How to talk to kids about death with Child Life Specialist, Ali Waltien


Check out Ali Waltien's list of books on Grief and Loss here


00:00:01    Alyssa

You're listening to Voices of Your Village podcast. And today we get to hang out with an expert here in talking to kids about death. I interviewed Ali Waltien for our book Tiny Humans, Big Emotions, coming out in October 2023, because we really needed to chat about what does it look like to support kids emotional development while talking to them about tricky subjects and things that are going to come with a lot of adult emotions as well. Death being one of those. 


00:00:40    Alyssa

I love Ali's insight and her practical scripts and approach to chatting with kids. It's so in alignment with my approach to emotional development and building emotional intelligence in kids. After I interviewed her for our book, I was like, oh my gosh, we have to chat about this on the podcast. It's so crucial. And so if this conversation is helpful for you today, know that there are more examples and scripts and resource sources about talking to kids about death in our book Tiny Humans, Big Emotions. You can snag it at All right, folks, let's dive in. 


00:01:54    Alyssa

Hey there. I'm Alyssa Blask Campbell. I'm a mom with a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education and co-creator of the Collaborative Emotion Processing method. I'm here to walk alongside you through the messy, vulnerable parts of being humans, raising other humans with deep thoughts and actionable tips. Let's dive in together. 


00:02:21    Alyssa

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Voices of Your Village. Today get to hang out with an old friend of mine. Ali Waltien has a masters, she's a licensed clinical psychologist and a certified child life specialist. I reached out to Ali when I was writing Tiny Humans, Big Emotions, because we got to this part and I was like, oh, I really want to talk about the emotional aspect, about how to help kids process death and the do's and don'ts, if you will, about talking about sickness and death. And it's one of those things that I think all of us grew up with different experiences around it, and it can come with a lot of feelings for us as the adult. And. So I turned to Ali. Ali started her career in 2008 as a certified child life specialist here at UVM, our children's hospital, and a child life specialist. Actually, Ali you could probably break this down better than anyone. First of all, hi, how are you?


00:03:24    Ali



00:03:27    Alyssa

Can you break down what does a child life specialist do? 


00:03:30    Ali

Sure, yeah, that's a great question. So child life specialists do a lot, but the nuts and bolts of it is that child life specialists are usually found in medical facilities. So originally originated out of being in the hospital, but helping to support kids and families in coping with medical stressors. And that can look a lot of different ways. So there are ChildLife specialists helping families think about how do we prepare children for a hospitalization or a medical procedure? How do we deliver information in developmentally appropriate ways to a child who's going to be going through a complex medical experience? How do we support siblings who have a brother or sister or sibling who's in the hospital or has medical complication? And then at the heart of it, child life specialists really connect with kids through play. So we're also finding ways to promote healthy growth and development through play and normalization in hospital settings. So child life specialists, that's like a quick version of what they do. But yeah.


00:04:47    Alyssa

That's so interesting because actually in my brain, I think of child life specialists or maybe I'd, like, turn to them the most when it's like a parent or caregiver family member who's going to be in the hospital or a friend of ours who had cancer. And we reached out to a child life specialist to support the tiny human through this, et cetera. In my brain, I don't think of it as like a child being sick, maybe self protective. And I really think of it more as like, the adult. It's interesting. 


00:05:17    Ali

Yeah, that's where it actually originated from was pediatrics. So helping kids cope with their own hospitalizations or medical interventions. And actually just really recently, in the past, I would say decade, has it expanded to look at the entire family and to support things that are medically complex outside of even the hospital setting. 


00:05:40    Alyssa

Yeah, that's cool. I'm grateful for that expansion because I think it then includes so many more humans. 


00:05:46    Ali

Oh, so agree with that. 


00:05:51    Alyssa

Let's kick start here of, like, what is when we're looking at supporting children who are experiencing loss, I want to look first at that like the the family member side. Like, if they have a family member who has an illness or is dying or dies, the do's of how to navigate this. And I want to hit on some don'ts. I've learned so much from you on that side as well. 


