How do we tell them what has happened?

Telling our children and young people that someone they care about has died is probably the most difficult conversation that we can have. Worries about what to say, how much to tell them and how they will react are common and natural worries for parents and carers.

There is no good time to tell anyone bad news but with good support they can and do cope with very difficult situations. Research tells us that good information and clear communication can make a huge difference for them to help them in this.

Children and young people can and do cope with the pain, suffering and difficulties of bereavement providing they have good support from adults around them. This can make them better prepared to face other difficulties in the future. Good support involves talking with them clearly and simply and giving them time to express their emotions, giving them reassurance when they need it and allowing them to see our grief when appropriate -too much information can be as hard for them as too little!

Take time to think about when and how you will tell them– this memory will stay with them a long time. Try not to give them too much information at once- like you they will be very shocked at the news and find it hard to take in the information- reassure them that you will explain more later and keep them updated. Explain to them that for a while it might feel as if  everyone is upset, everything is changing and hard to understand  but reassure them that this is normal and how it is in the early days when someone dies and that gradually things will feel calmer and easier to manage.

What children and young people need to know when some one has died:

• to have clear, simple explanations that they can understand at their age
• to be able to understand what is happening to them; what they are feeling
• to be reassured and know that this isn’t their fault
• to be able to understand and express their emotions appropriately
• to know what is happening to the people around them
• to have someone who can listen to their questions and worries and give good answers

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