How to approach the Queen’s death with your children as expert says honesty is key

Britain is entering a period of national mourning following the death of the Queen at the age of 96 on Thursday afternoon at Balmoral castle, and while most adults will be able to adjust to the change in our schedules over the coming days, it will likely be more difficult for children to understand.

To help parents cope with the questions and uncertainties their kids may have over the sad news, childcare author and expert Sarah Ockwell-Smith has shared a post on social media filled with advice on how to talk about death with young children – including why it’s important to be “honest and accurate”.

Sarah shared her post on Instagram and said that it’s important to talk to your children about the news because the period of mourning may be “unsettling” for them, especially as it may be talked about while they’re at school.

In her post – which was shared on her @sarahockwellsmith account – she wrote: “What a sad day. No matter how you feel about the monarchy; today a family lost their much-loved matriarch and many around the world will be mourning the loss of a strong woman who was a constant in turbulent times.

“The following days could prove unsettling to children. There will be a sense of collective grief, TV and radio will change, and there will be constant sombre music and talk of death and funerals. All this coming at a time of societal change and with children starting or returning to school.

“What’s the best way to handle this with children? I’m a firm believer in not shielding children from death. If we don’t talk to them about it somebody else will; such as a friend in the school playground, or they will overhear a conversation.

“When somebody dies, whether in our close family or someone who played an important role in our life – like the Queen, we should take time to sit and explain to our children what has happened, using simple, child-friendly language. Avoid using ambiguous terms such as ‘passed away’, ‘went to heaven’ (conversations about religious and spiritual beliefs can happen later), or ‘gone to sleep’, instead be clear that the Queen has died; actively use the term death.”

Sarah also encouraged parents to answer any questions their children might have “honestly”, even if they seem “inappropriate”, as it’s natural for their young minds to be inquisitive when learning about something new to them.

The expert said parents shouldn’t have to hide their emotions from their children if they feel upset by the news of the Queen’s passing, and said being open about how they’re feeling will help their kids adjust too.

She added: “It’s natural for children to ask questions, try to answer them honestly and accurately, however uncomfortable or inappropriate they may feel. It’s also natural for them to worry about you, or others close, dying. Here try to reassure them, but again be honest.

“It’s always good to have a few children’s books to hand to help you to explain death to younger children. Children may like to process their feelings and remember the Queen by drawing pictures, or writing about her (this is akin to us as adults writing in a book of condolence).

“If you’re upset at the news (or it has triggered past grief in you), don’t feel you have to hide your emotions, it’s good for children to see us grieving. Similarly, it is more than appropriate for children to be allowed to watch the funeral on television if they – or you – would like to.”

Commenters on the post were thankful to Sarah for sharing the information, as many said it would help them tackle the tough subject with their children.

One said: “I agree! Good advice. Thanks, Sarah. A sad day.”

While another added: “This is such a good post tonight, thank you. We put the news on and straight away there were lots of questions – including ‘but will you die?’

“We’ve been very honest talking to her already but there will definitely need to be more conversations to come! Thanks again and well done for addressing it to help people so quickly.”

And a third wrote: “Thank you for posting this Sarah, I found it very helpful. And comforting.”