00:06:22    Ali

Yeah, I actually have a cool list somewhere that I just think is so powerful because it was written by children and teens I used to do when I worked at the hospital. I co facilitated a grief support group for kids who had experienced the loss of a loved one. And in one of our groups, we asked kids to brainstorm, like, the things that were helpful to them versus the things that were not helpful for them. So basically, like, the do's and the don'ts. And I have that list somewhere, I can probably pull it up on my computer because we got permission from them to share it at presentations and things because they really said it in that. And what struck me about that list, too, the part that I liked the most was that there were the same things, like, on the dos and the don'ts list, because we're all different, right. So what helpful for one child was not helpful for another. I can remember one of them was like, I hate it when my teacher asks me how I'm doing in that voice. And it's just so awkward. And when I'm at school, I just want to be at school. I want to be not thinking about it versus another child who is just like, it's really helpful when my teacher pulls me aside and checks in on me. 


00:07:40    Alyssa

That is so interesting. Yeah. That individualized part when we're looking one of the things that you mentioned that we used for the book was that specific to be really clear with your language. And I think that's something I didn't grow up with that right. I was thinking back to the first funeral that I went to when I was writing the book and reaching out to you, and I was trying to recall what was my experience. I was young, maybe five ish, and no one used the terms, like dead. 


00:08:16    Ali



00:08:17    Alyssa

That term wasn't even present in my memory of it. It was like, they're gone. Passed away, maybe, but like, right, yeah, gone. Where are they coming back? Right. Like all those things that then come up. Can you speak to that? And what are some of those terms? Maybe even example of what that might sound like? 


00:08:38    Ali

Yeah. So when I really sit down with families and I'm supporting them in how do we talk to the kids about this? I really advise against using those euphemisms that are confusing, which, while they can feel like, protective to us, can lead to a lot of confusion, especially in young children who are maybe encountering death for the first time. And so, yeah, we want to be really intentional and really clear in our language. And what's tricky about that, I think, is that sometimes that feels a little bit blunt. Thing about kids is that kids are really concrete. And so the way that I explain it to adults is I say, I'm going to give you some language and I also do a lot of assessment. I also want to pause and say, I do a lot of assessment with families before I even offer guidance and advice because every family is different. There's a lot of variables to consider which we can kind of get into. But at the heart, I say, like, I'm going to offer some language and take what works, leave the rest. It's going to feel kind of abrupt, but that is actually helpful for kids to hear. And so I don't avoid using the word death. I don't avoid using the word dying or died, but what I do is I clarify of what that means because a child may be hearing that for the first time or maybe they've heard it before, but don't have an association of what that means. And so I might say, like, this special person in your life has died. Do you know what it means when we say that? When we say that somebody has died and I pause there and I actually give kids the opportunity to share because that's a really helpful place for us to gauge any misconceptions that they might have and to know where we can frame more of our conversation around. And sometimes kids will be just silent, and sometimes they will be like, playing with something else. And you're like, Are they listening? Do they understand how serious this is? They are listening. They do understand how serious it is. And kids will process things through play. And so if they're fidgeting, that's okay. They're listening. And then I go on to say, when somebody dies, their body stops working. So what does that actually mean on like a body level? Like our heart. And I even put my hands on my heart. You can feel your heart beating through your chest. You can feel if you put your hand in front of your mouth, you can feel your breath coming in and out. So when somebody dies, their body stops working. That means that their heart doesn't be anymore. They don't breathe or eat or sleep or play or poop. It sounds kind of ridiculous saying that, but these are the things that kids understand about being alive. And then I get to the hard part, is that when somebody dies, we don't see them anymore. And then I validate that with the emotion that they may be feeling. And that's really hard. And that can feel really sad. And you may see some of the adults around you crying because we're sad about that. And you don't have to, especially in an initial conversation, have all the information. You probably don't have all the information. You certainly don't have all the answers, and you don't have a fix. It this is not an area where a fixit exists. So I always tell people, we're going to get really comfortable with being uncomfortable here, and we're going to focus on being rather than doing, which is so hard, which is hard in every way, especially when it comes to this stuff. 


