In our early childhood, we become aware that everyone, including us, goes through all the stages of life, and that at some point we are going to become adults. Connecting the dots and understanding what death is though, is another problem. I think that this is a complicated subject, but should be treated with just as much honesty as the question "where do babies come from". A healthy way to look at life involves understanding (as much as humanly possible) the main questions - where do we come from and where do we go. Giving a child this information is sensitive to tackle. I assume all children are interested around the age of 5 or 6 about how they came into the world, but they only wonder (early in life) about what happens when you die if they experience or witness someone's death. This is sensitive information and it's up to the parents when they want to tackle the subject. If the child is very young, I assume a good approach would be similar as the approach to the other question of where babies come from. An honest story is best, but using words and images that they can understand and cope with, without being too graphic, is in my opinion a good way to go about it. If the parents decide to share the information with their child when they get older, they probably expect two other questions - why they didn't know about it earlier when everyone else knew and if they were an emotional replacement for the lost child. Establishing trust and explaining in detail why you were not ready to disclose this earlier is a priority, just as much as assuring the child that they are treated as individuals and that they did not come into the world to fill their sibling's shoes. For a young child though, I would try and explain death (as much as anyone can understand it, which is probably according to my own values and culture) and then tell them about the lost sibling in a calm way. Remember that children mirror their parent's emotions. Death is after all part of life, and you do not want them to see you terrified. Treating it like a natural aspect of our existence is, I suppose, a healthy way to look at it at any age, without terror or anxiety.
Death is a part of life. It is nothing to hide. Your child will not be devastated by this news. Just tell him in a very natural conversation. You could simply say something such as this, "Some of your friends have older siblings. So, do you, but he is no longer with us. Would you like to know his name? If the answer is yes, you may proceed with other details. Get out pictures and show him. You might state their similarities. He had dark curly hair, just like your's, see? Proceed according to your child's reactions. Don't push information if he is not interested. He may come back to you later, asking. Include him when you go to viewings and funerals. Don't try to shield him from death.
Death is a tough subject, but it is one that must be talked about. Hiding things from your kids can make them wonder what is wrong from them. Since this is something that impacts you letting them know can help them support you.
When my son was 3 we lost a baby. The baby had to be delivered. I was extremely sad and so was my husband. We decided to have him come and meet the baby. He held him and we explained that he was too little to survive. It was the best decision I ever made. Later when I would break down in tears for no reason my son would come up to me and say "It's ok, mom. I miss him too." I'd smile and then life would go on.
Later when he had to deal with his great grandmother's death it was not as dramatic for him. He was sad but he knew he would be ok. If it is part of every day life it is not such a shock, it sucks yes, but it is something that we all must deal with.
There's a such thing as too early, for a topic like this when it comes to children. The best thing to do would be to wait till the child is at least 12, and although they will still convey a sorrowful emotion, they will be able to understand, that sometimes things happen, and they will recognize that they have all the support they need from you, and the rest of the family around them. Sit them down, and explain to them, that they had a brother/sister, and that, that sibling is now in a much better place.
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December 21st, 2014 8:48pm
You should bring out a photo with the dead sibling on it and start to explain. My older brother died in war when I was little and this is how my mother did it. It was sad, but it wasn't a "why didn't you tell me situation."
Well, be honest. That's nothing you should hide or be ashamed of. Talk to your children. Do it quiet and kind. They'll understand.
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November 21st, 2014 11:30pm
Depending on whether or not they know about the sibling will determine how you tell them. (I.e, do they think they are away, or do they not know) If they don't know about the sibling, just gently sit them down and tell them how they died, comfort them if they are upset. Answer their questions.
I think talking about death of somebody to a child needs some maturity of the child's conscious. i think this issue needs to be addressed at an appropriate age, and choice of the talking moment should be, when the child him or herself needs to know, or, when the child is aware enough to understand that some kind of sorrow stems out of life of everyone. The child should remember thereafter what has been told to him/her.
Whenever you feel like they are emotinaly stable enough to handle the news, this could be today, tomorrow, next year, 20 years. You can gauge it by how they deal with other negative situations and how they deal with emotions
This is a tough question, and I think you need to wait until they're at least 12-13 before breaking the news (or whenever you think the child Is ready). I am so sorry that this happened, and no parent should ever have to explain something like that. The fact you've kept this a secret means that you are a good parent sweetie. Most parents I know have made the younger child live their life like the older sibling they lost.
By keeping the news, it might feel like the older sibling is being replaced; but just because they're gone, doesn't mean they're forgotten.
You might want to start with telling them "they're not the first born." After that, tell them "they're not the only child" to confirm that your child wasnt the first born. Then, just say that before they were born, his/her older sibling, (name here) passed away. talk slow and try and answer any questions the child has, because this news would be shocking to any child.
Sorry for you loss, my prayers go out to you
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August 3rd, 2016 7:55pm
Well, it wasn't their older sibling because it didn't live. I'm so sorry for you, sweetie, and you should tell your child, "Excuse me, but can we have a talk? You didn't do anything wrong, don't worry."
Then you can say, gently, "You see, I had another child before you were born. But unfortunately, he/she died, so you didn't get your older sibling." Give them a hug, answer any questions, and be supportive.
I hope that helps, and I hope you'll find joy despite your child's death, sweetheart.