Strategies for talking to children about death

Categories: Care.

The publication of the strategies recognises that many children may have questions, fears or express sadness over the incident, even if they did not know anyone personally involved. 

The San Diego Hospice caregivers blog recommends the following strategies: 

  • Choose the appropriate adult to begin the conversation with the child. 
  • The adult selected should be one that the child would feel most comfortable with talking to about the death. 
  • This could be his or her parent, but it could also be their favorite uncle or a trusted teacher.  
  • The child and adult should have the conversation in a safe and familiar setting. 
  • Be honest with the child and simply explain that the loved one has died and how it happened. 
  • Don’t use ambiguous terms, such as “sleeping” for death or vague terms such as “passed away” or “lost”. 
  • Give the child appropriate information for their age. Older children may need more information. 
  • Remind the children that he or she is safe and encourage them to share their feelings now or whenever they feel comfortable. 

While these recommendations were published in response to the elementary school shootings, they are relevant in all situations when talking to a child about death. 

An earlier San Diego Hospice blog published to mark Children’s Grief Awareness Day in November also includes strategies for helping children cope with their grief.

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