00:12:15    Alyssa

I love that. Real quick. We're going to focus on being rather than doing, which is something I think we could all stand to pull into life more in general. And it's so hard because I'm really good at doing like I can "to do list" my way out of anxiety, right? Like I can I'm so good at doing. And allowing just the being part is really hard. And I think you're right that's for me, one of the hardest parts about conversations around death, not finding a silver lining, it's not making something better. It's just like this is true right now. 


00:12:59    Ali

It's an acknowledgment of hardest reality. And when you're doing it from like a parenting perspective or a perspective of caring for young kids, is that you're not only experiencing your own grief, you're bearing witness to your child's grief. And that can be excruciating. 


00:13:16    Alyssa

Yeah, I think so many of us haven't learned how to grieve. 


00:13:19    Alyssa

Oh, yeah. Well, you said it at the beginning. You were talking about the foundations for what we understand and how we cope with loss were formed in our own childhoods, which is why it makes it so important that we are intentional and thoughtful about supporting our own little friends and kids and people in our community with this stuff. 


00:13:42    Alyssa

Yeah, it's huge. So the example I feel like that comes up a lot in our village is like a grandparent that's dying or maybe even a pet that died. We recently had someone who was diagnosed with cancer, and they were like, how do I talk about this? But most commonly the ones that come up in our village are around a grandparent or an animal. I think it's really helpful that concrete hears what we're going to say. And I'm wondering there's a part of me I love that you acknowledged the adult sadness. And you might notice this, and here's what's going on, and I want to fill in the part thereafter. And it's okay for us to feel sad when my body, when I'm ready to move out of status, when I'm ready to stop feeling sad, I'm going to X, Y, and Z so that the child knows it's not their responsibility to take your you do have tools for that? 


00:14:51    Ali

Yes, absolutely. And what I encourage families to do, too, is to couch a lot of those conversations in the love and safety that kids really need, which is for them to actually hear, who's going to be taking care of me? Kids need to know, how does this impact me? And so who's going to step up and do the caretaking so that they know they are still going to be taken care of? Mommy can be sad and mommy can still take care of you. Mommy has things that she does to help take care of her so that mommy can take care of you. 


00:15:27    Alyssa

Right, yeah. Or if it is a parent that's sick or a caregiver in their life, I think that makes total sense of just that primal reaction for a child. They're dependent on us to stay alive, and that's different for us as adults, right? Like, we're not dependent on others to stay alive. I mean, there's a broader discussion there. But speaking, they are dependent on us to put food on the table, to keep a roof over their head, et cetera. And so being able to acknowledge that, I love that note. What are things if we know, like, say it is that someone is sick and we're not sure of those answers of like, well, are they going to die or what is going to happen next? Et cetera. Even like the I'm thinking of the person who reached out, who has a friend with cancer that it was, or the mom has cancer. The prep around, like, here's what you might expect. And there are unknowns. 


00:16:34    Ali

There's a lot of uncertainty that it still exists. Yeah. How do you cope with that? I like to focus on what do we know right now? And so, like, the example of cancer. Here's what we know about the cancer and for cancer and really a lot of different kinds of diseases, too. I really emphasize that that's like a big umbrella word for hundreds of different kinds of diseases. Two people with cancer can have two really different experiences with it. Even two people with the same kind of cancer can have two really different experiences with it. And the reason I emphasize that with kids is because kids can even young kids can get a lot of information and maybe misinformation from a lot of different places. They're hearing from a friend at school who had a grandparent with cancer, or if they're old enough, they're hopping on Google to do their own Google research. And you really want them to know that your job and this is true for any kinds of diseases or like this uncertainty, your job as they're a safe adult is to give them the accurate, honest information about what's going on with you. So you can say, like, I have a whole team of nurses and doctors and researchers, and they're all helping me understand what's going on here. So if you hear anything that's confusing or worrying to you, I want you to come back to me, or so and so, because we have the answers about what's going on with me. You're building trust, right? You're saying, I am going to tell you what's going on. I want to make sure you have the right information. First of all, that's for a little bit older kids. But then yeah. So to go on to that piece about uncertainty is like, here's what we know right now. I don't have all the answers of what's going to happen next. Here's what I believe. You can say, here's what I believe. Here's what I'm hopeful for. If anything changes, I will let you know. And that's where you hold on to things, because we're not going to make any promises that none of us can keep. I can't promise anything about what's going to happen to me next, but what I can say is that as we get more information, that you're part of this too. 


