Chapter 8: Encouraging and responding to questions

Answering questions

I've been there
Cath describes answering her daughter's question.(3:22)Video transcript
The expert says
Andrea Warnick, children's grief therapist, discusses following your child's lead to know how much information they want.(3:22)Video transcript
Tara Noble MSW, RSW on when you don't have the answer(3:22)Video transcript

Will I die too?

Does it hurt to die?
What happens after you die?

How will grandpa pee underground?
If only her body is in the casket, where's her head?

I love my mom but I don't want her to always be in my heart. How do I get her out?

Understanding the question 

It can be easy to misinterpret children’s questions, so make sure you understand what’s being asked. For example, when children ask: What happens after death? adults often assume they’re wondering about the after-life. In fact, they may just be wondering where the person’s body will go. 

Following their lead

As you answer your children’s questions, try to be gentle and sensitive by: 

  • Giving the information they ask for and need.
  • Not giving more information than they want.
  • Checking in periodically by asking: Does what I said make sense to you?
  • Watching for cues that they have enough information or need a break. They might:
    • Start to play or busy themselves.
    • Avoid eye contact.  

Be prepared to be asked the same question many times, particularly with young children. Try to be consistent with your answers. 

When you don’t know the answer 

When you don't know the answer to your child's question, it’s okay to be honest and say so. 

That’s a great question and I’m glad you asked it. I don’t know the answer. Someone else might though. Let me see what I can find out.     

You can also arrange for your child to talk with someone on the health care team or another family member who might know.