid to cry or express your sadness in front of them.
  • Likewise, grief can be heavy and frightening for children. Aim to set this aside at times to give security and show healthy coping skills.
  • Affirm your love and be available to meet their needs. Continue routine activites.
  • Let children join in ways to honor and remember their loved one with balloons, a flower garden, a scrapbook, or through poetry and drawing pictures. Listen to their ideas and help them find their own ways to express themself.

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