Discussing Death With Children

Grief_sons protection_0_0Death and loss are probably two of the hardest topics to discuss with your children. Parents handle it very differently.

Religions, cultures and personal beliefs are just some of the factors that contribute to the development of our feelings related to this subject.

Death is however an inevitable part of life and it is our responsibility to ensure our kids are aware of it and know it’s okay to discuss it.

If we allow children to talk to us about death, we can give them needed information, prepare them for a crisis, and help them when they are upset. We can encourage their communication by showing attention and respect for what they have to say. We can also make it easier for them to talk to us if we are open, honest, and at ease with our own feelings.

It is human nature to avoid talking about things that upset us. If it hurts or doesn’t feel comfortable, we don’t want to do it. A parent has to overcome that to lay the foundation for their child to have a basic understanding of life and death.

It can make us feel even more uncomfortable if we don’t have all the answers. Does anyone really have the answers about death though? It is okay. You can let your child know about the individuality of beliefs in regards to this particular topic and you can let them know that you might have some uncertainty.

There are also moments when we have trouble “understanding” what children are asking us. A question that may seem really thoughtless to an adult may be a child’s request for reassurance. For instance, a question such as, “When will you die?” needs to be heard with the realization that the young child perceives death as temporary. The permanency of death is not yet fully understood.

I remember when my son was around five years old. We were driving in the car and he was staring intently at the clouds. “Is that where you go when you die”,  he asked. I was so taken aback and caught off guard, I wasn’t sure what to say. Finally I said, “Some people believe that.”

He was very silent for awhile and then he said, “Oh okay, when you die, you go to the clouds for 60 weeks.”

He didn’t want to speak another word about it. In his mind, 60 weeks was forever and that’s as far as he wanted to go. As he got older, we discussed it at a different level.

As with any other sensitive topic in parenting, the best thing to do is just take it on.

Be thoughtful, be proactive and understand your child’s developmental age and stage. Continue the dialogue as your child grows. Gather information and seek support for yourself if you feel you need it to engage in this kind of discussion.

Keep that communication door open, no matter how hard it is and I promise that you will be rewarded with a deep and fulfilling relationship with your child.

imagr from: http://www-tc.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/sites/default/files/imagecache/topic_centerpiece/Grief_sons%20protection_0_0.jpg





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