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Helping children cope with death

When children lose a loved one, it is important for them to feel comfortable sharing their feelings with trusted adults, including their parents and teachers. While discussing death with students can be a challenging task, be sure to allow children this opportunity to speak freely and ask questions. Remember that the nature of your conversation should always take into account the particular situation and the age and needs of the individual child. 

As an early childhood educator, you need to strike a balance between being honest with children and offering support and comfort. Since young children have a literal view of the world, you should aim to communicate honestly with them about what happened. Also make sure you talk with parents to make sure you are not communicating conflicting messages to the child.

If a child lost a grandparent or someone due to serious illness, you may explain that the person lived a long or happy life, yet as he or she got older (or because of illness), their body wasn't as strong anymore, and unfortunately doctors could not fix it. When a child loses a loved one in an unexpected accident, the conversation will be somewhat different, but you should still reiterate the same message—that the person's body stopped working, and he or she will not be returning. Always allow children to ask questions, and answer honestly and with sensitivity for the child's feelings. 

Early childhood educators play an important role in helping children cope with death. By showing support and allowing children to ask questions, you create an environment in which children feel comfortable going to you for help with challenging situations. 

ProSolutions Training offers the course "Helping Children Cope with Death." After the course, you will be able to recall three concepts in which children gain understanding about death, identify at least two signs related to difficulty coping with death at different ages and gain familiarity with strategies to talk to children about death.