How to talk to kids about The Queen’s death

On Thursday 8 September, Buckingham Palace announced that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II had “died peacefully at Balmoral”.

The nation has now entered a period of mourning, with national conversations, whether on the news or chatting with friends and family, dominated by conversations about the Queen.

Death is overwhelming for most people. And while we’re all busy dealing with our own grief, it’s important not to overlook the children in our lives. From infants to teenagers, most children will be familiar with the Queen’s death; so it’s important to talk about it. Additionally, children may be concerned or may have felt the Queen’s death as a trigger for another bereavement they faced, or they may just be curious.

If you’re wondering where to start this conversation, we’ve got Dr. Jane Gilmour, Clinical Psychologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital and co-author of How to Have Incredible Conversations With Your Child, for expert advice on how to go about it. ..

Use the right language

It can be intimidating to talk about death with children, especially when they are young. However, the omission of words like “death” or “dying” can lead to misunderstandings and misunderstandings.

“As parents, we want to teach our kids that it’s okay to say ‘death,'” says Jane. “When you discuss the Queen’s death with your children, approach the conversation with honesty, direct language, and good intentions. Be kind and gentle but use accurate vocabulary, especially for young children as their language develops.”

Jane advises against using terms like “passed on” or “lost” – as this can confuse children even more. “By using the word ‘death’ you avoid confusion and help children understand what death means. Kindergarten and elementary school-age children are still learning that death is permanent, so you need to make sure they understand that.”

Queen Death tells children

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Be proactive

Don’t assume your children are too young to understand that something happened. “It would be extraordinary if children hadn’t noticed that something was changing,” says Jane. “We know that even very young children perceive a change in emotional temperature. If you don’t talk to them about what’s going on, they can fill in the blanks with untrue information or get scared.”

For school-age children, Jane suggests talking to each other and also watching the news as a family. “Children that age will understand what is happening, but they are also influenced by what they hear from others. For example, they may hear a newscaster or another parent at the school gate describing the Queen’s death as a ‘somber occasion’. or “the end of an era”. As adults, we can understand these phrases in context, but a child may not fully understand it. So by watching the news together, you can talk to your kids about what they’ve heard and help translate anything they might not understand.”

Queen Death tells children

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Being proactive with teenagers requires a different approach. “When a teenager hits puberty, their brain state changes,” explains Jane. “As part of teenage brain development, it’s important to understand that teens experience emotions more intensely than other age groups, including younger children and adults.”

As a result, you may find that your teenager is more affected by the Queen’s death than you thought. However, Jane says that this is a completely normal reaction. “If your teenager is feeling severely impacted, the Queen’s death may have sparked a connection between that and something else in her life,” she explains. “It could also be because it has sparked concern for another major change in the world as we have seen so many changes over the past few years.

“If your teen is emotional, take the opportunity to connect with them. Ask him what he thinks is going on and give him a chance to think about it to help him figure out where the connections are and what is making him feel this way. Asking questions is key here.”

Queen Death tells children

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Go through the conversation again

After speaking to your children about the Queen’s death for the first time, be sure to revisit the conversation a few days later to check on your children. They may have other thoughts they would like to add or questions they would like to ask you.

This is important for children of all ages. “By revisiting the conversation with young children, you can address any connections they may have made as they try to understand what happened,” says Jane. “For example, if you say to your child, ‘The Queen died – she was old and had a good life,’ they can make the connection between old age and dying. So it’s important to return to this conversation with young children to reassure them, make sure they aren’t worried, and check they haven’t made any links where there is no real connection.”

Queen Death tells children

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Another important thing about asking your kids how they’re feeling is that you can see if the death of the queen caused them to react to anything else. For example, when they see the theme of death everywhere, they may be thinking of a death they experienced before in life, whether it was a grandparent, a relative, or a pet. In this situation, Jane advises giving your child space to talk. “As parents, we just want to fix things and solve problems,” she says. “But in this case, just let your child do the talking. If you say very little, it can sort out what it’s thinking. Be close, hold his hand and listen.

“Once you have shared your thoughts, repeat what you have heard, which will confirm your feelings. For the vast majority of children, this is the validation they need and will help build a bond between you and them.”

Queen Death tells children

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Address your emotions

“Parents shouldn’t worry if they say they’re sad,” says Jane. “It’s good for parents to describe emotions in order to normalize them. It’s okay to tell your kids that the Queen’s death made you anxious, worried, or sad.

“By sharing this with your kids, you create a sense of unity and establish yourself as a safe place to talk about emotions.”

If your child is struggling with emotion or grief, or following a bereavement, the NHS has a list of support services available.

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