Children dealing with Death.
I still vividly remember watching a horror movie in my father’s lap many years ago. A corpse emerged from his grave scattering earth and pledging revenge against his murderer. Only then did it occur to me that my life was finite and I begin to sob uncontrollably asking my father if there was anything I could do to live forever.
Mortality is one of the last lessons any kid learns. This is partially because, like the “birds and bees”, parents are slow to broach the topic with their children. Also, some younger parents have not confronted death and are ill equipped to discuss it with their children.
Until kids are around 6 years old, they tend to be very literal minded. So prior to that age, explain the death in familiar and everyday terms. For example, relate death to a car that quit working and could not be repaired. Be careful with your usage of language. If you tell your kid that Grandma went to sleep, your baby may be waiting for Granny to wake up or worry if you tell them somebody else really went to sleep!
Sometime after age 6, most children grasp the terminal nature or finality of death and you can be more direct about the details of a loved ones death. One of the many reasons that pet ownership is favored by so many is that the death of a pet can lead to an improved understanding of the finality of death. Finding your pet dog dead in the backyard, while traumatic, generally takes less coping skills than the death of a friend or relative.
There is much debate about whether to take your children to a funeral. A very discernible consensus exists here. Most parents feel that the choice should be made by the child.
In closing, since dying is the last thing we do in this life, it is also the last thing that we prepare for! So parent patience in this matter is can not be emphasized enough.
Published in: Family