Good Grief: How to Talk to Kids About Death at Every Age

Having to explain the loss of a loved one to a child can seem overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Here's how to talk to kids about death at every age (18 Photos)

Lesley Kennedy on Aug 6, 2012 at 5:35PM

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a Lesley Kennedy on Jul 19, 2012 at 2:16PM

One surprising thing that can hinder the grief process are common clichés that kids can take literally, says Goldman. "When you say, 'Andrew lost his mother,' a child might think, 'Well, how could he lose his mother and not find her?' Or 'God loved your dad so much, God took him to be in heaven.' Then the child may think, 'Well, doesn't God love me and can I go, too?' It's important to be careful how you say things."

In addition to the confusion that clichés can cause, toddlers may also have trouble understanding symbolic acts. "Toddlers don't necessarily realize that a dead person doesn't think or feel anymore," Schonfeld says. "So when you say to a young child, 'Why don't you draw a picture of your grandmother and put it in the coffin?', they will actually think their grandmother can see it -- otherwise, why would you do it? It can be very confusing."

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