We are living in a sad and confusing time, especially for a child. From COVID to the Ukraine, we are saturated with loss. And even if your child has been spared the horrors of the nightly news, the odds are they will experience, at some point, the death of a pet or grandparent or family member or friend or teacher or…. Grief and loss are part of life, but how do we talk to our children about it?
Here are links to resources that can help. Books are a great way to open the conversation with young children. The Fall of Freddie the Leaf by Leo Buscaglia was indispensable when my father passed away. My ten-year-old daughter connected with Buscaglia’s use of the seasons, and all the images created a wonderful metaphor for her to place Grandpa’s death in a context she could understand. It didn’t take her grief and sadness away, but giving us a way to talk about death made it part of the flow of life.
From classics like Freddie, to a number of wonderful new books, these are a great place to start. Books we love for young children include:
- Ida, Always by Caron Levis and Charles Santoso
- The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
- The Goodbye Book by Todd Parr
- Where Do They Go? by Julia Alvarez
- Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs by Tomei dePaola
Drawing pictures, writing stories, or creating a collage of your child’s experiences and memories of the loved one who died, is another beautiful way to work with grief in a healthy way. Here are just a few books that offer some lovely activities to help your child process their grief and sadness.
- Peaceful Piggy’s Guide to Sickness and Death, Sadness and Love by Kerry Lee MacLean
- Map of Memory Lane by Francesca Arnoldy
- After a Death: An Activity Book for Children from the Dougy Center
And you can find more great books here:
When it comes to talking to children, just remember to be yourself. Your kids know when you’re hurting, so don’t try to hide it. They are probably hurting too, so being direct, honest, and kind is a simple way to connect. Here are some great videos about how to talk to the young ones in your life:
We have found these resources to be helpful in talking to our children. We hope they are for you, as well.
Award-winning producer, director, and writer, Johanna has crafted, and assisted in crafting, many compelling, entertaining, and profoundly thought-provoking programs during her 20+ years in the business. Her work has received eight Gemini (Canadian equivalent of an Emmy) nominations and taken home three awards. In addition to producing more than 150 hours of television series and one-offs as an in-house executive producer, she has made independent documentaries for her own companies, Wild East Productions and Centre East Media, and won best documentary at Hot Docs International Film Festival for her moving and timely film, Forgiveness: Stories for Our Time. She has worked as Director of Programming for Alliance Atlantis and played a key role in the launch of IFC—The Independent Film Channel Canada. Prior to that, Johanna was Head of Independent Production for CTV, Canada’s #1 network. She created View-finders, the first competitive international children’s film festival in English-speaking Canada, and was Artistic Director of the Atlantic Film Festival. Years of programming and producing have honed her storytelling talents. Johanna’s most recent documentary, An Uncommon King, is still making its way around the world through festivals and iTunes.