00:18:42    Alyssa

Yeah. You're in the know here. 


00:18:43    Ali

You're in the know. 


00:18:45    Alyssa

Yeah, I love that. I was thinking of as you were chatting, the word like, sick popped up for me. 


00:18:53    Ali



00:18:54    Alyssa

Just this morning. I'm currently pregnant, and thank you. And I went to take a prenatal and sage. My little guy was like, Mama, take medicine. Mama sick. And I was like, oh, no. Right. And so it was breaking down. I was like, oh, how do I explain this? Sometimes I compared it to his vitamin D. Sometimes we take medicine when we're not sick that helps our bodies stay strong. But I was thinking of that word sick. Of like we use it a lot, right. And that difference between sick and dying. Like if we know somebody has a terminal illness, right, versus like, I'm sick with a stomach bug and how generic that term is. 


00:19:41    Ali

Absolutely, yeah. So that's why, like going back to that idea of like avoiding euphemisms or being really clear and intentional about your language, that's where that's important. And either avoiding using the word sick or specifying what kind of sick that you are. This is not the kind of sick that you catch, like a little sick, like a cold or a tummy bug or this isn't contagious. And what does it mean if something's contagious, right, means that you can catch it through germs and gosh, we talk a lot about that these days. That's why you use the word cancer. A lot of adults will ask me, like, should I even use the word cancer? Yeah, you should be, and this is why. And we're going to even specify it even more from there here's the thing is that kids don't necessarily have the same baggage that we have as adults with that language. So I hear the word cancer and my mind goes to the ten people that I know in my life who have been impacted by cancer and what my personal experiences were with them. Kids aren't going to have that. And so we get bogged down in some of that language sometimes. But it's important for kids to hear that and like I said, to then specify it even more so kind of cancer. And they don't need all the cellular details depending on their developmental status. But I think that they need to hear the language that, one, they're going to hear around them anyway, but two, to distinguish it from the kind of sick that they can get when they have a stomachache and to really say that. 


00:21:13    Alyssa

Yeah, I think that's so helpful. Just from when I've been sick as I'm growing this tiny human and so it's coming up. On our recent vacation, Sage also was sick and he threw up at our airbnb, beach airbnb, he calls it. And so anytime we talk about mama's feeling sick, I'm going to go lay down. My belly feels sick and he's like, fro up beach airbnb, mama lay down. Okay, we have to go into some specifics here. You're not going to get it. Yeah, I think that is so helpful that concrete, it's breaking down the science, right? And I think this is where I think you hit the nail on the head of like our emotions are going to be different around this than theirs because we have context around that science. We have narratives that are formed around that science that kids don't have yet. And for them, it reminds me of like Jane Lynnholm's podcast, but why we're breaking down the science of what's going on. 


00:22:19    Alyssa

I don't know about you, but when I scroll through Instagram or I'm tuning into podcasts and diving into parenting resources, resources for myself as a teacher, I can feel overwhelmed. Like, where do I start? I need a guide for what this looks like in practice. And I don't want something that's one size fits all. Because every child is different, right? And if you have multiple children, if you're a teacher, you know that it's not one size fits all. Or if you have seen what works for your sister in law or your best friend or your neighbor, and you're like, oh my gosh, my child does not respond to that. That is how I felt. And then we created the Collaborative Emotion Processing method. It is a guide for building emotional intelligence. And y'all there are five components of the CEP method. One is about how to respond to the kids and what it looks like to have adult/child interactions. The other four are about us. Because I don't know about you, but I did not grow up getting these tools. I did not grow up with them.  didn't grow up in this household. Where I was taught tools for self awareness and self regulation and how to do emotion processing work. And now, as a parent and as a teacher, I'm supposed to teach those skills to a tiny human? But we can't teach what we don't know. And so my first book, Tiny Humans, Big Emotions, is here to support you. You can head to and snag Tiny Humans, Big Emotions today. This is a game changer. It's going to build these skills with you, for you, so that you can do this work alongside building these skills for your tiny humans, so that they can grow up with a skill set for self awareness, for regulation, for empathy, for social skills, for intrinsic motivation. A skill set of emotional intelligence so that they can navigate all the things that come their way in life. Snag Tiny Humans, Big Emotions at 


00:22:19    Alyssa

So what about when we inevitably mess this up and we say too much or we don't say enough. 


