I am going to share information in a series of posts about talking with children of different ages about death. Look for more to follow.
Here are some basic pieces of information:
1. Death is a reality that children, like all of us, can learn to live with. It is as natural a part of life as birth is. Children see death every day from plants that whither and die, animals on the road, pets, etc.
2. Even before the death of a close family member or friend occurs, parents and teachers can begin to introduce the idea of death as a part of everyday life. The news, a trip past a cemetery, a dead plant, bird or pet might spark a conversation.
3. Start early and be honest with children before it becomes an event they have to deal personally with. Talk openly about the feelings and your beliefs. It will help you also.
4. Because understanding death is a gradual process it helps to have more than one conversation. Children will take in the information they are ready for and their understanding will develop over time.
5. Children feel the loss of loved ones just as intensely as adults do but they might not understand the why. Their grief is often represented through heir play as they try to understand things.
6. Adults need to help children understand that unhappy times have endings. Sometimes children think their unhappiness causes discomfort to adults so they hide their feelings.
7. Distinguish between grief and mourning. Grief is the label for a set of emotional, cognitive, behavioral and physical reactions following he death of a loved one. Normal responses include denial, emotional numbing, anger, rage, anxiety, sadness, fear, confusion, difficulty sleeping, regression in behavior, upset stomach, loss of appetite, or hysterical reactions.
8. There can be cultural behaviors that help or hinder a child's understanding of how to cope with the strong feelings associated with loss.