One of the only certain things in this life is that everyone will eventually die someday. But when you’re a parent with young kids, death likely isn’t something that you’ve had to deal with together before. So if one of your parents is getting older or has recently been diagnosed with an illness that doesn’t give them much time left to live, you may need to start thinking about how to discuss this with your children.
To help you in figuring this out, here are three tips for talking with your kids about the imminent death of a grandparent.
When speaking with kids about death, it’s best to be as straightforward and concrete as possible. While you might be tempted to use euphemisms like “pass away” or “leave us”, your kids won’t really be able to understand what’s going on unless you’re direct with them and use words like “die” or “dead”.
What can be helpful, according to Anya Kamenetz and Cory Turner, contributors to NPR.org, is to tell them what actually happens when someone dies. By explaining that their body won’t work anymore and that they won’t do things like breathe, eat, or have blood, your child may have an easier time wrapping their head around what’s going on. Bear in mind, though, that you should only share as much as you think your child can handle for their age and maturity.
It’s Okay To Not Have All The Answers
As you broach the topic of death before your parent or grandparent has died, your child might have a lot of questions about things. And while you might have the answers to some of these things, like that Grandma will now be living in an assisted living community to get the care she needs, there will likely be questions that you don’t have the answers to.
Although this can be hard for both you and your child, Deborah Serani, a contributor to Psychology Today, shares that it’s perfectly okay to not have all of the answers and to let your children know what. If there’s something you don’t have the answer to, just tell your children that you don’t know and try to come to terms with that together.
Help Them Process This Information Over Time
Trying to understand and come to terms with death is a big deal for even adults to come to grips with. So when talking about this topic with your kids, it’s likely going to take some time for them to process what you’ve said. They might ask the same questions multiple times, get very sad on occasion, or act completely normal. All of these responses are to be expected at one point or another, so try to recognize that this is a process for your child.
If you’re needing to talk with your child about the imminent death of their grandparent, consider using the tips mentioned above to help you have this conversation now and in the future.