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How should I talk to my child about death?

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Experts advise parents to be honest and concrete in discussions about death. Avoid euphemisms. Adults use euphemisms to avoid uncomfortable subjects, but children, who think literally throughout a great deal of childhood, may not pick up on these cues.

If a parent tells a child whose sibling has died that the sibling is sleeping, the child may expect the sibling to wake up. If the parent says the sibling will not wake up, the child may fear going to sleep and not waking up.

From: Talking to Children about Death WebMD Medical Reference

SOURCES:

Kreicbergs, U. , Sept. 16, 2004. New England Journal of Medicine

Helene Morgan, LCSW, Comfort and Palliative Care Team, Los Angeles Children's Hospital.

Arden O'Donnell, LCSW, Pain and Palliative Care, Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center, Boston.

Megan McCabe, MD, Director, Pediatric Palliative Care Fellowship, Yale School of Medicine.

Andres Martin, MD, Director, Children's Psychiatric In-Patient Service, Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital.

Kendra Frederick, CCLS, Certified Child Life Specialist, Pediatric Oncology Unit, Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital.

Reviewed by Dan Brennan on January 9, 2018

SOURCES:

Kreicbergs, U. , Sept. 16, 2004. New England Journal of Medicine

Helene Morgan, LCSW, Comfort and Palliative Care Team, Los Angeles Children's Hospital.

Arden O'Donnell, LCSW, Pain and Palliative Care, Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center, Boston.

Megan McCabe, MD, Director, Pediatric Palliative Care Fellowship, Yale School of Medicine.

Andres Martin, MD, Director, Children's Psychiatric In-Patient Service, Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital.

Kendra Frederick, CCLS, Certified Child Life Specialist, Pediatric Oncology Unit, Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital.

Reviewed by Dan Brennan on January 9, 2018

NEXT QUESTION:

What can parents say if they don't want to use the words "die, dead", and "dying" with their sick child?

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