Adults normally hesitate about talking with their children about death. They do not realize children are in contact with this subject in many ways every day. They see death in the news, in video games, in short stories and tales. Children and adolescents do not ignore this subject. Of course, when talking to children about death it is important to consider the most appropriate language to do it. Definitely, it is fundamental to talk about death with children to avoid that it becomes a subject adults do not mention the causes and consequences. The conversation with children must be simple, clear and in general terms, without going deep on details. It is important to make them know death is a natural stage in the life of human beings, all animals and plants, and that they can make any question about it.
Children have a great capacity to understand death, even though adults refuse to talk about it. The ideal is to start talking with a simple vocabulary and let the children bring examples from their own experience, what they have seen in films or read in short stories. At the age of four or five years old, children may interpret death as something we can escape from with intelligence. However, after the age of six or seven years old the children realize that death is irreversible.
In order to clear any doubt and avoid wrong interpretations it is necessary to make children understand that a dead person can not breath, eat or suffer anymore. It is also vital to give them the chance to express in their own words and make any question about death. The conversation must be open and based on confidence. The children must be able to understand that death makes the family feel sad and that it is normal to see the relatives cry. Since little kids take every word literally, it is recommended not to use phrases like: “we have lost a relative” or “our loved one has gone far away”, because the children could feel hopeful about the return of the deceased and it is not true. A simple way to explain death to children is by indicating them that the body of the person who died was not working well and doctors were not able to repair it. Children can understand it very clearly and it will help them not to keep hope concerning the relative who died or his return. Children must also know they can keep in their mind and heart the memories of the deceased with love and respect.