WSVN — When a loved one dies, one of the toughest jobs a parent faces is telling their child. 7’s Lynn Martinez shares some important advice on how to have that difficult conversation in today’s Parent to Parent.
Tragedy struck the Oteyza family from Venezuela one year ago.
Emiliana Oteyza: “My husband was killed. He was mountain biking with a friend, and the robbers went to the bike and just shot him.”
Emiliana was stunned, and at first thought, “OK, I can handle this.”
Emiliana Oteyza: “Then I thought, ‘Oh my God, I have kids.'”
She remembers the exact moment she broke the news to her 8-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son.
Emiliana Oteyza: “She got it immediately, she shouted, she cried. He didn’t understand much, the concept of what dying was.”
Grief counselor Kathy Kramer of the Children’s Bereavement Center says it’s OK for parents to panic a bit about talking to their kids about death.
Kathy Kramer: “When somebody dies, so many parents feel ill-equipped to have the conversations. They are not comfortable even saying the word ‘die.'”
But there are ways to make those conversations easier. Kathy says first, be open and honest and use ‘real’ words. For example, don’t say we “lost” grandma.
Kathy Kramer: “What is a little child going to think? We better go find her. I encourage parents always to use real words like “death,” like ‘grandma died.'”
Also, keep in mind children grieve differently than adults.
Kathy Kramer: “Just because they’re not showing you, if you’re not seeing what you expect to see, that doesn’t mean that they’re not grieving.”
And don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Support groups, such as the Children’s Bereavement Center, can help your child deal with a death.
Kathy Kramer: “Essentially, what we’re offering is an opportunity for them to get together, feel less isolated, just kind of normalize the adjustment they’re going through after a death.”
Counseling is based on age. Younger kids draw pictures of the family member who died, and share stories about them. Teens engage in music therapy, or sit and confide in one another. It provides them a safe place to grieve and shows they’re not alone.
Kathy Kramer: “Anyone who has experienced the death of somebody significant in their life qualifies to come to the program.”
Lynn Martinez: The program is a free service to the community, and families can come back anytime. What is the best age to begin conversations about death with your child? Go to Online Extra and we’ll have the answer from the expert.
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