Tell the child about the death as soon as possible using clear, age-appropriate language. Invite and encourage children to ask questions. Be prepared to repeat information as the reality of death can be difficult to absorb. Tell the child’s teacher and/or daycare provider of the death and its impact on your child.
Grieving children are likely to act out their angry feelings in negative ways, as they often do not have a well-developed emotional vocabulary. Allow your child/teen to express his or her feelings through play, art, writing or other expressive means. Such activities can help him or her manage overwhelming feelings.
Relay that death means the body no longer works, and the person who died cannot come back. Discuss the plans for the visitation and/or funeral and encourage, but never force the child or teen to participate in some way.
Keep in mind that young people may need extra attention and reassurance. Nighttime fears, separation anxiety, emotional outbursts, and regression in behavior are all common reactions. Reassure your child or teen that you are still a family, you will get through this together and there will always be someone to love and care for him/her.
Adhere to routines as much as possible. Children and teens are reassured by predictable and familiar routines such as bedtime, chores, homework, etc.
Find ways to remember or honor the deceased person’s life with your child. It can be planting a garden, cooking a special meal or donating to a charity. Teach the young person that life has meaning and is not forgotten.