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*This is my families story. All the accomplishments and amazing memories right along with the heartache and pain. I felt so alone many times becoming a blended family I wanted to share my experience and let others know, you are not alone.*
Blended families generally mean that a child might not live with their biological parent anymore. In the terrible event of a bio parent’s passing, when is the right time to tell your child?
When a child becomes your own through adoption or through becoming their stepparent, it is easy to think of yourself as that child’s only parent. In most of the ways that count, you really are their only parent. Putting them to bed at night, providing for them, making sure they have grown up properly: all of that falls on you. Yet your child has lost a person who was involved in their existence right from the beginning. Whether this involvement was for years or mere days. Like it or not, this is a major loss for your child, and you’ll need to be very mature to guide them through it.
3 Tips on Telling a child about A Parent who is Deceased
If your child is older, it is safe to say that the delivery of this news is going to be a turning point in your child’s life. This may be their first traumatic experience as a member of your family, so tread gently.
However, if your child is a lot younger there are options to explore. Are you going to explain the passing right away or wait until the child is old enough to really process what you are telling them and understand it? Allowing them to properly grieve how they need to. Either way, I feel it is very important to discuss with ALL family members, on the deceased side and your side, your plan so you are all on the same page. Hopefully, your family members will respect your decision and follow your plan.
I can tell you from experience that when other family members start telling your child about the deceased parent and the events that lead up to it, (because they decided they no longer wanted to respect your plan) the look in their little eyes is one you will never forget. I was just in awe that supposed family members could be so cruel to a child. It broke my heart.
So to avoid this happening to you- see if these tips can help ease into the already devastating news.
Find a quiet environment to deliver the news
When you are telling a child about a parent who is deceased, have some awareness of your surroundings. Whatever the reaction, whether it is shock, dismay, tears, your child deserves some privacy to process their emotions. Send the other children to another room, or sit the child down in his or her room to talk. The safety of not being crowded around with people who are waiting for their reaction will allow your child to act naturally. This will give your child the chance to experience whatever emotions they are feeling without fear of judgment. They won’t have to hold back or feel ashamed for their grief, or even their potential lack of response.
Be prepared for a lot of questions. They will ask all the details. Depending on the events you may or may not want to share those, that’s your choice, just know eventually it will be brought up again. I am all for a softer version of events for younger kids as their minds don’t understand sometimes the situation.
Give your child space to grieve – or not grieve
When your child became a part of your family, that could have been the day they said goodbye to their family of origin. Maybe that was not a happy time for them, though I know you are grateful that they are there with you now. Their bio parent may have been abusive and mistreated them (I pray this is not the case), they could have been absent, or any of a hundred other reasons as to why they were not around. Getting the news may mean the passing of someone who can never torment them again, or just hearing about a stranger who didn’t mean much to them emotionally. Though it is our job to guide our children, this is not a time for you to micro-manage your child’s emotions. Telling a child about a parent who is deceased is hard news for your child. Give them space to grieve, and allow them to express what is on their mind without fear of correction from you.
Do not allow your feelings to be too plain
Remember that you are more than Mom or Dad, you are a person with feelings as well. When you are telling a child about a parent who is deceased, you have some emotional processing to do as well. You may resent having to hurt your child on behalf of someone who is no longer here for your child. You may feel a sense of relief that the parent isn’t around to hurt or interfere with your child. There are a lot of emotions here, and all of them are valid. Give yourself the same space to process your feelings that you allow for your child.
This is a great time to really connect with your child and have a bonding moment. If there were good emotions between you and the other parent at one time, maybe offer how you are feeling to your child. It may help them open up a bit more and start the healing process.
Nobody enjoys being the bearer of bad news, especially when it means bringing pain to someone we love. Telling a child about a parent who is deceased can be a painful experience for all parties involved. Regardless, make sure that your child knows how much love and support is there to help them transition through this pain. Have you ever had to break hard news to your child about their family of origin?