Grief expert explains how to talk to children about the Queen's death

Grief expert explains how to talk to children about the Queen's death

Grief expert shares exactly what to say to explain the Queen’s death to young children – and why being direct is key

  • Many parents have shared children have questions about the Queen’s death
  • Margaret Rice, curator of Good Grief website, said it’s best to be ‘honest’
  • Sydney based expert added its common for children to ‘ask a lot of questions’ 
  • Full coverage: Click here to see all our coverage of the Queen’s passing

An Australian expert has revealed the best way to speak to your children about the death of the Queen, revealing parents should ‘be honest’ and ‘show their own emotion’ when breaking the news.

The world was plunged into mourning after Her Majesty passed away aged 96 on Thursday last week, with many parents revealing their children have asked questions about the historic event.

Speaking to Daily Mail Australia, Margaret Rice, curator of Good Grief website, said that it was ‘normal’ for children to ‘have a lot of questions’ about the royal’s passing and it’s best for parents to be as ‘simple and honest as possible’ when explaining what’s happened.

An expert has revealed the best way to speak to your children about the death of the Queen, revealing parents should ‘be honest’ and ‘show their own emotion’ when breaking the news, Pictured: A child places flowers outside Buckingham Palace in London as the world mourns Her Majesty

‘Children experience grief and loss from a very young age,’ she explained.

‘They will want to talk about it quite a bit, and they might repeat questions, you might think you’ve answered the questions about it, but it comes back again in another way, and that’s normal.

‘If they’re very little, they don’t completely understand the finite nature of death, they don’t process it the way adults do,’ she added.

Sydney-based Margaret also said that it’s common of a small child to ‘ask a lot of questions’ if their own great grandparent or grandparent dies – but that every child will act differently.     

The world was plunged into mourning after Her Majesty passed away aged 96 on Thursday, with many parents revealing their children have asked many questions about the historic event. Her Majesty is pictured meeting children in Melbourne in 2011

‘Another child the same age in the same family might react completely differently,’ she said.

‘They’re all different, if your child keeps wanting to talk about it, meet them where they are, be patient as they ask the questions’.

She added that things will ‘gradually change’ as children get older, but that curiosity is normal at any age.     

‘If you yourself are sad about it, don’t feel you’ve got to pretend you’re not sad,’ she added.

‘Likewise, don’t pretend you’re sad if you’re not.

Sydney-based Margaret  (pictured) also said that it’s common if a small child to ‘ask a lot of questions’ if they’re great grandparent or grandparent dies – but that every child will act differently

‘Many people across the world, will feel like there’ve lost a grandmother that lives overseas.     

‘It’s important to be honest about your emotions with your children, whatever the age the child is.

‘The simplest way is to say “she died”, make sure to use the the word death and dying and be direct.

Margaret added that the monarch’s death is an ‘important opportunity’ to ‘introduce children to the idea of death’ especially if they’ve not experienced the loss of anyone in their family already.

‘Use very simple descriptions, say “the person has stopped breathing,”‘ she said.

‘If you’re religious, you might want to bring concepts of an after life as you see fit. You can say they retuned to God. 

‘But questions about heaven might confuse children more. Children might think heaven is very crowded and have nightmares about all these dead bodies in heaven.’

Margaret added if you do introduce the idea of heaven, you still need to explain what death is ‘in a technical sense’.  

‘You don’t have to labour the point and make it ugly. You can draw parallels to when pets die. 

‘Our understanding of what children understand with things like death, changes all the time, but in general, the smaller they are the less they’re able to understand’

‘If they’re young, you can use picture books and story books to help explain.’

‘Make sure you recognise their loss’: Grief expert says to ‘check in on children to see how they’re going’ 

Fiona McCallum, the general manager of Seasons for Growth, who support children and young people struggling with experiences of change, loss and grief in Australia said it’s ‘completely normal’ for children to have a ‘physical and mental reaction to the loss of a public figure.  

‘The enormous takeaway children learn when they experience loss, is that they’re not the only ones to have big feelings,’ she told Daily Mail Australia. 

‘We focus on building the knowledge around change and loss experience, and as adults and parents, we need to be safe people they can come to react’.

Fiona added it’s ‘very important’ to be honest with children.

A child wearing a crown places a pot of flowers with other tributes at The Long Walk gates in front of Windsor Castle as the world mourns the Queen 

‘When we don’t fill in the blanks, children make up their own version of the story.  

‘There are some really foundation concepts when talking with children, it’s about recognising their loss. 

‘Adults need to be a person willing to support them and look after them.  

‘Everyone’s reaction is different, but be inquisitive and curious and ask children and ask as much as they can share, and keep checking to see how they’re going.’

Flowery tributes continue for the Queen  in London’s Green Park

Fiona also said that it’s ‘really normal’ to have ‘big feelings’ after something has ‘rocked our world’ and emphasised that children in Australia’s east may be more used to it after the events of the last few years.    

‘We’ve had bushfires, flooding and Covid.

‘Young children have bought a lot of change and loss with.

‘As adults, it’s about realising as adults we can provide strong supportive relationships.

‘There’s lots of things we can’t control. But being there to support children is.

‘We’ll all have our own experience and children will be in and out of grief.

‘Grief is hard work. But it’s a natural and normal response’.

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