00:22:28    Ali

We will dont worry. 


00:22:28    Alyssa

Correct! Then what? 


00:22:29    Ali

Yeah. So I always tell people and when I'm having these conversations with folks, obviously we're talking about real life experiences. So it's emotional, but it's even more emotional when you have your kid in front of you. So the logic of what we talk about and everything that we've planned for and prepared for, it really does go out the window when you're sitting in front of your tiny human because yeah, it becomes 100% emotional. So you will muddle your way through. That's my favorite line. I use it all the time. You will muddle your way through. You will circle back because this is not a one and done conversation. It is an ongoing conversation that really is ongoing throughout somebody's entire life. Like, I am integrating and making meaning of my losses at 40 years old, that I was in a different way than I was at seven years old and will continue to do so. The conversations are hard enough without putting the pressure on yourself to say it exactly perfectly. And I go back to that Maya Angelou quote of, I'm going to paraphrase, but "People are going to forget what you said. They're not going to forget how you make them feel." It's a sense of safety that you are creating around your child that has the lasting impact. They're not going to remember exactly the words you use. So you will probably say something that you are like, oh, I want to come back and rephrase this. And it's actually good for kids to hear that. It's good for the circle backs. 


00:24:07    Alyssa

Yeah, I love that too. And I think it then also gives them time to process and to think about it and whatever and then to kind of come back to the drawing table with what's coming up for them. 


00:24:20    Ali



00:24:22    Alyssa

I even like that as part of the conversation, I was thinking back when my husband's parents got divorced and he was like six or seven, and when they told him, they told him, they sat down and told him together and then they asked, do you have any questions? And he said no. And he said, can I go to my room now? And they said, yeah, and you can ask questions anytime. And so then he left and he drew a picture and very much processes through art, but they left that open of like, you can ask questions anytime. That pressure also off of the child, of like, this is a one and done conversation. And I think when we come back to the table and we talk about it more and we talk about it again, it creates that safety around the conversation. 


00:25:09    Ali



00:25:11    Alyssa

It's not a taboo thing to talk about here. 


00:25:15    Ali

Right. I always say you're inviting and you're not requiring. So the invitation is always there. It's never forced because kids are going to come and go from it as they need to and kids are just so brilliant about doing that naturally, either through their words or more often through behaviors and play where we see it. So the invitation is always there. 


00:25:41    Alyssa

I think that part can be so uncomfortable, too. And you have this heart to heart. You talk about this really deep thing with kids, and then they just turn to play immediately, and it's like, wait, what? Are you good? Did that sink in? That I think, for me, I have to really work to then regulate in the moment, because I have a desire to be like, did you get that? Do you understand this? To have that finality I have a desire for that. There's a part of me that feels uncomfortable than just, like, very quickly transitioning to play or to the story they're telling me or to whatever. And out of the hard conversation. 


00:26:27    Ali

Yes, it can be a jarring feeling for the adult, who, again, is coming in with their own emotional experience of it, and yet it's exactly what kids need to do. And I will even tell families, like, if they have multiple kids in the family, I will say, you might have, like, there's four kids. You might have four different responses, and no response is wrong. 


00:26:53    Alyssa



00:26:55    Ali

Kids do what they can with what they've got. 


00:26:59    Alyssa

Yeah. And we all process differently. 


00:27:01    Ali

We all process differently. 


00:27:02    Alyssa

Yeah. I'm the one who's, like, sitting at the table having 7 million questions. I want to talk more about it, and I married and birthed a human who's like, I'm going to go take time and space and play and do my own thing and then come back to the table, and I'm like, oh, but let me fill all that silence with my questions. Yeah. It's so hard for me. 


