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Talking to Children about Death

What Can My Child Understand? continued...

Teenagers understand death with a more personal and long-term view:

  • They may want to talk to their friends more than to their parents.
  • They understand more on their own, so adults are validating information rather than giving it.
  • They understand their lives in the context of others', so they will want to leave a legacy and plan for their own deaths.
  • They can find information on their own.

Tips for helping teenage siblings of a sick or dying child:

  • Let friends and boyfriends or girlfriends be involved. Palliative care teams encourage friends to visit and extend their support services to them.
  • Don't be hurt when teenagers seek the support of their friends more than their parents.
  • As teenagers' grief is more like that of adults, teenagers who lose a sibling may need more time off of school and regular activities.

Children can be included in discussions about death and dying, but parents need not do it on their own. Palliative care professionals can help parents decide whether, when, and how to open this difficult conversation.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on July 01, 2013
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