Trying to figure out how to talk to your teenager about death? Teenagers experience death more than younger children typically do. Between the increasing suicide rate among teens, the fact that teens can make unsafe choices, and the fact that grandparents are simply getting older, death becomes more of a prevalent topic. Helping your teen to understand death and loss can be a huge help to them should they lose someone. Here are a few tips for how to explain death to a teenager.
How to talk to a teenager about death
Disclaimer – These tips are not from a mental health professional. These are tips from my personal experience as a parent.
Ask what they believe
When talking to teenagers it can help to start with questions. Find out what they believe about death, loss, and losing someone they care for. Starting with their beliefs can guide the conversation. It also will help you to know what areas you can contribute help and support. Here are a few questions you can ask.
What do you think death means?
Different cultures and belief systems have a variety of perspectives on what death means. While you may have certain religious or cultural beliefs, your teen may not share your views. Spend some time asking them what they believe death means. The most important part of this stage of things is to be open to what they share. The goal is not to debate or change their mind. Instead, the goal is to start by finding out what they believe.
Have an honest conversation about the different types of death
When it comes to teenagers, the types of death they are exposed to can be different than children or adults. Their friends can be involved with risky behaviors and have mental health struggles. When talking about death with teens, you will need to talk about the deaths they might experience with friends. Have an honest conversation about suicide, drug overdose, car accidents, and other potential ways teens could lose their life. It’s also important to talk about potential health-related losses they might experience with their peers or elderly family members.
Ask what the person meant to them
When losing someone, it can be hard to talk about it. If your teen has lost someone, it can help to have an honest conversation about that loss. What did the person mean to them and how do they feel about the loss? Use this conversation to help your teen understand that loss doesn’t mean we stop thinking about or caring about someone because they are gone. I also highly recommend encouraging them to focus on the good in that person that brought them joy.
Prepare them for the funeral/memorial
Losing someone can be a difficult experience. It can be much more difficult if they don’t know what to expect from the funeral or memorial services. Take some time before attending any type of memorial to prepare your teen for what to expect. Some cultural observations might seem strange or even overwhelming for them. Spend some time researching what to expect and help your child be prepared for the experience.
Give them an outlet
Losing someone when you are a teen can be a very heavy experience. It can be even more difficult if it is their first experience with the death of someone they are close to. Help your teen to find an outlet to work through these emotions. It might mean that they need to journal, have a friend they can call, or be able to build a scrapbook of memories with that person. Giving your teen an outlet for these emotions will help them to get through the worst of the grief.
Be honest about grief
When talking to your teen, it’s important to be honest about what grief is. I will always recommend the ball analogy for grief. So often people tell teens that time will make the grief go away. Then when grief returns and breaks their heart, they are taken by surprise and feel like they’re feeling is wrong. Help your teen understand that grief is a process that doesn’t go away overnight.
Looking for more?
- How to help my child handle Grief
- Reasons Not to Commit Suicide
- Suicide Survivors Tips for Survivors of Suicide Loss