00:27:23    Ali

That's where the adult work comes in really strong to be like, okay, is this about what I need or about what they need? And yeah, that's hard to do. And I always tell families, too. I was like, you're going to get a question four days later or four weeks later out of nowhere in the car as you're driving to the grocery store at what feels like the most random time. Cars, I feel like, are where everything comes up because you're not making eye contact. I don't know. A lot of powerful conversations can happen in a car. 


00:27:55    Alyssa

Yeah. Or even just, like the things that they connect. Right. Where, like, last year, Zach snapped a fly with a towel and killed it in our house. And it was big conversation. Sage was very surprised about what happened. It was a loud sound. There was a lot of processing that occurred around that instance and then totally forgot about it. A neighborhood dog that walks by our house and Sage loves, died around Christmas time. And when we told Sage, he was like, like the fly. Yes, that's right. In his brain, his context for death was this fly. Now it's fly and Henry dog and it's like those layers will continue to build. 


00:28:41    Ali

Yeah, and that's why it's actually like that proactive. Just normalizing conversation about death from a young age is actually really helpful for kids. 


00:28:55    Alyssa

So that was one of my next questions for you. We know that death will occur, right? And we know that death or illness, suffering, will occur around them in some capacity throughout their life. We don't get to know when or how or who, what that's going to look like. 


00:29:15    Ali

It's so hard. 


00:29:15    Alyssa

So hard. But what can we do as parents, as teachers, as caregivers ahead of time to lay these foundations of resilience, of support, of normalizing conversations around death? 


00:29:28    Ali

Yeah, well, one, there's so many great I mean, I'm a big fan of picture books, and there's so many great picture books out there that talk about this at different developmental ages for kids. And it can be really straightforward. It can be more like, through metaphor. There's a lot of books out there. 


00:29:50    Alyssa

If you send us your list, like your favorite list, we can share it as a link. Yeah, we can link it out on the blog post for this episode. 


00:29:58    Ali

That will be great. Yeah, I'll definitely do that. Yeah, so there's a lot of books out there, and I just try to keep some of those in our I'm thinking about my own parenting experience. Like, I keep some of those in just our at home library, and that's how some of the conversations have naturally come up. Also just being curious about nature and observing when you go for a walk outside and you see..


00:30:27    Alyssa

The dead worm we just saw on the sidewalk. 


00:30:30    Ali

Yes, exactly. There's an abundance of opportunity to be curious, to observe, to naturally start a conversation that doesn't necessarily have, not to say it doesn't have an emotional charge, but again, it probably has more of an emotional charge for us as adults who are thinking about it in a bigger concept, rather than for kids who are kind of piecing together what is this world and what is this all about? 


00:30:58    Alyssa

Yeah. And I think it's like lower stakes, right? Like, it's how I feel about practicing Navigating frustration when he's building a block tower versus the challenge changes, but the emotion stays the same. Right. So if death and the conversation on death is going to stay the same name or relatively similar, it's just the context that'll change. Right, and it feels lower stakes to talk about a worm on the sidewalk than it does to talk about grandma. 


00:31:32    Ali



00:31:33    Alyssa

Yeah. I love that advice of just practicing at these lower stakes. One question that comes up a lot is when they hear about this, especially when it comes to a person dying, then that question of, like, are you going to die? Am I going to die? 


00:31:51    Ali

Yeah. And then as a parent, and because I've had that question and I do this work, and you feel like I should probably have an answer to that. And when it came up in my own household, I was like...


00:32:03    Alyssa

No, no one's going to die ever. 


00:32:08    Ali

And again, I think it goes back to not making promises that we can't keep. Right now, I feel really healthy and strong. If anything changes, of course I would let you know. But not saying no. I'll never die. But with my own daughter, I'm realistic. I say someday everybody will die. I hope that that's not going to be for a long time, and I have no reason to believe that it will be for a long time. But if anything changes, I would, of course, let you know. 


00:32:46    Alyssa

Yeah, I love that. 


