Explaining end of life to young people

Perhaps one of the hardest things many of us will have to do is talk to children about the death of a loved one, it is our instinct to protect children from distress but it is also important that they understand what is happening.

Children will always know there is something going on which makes it important that we are totally honest from the beginning and talk to them in a language they will understand which is clear, simple and sensitive. It is also important that we do not diminish the seriousness of the situation by giving partial information, children need to know exactly what is happening and that death is final. Although this will be difficult, it will help you to avoid difficult questions in the long term.

Young people are more natural with their emotions which means they may take some time to react to the information given to them, it’s a good idea to give them time to process and let them come to you when they want to talk about it.

When you bring a child to visit a relative in one of our homes, we think it’s useful for you to bring something to occupy their minds - the visit can be quite overwhelming if they do not have something to lose themselves in. It is also important to prepare them for the visit and explain to them how their relative might look different but they are still the same person, this will avoid them asking their loved one uncomfortable or upsetting questions.

Children will all deal with grief in different ways but it’s important to remember that being honest is what matters the most.

If they are given all of the information from the beginning, then it can help to make things a little easier when their loved one finally reaches the end of their life. It is also important to prepare them for after the death by continuing to provide correct information. For example, avoid telling them that their relative is sleeping and won’t wake up as this can cause worry and anxiety about their own sleep patterns.

Approaching end of life is a difficult time for both the individual and their relatives, especially when explaining end of life care to a young person or child. At Morris Care we place a large emphasis on supporting families, whether this be talking through options before the end of life or putting you in contact with other healthcare professionals. We are here for you.

For more information about end of life care services at Morris Care, click here.

For information about Dying Matters week, click here.

If you’d like to speak to someone about end of life services at Morris Care, call us on 0345 515 0098.

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