The death of ‘Glee’ star Cory Monteith was met with an outpouring of sadness from fans who connected with his character on the show.
Following Monteith’s sudden death, experts say parents should talk to children who may be struggling with the news, rather than simply dismissing their grief.
“Younger kids really do feel like these famous people are part of their lives, and their parents should think of it really like losing a friend,” University of Victoria psychology professor Bonnie Leadbeater told CTVNews.ca.
A day or two of grief is OK
She said it is appropriate for kids to turn to one another to express their grief, but it is not healthy for the grieving period to last for a prolonged period of time.
“I don’t think it does anybody any good to go over every detail on the Internet of what everybody is speculating could have happened,” she said.
Instead, parents should encourage their kids to be active.
One of the best things parents can do is to accept that kids are going to be sad about Monteith’s death, she said.
The character vs. the person
Helping younger children understand the distinction between Cory Monteith, the person, and Finn Hudson, the character he played on Glee, can help children cope with the death, according to Toronto based psychologist Dr. Darlene Walker.
Walker suggests that parents help their children understand some of what is being reported about the case, and to allow them to ask questions.
Walker said some Glee fans may be embarrassed about grieving the death of a person they did not actually know.
“Parents may have to cope with children feeling humiliation, feeling bad about character from TV that’s died, who is not really a friend, but it kind of feels that way,” she said.
In this case, Walker said parents can reassure their children that there is a person who died and it is very sad.
Channel the saddness
Children need to be able to express what they’re feeling to adults, Leadbeater said, and not simply discuss the death with their peers.
“Conversions amongst kids can just be ruminating,” she said, “They don’t get anywhere, they don’t solve any problems, they don’t create any actions. But they make you more emotional, more sad in some ways, because you’re just recirculating sadness.”
Leadbeater said parents can encourage their kids to channel the grief in a positive way.
How to help
Leadbeater said making a donation to a charity that Monteith was affiliated with, such as the Vancouver-based Project Limelight, can empower young people.
“Raising funds, getting people together and doing some kind of action does help kids,” she said. “Doing it less as an individual and more of a collective seems to help more.”
Walker suggested that watching some episodes of Glee with children and then discussing what they like best about the show may also help.
Remembering Glee’s message
Leadbeater said parents should keep in mind the message portrayed by Glee’s characters -- while they’re portrayed as outcasts, they are also depicted as a group with incredible talents.
“Kids who are repeatedly victimized and bullied will often say that it was a talent that pulled them out of it,” she said.
She said parents could draw on the example of Monteith’s character, Finn Hudson, who was a football player and drummer, but also dealt with his own struggles.
“He had this talent that he could turn to and that really made him friends.”  
Honestly talking about death
Walker said it’s important that parents be honest about Monteith’s death and avoid using language such as: “went with the angels” or “went away.”
“Explain it in a straightforward manner as much possible so you’re not giving them false hopes or feelings that a person has just gone somewhere and they might be back,” she said.