How to talk to your child about death & difficult conversations

Pastor Jimmy Bartz offers his best advice on how to talk to children about the death of a loved one
Parenting and Family Advice | How to talk to your children about death
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How to talk to your child about death & difficult conversations

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Sometimes people ask me, because I'm a priest and a pastor, how do they communicate the death of a relative or a loved one to their children. And I have some real practical advice on how one might do that. The first thing that parents need to do is they need to check themselves, have a sense of their own grief and where that sits. The loss of a parent or a beloved friend or the child of another friend can be extraordinarily disruptive in our own lives. So we have to have some sense of where we sit in the grief-shock-trauma spectrum. And if it's great, if we're really grieving deeply, or we're really traumatized, then we might seek the counsel of another person, you know to help us communicate that reality. And then second I would say, it's really important to help create an environment that's safe and comfortable for your child, when you deliver that news, that there's also plenty of time for your child to respond with questions or thoughts or concerns that he or she might have. But that we also have a sense of respecting the developmental level of the child. In fact, if we set aside an hour or 90 minutes to go through this, but our child only needs 12, that we let that be what happens. And know that questions will come back around at a different time. I also think it's really important if you're in a partnering experience with your partner and you're engaging your child that you do have this conversation between the two of you first as you deliver that news. Well who's going to say grandma died. Or who's going to say that we lost this important person. Okay, do you feel that you can do that? Do you feel good about that? How's that going to - a little bit of role playing back and forth and strategizing before it ever happens I think is very logistically, practically important.

Pastor Jimmy Bartz offers his best advice on how to talk to children about the death of a loved one

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Jimmy Bartz

Priest

Jimmy is the founder and convener of Thad’s—a spiritual community meeting on Sunday mornings in The Writer’s Bootcamp in Santa Monica. An ordained Episcopal priest, Jimmy has spent most of his professional life leading communities in the work of making a love-spreading difference in the world that surrounds them.

His recent work includes studying the relationship between the outdoors and positive, psycho-spiritual health. When not in the office, he can be found in the ocean or in the mountains, usually with his wife, Cindy, or his two children, Jas and Jade.

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