00:32:48    Ali

Yeah. Kids, for the most part, will, by and large, accept that, there is some natural developmental milestones where kids get more into asking questions about death. And again, it really is jarring for adults. It's very natural part of development, even if there's no personal connection to it. And it's a perfect opportunity to have those conversations without, like you said, the lower stake conversations. But I feel like five is that first developmental milestone, ish where that starts to really come up, and then I think, like, seven, eight, nine, it comes up in a different way, because, again, kids are incorporating more understanding about it, that it's universal, that it's irreversible, that there's the finality of it. So there's different developmental stages where there is just naturally a more lean in to that conversation, and it doesn't necessarily indicate that the child is having a lot of anxiety about it. I mean, that's certainly something you could ask somebody about if you were concerned about that. They were really focusing on it, unable to sleep, really going back to it again and again. But questions will come up, and there will be a little bit of natural, healthy curiosity and a little bit of fear and uncertainty about it, because that's... 


00:34:10    Alyssa

Yeah, because it's scary. I would say there should be some fear and uncertainty about it. Right. Like, just the other day, we were waiting, the ice cream truck was coming around the corner. We could hear. And so we're waiting in the front yard, us and our neighbors. And then Sage just started walking into the street, and I pulled him back and was like, Whoa. And he was startled. But I want that. I want him to feel fear when he's walking into the street and to  not get hit by a car. Right. And so I think fear is not a bad emotion, and I think it gets a really bad rap. And it's our discomfort, I think, personally, our own discomfort of being in fear and allowing fear and not trying to problem solve it away. That can come up there. All right, my last question that I feel like I reached out to our village members and was like, what comes up for you? And the last thing that really folks reached out about was this idea of what happens when you die. And I don't expect you to have one answer because it's so cultural.


00:35:20    Ali

I wish I knew!


00:35:22    Alyssa

Yeah, totally. But how to answer that with kids and maybe in comes your religious beliefs or whatever there. But that's the question a lot of kids come to the table with. Like, what happens when you die? 


00:35:37    Ali

Of course, I come to the table with it too. With uncertainty around it. I think that you're right. That's very much a personal response and there's not one way of answering that. And generally how I support people in answering that is, well, here's what I believe, or here's what our family thinks about. And you might believe something different and that's okay. And again, a lot of books out there that talk about different either religious, cultural, personal beliefs that people have, but I use that as an invitation to hear what the child thinks, too. Sometimes there's some really powerful and magical places that their minds go as well. And it's an invitation to be a little bit more curious on our end, again, to avoid that trap of wanting to fill the silence or to have the answers to everything. And it's okay with a lot of this, not just with this question, but with any of them, to say, that's a really good question. I don't know. Here's what I believe, here's what I think about. What about you? What do you believe? What do you think about? And that of course, going to look at how you respond to that is going to be different depending on how old the child is, what the context in which they're asking and what you truly believe. But I don't see there being a wrong answer to that. 


00:37:11    Alyssa

Yeah, I love that. I love responding to kids as often as we can in a way that doesn't give them the answer, but instead invites curiosity. 


00:37:23    Ali

Yeah. And this is with all of the stuff that we're talking about today, this is a place to do that. 


00:37:30    Alyssa

Yeah. I love that. Ali, you're a dream boat. Thank you so much. 


00:37:36    Ali

Thank you! 


00:37:36    Alyssa

I am so grateful for you for your knowledge. I'm excited for people to get to read your excerpt in the book. I feel like for me was so it's so helpful to have concrete language and examples of what to say and how to navigate this because like you said, we're going to come to the table like fraught with emotion and it's really hard to do that without a script or without some sort of guidance and reminders. Where can people find you? 


00:38:07    Ali

Sure. So I am no longer working at the hospital where I was working as a child life specialist. I am now in private practice as a psychologist. So I have a private practice in Shelburne, Vermont. And I have a website that I am not a tech person, but my website is a work in progress and it's 


00:38:31    Alyssa

Awesome. We'll link to that too in the blog post for this episode. Thank you so much for sharing your brilliance with us. 


00:38:39    Alyssa

Thank you so much for having me. 


00:38:43    Alyssa

Thanks for tuning in to Voices of Your Village. Check out the transcript at Did you know that we have a special community over on Instagram hanging out every day with more free content? Come join us at Take a screenshot of you tuning in, share it on the gram and tag to let me know your key takeaway. If you're digging this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. We love collaborating with you to raise emotionally intelligent humans.


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