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  • Talking to Kids About Death

    As All Souls' Day approaches, dad and contributing writer Robert Del Rosario shares helpful ways on how to introduce to your child the concept of death.
    by Rob Del Rosario .
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    Read more about age-appropriate ways to introduce to your child the concept of death.

     

    You can start the topic by opening books or websites with tasteful and positive looking pictures of cemeteries or heroes’ memorials and the like, but do avoid mediums like the news, as images and stories tend to be overtly gruesome or difficult to understand. This is not a one time thing.  Kids need time to attune to the idea, so gradually introduce it and be prepared to calmly and factually explain things and answer questions over and over again.
     
    1. From ages 3 to 6, a child has no concept of the permanence of death. They may think that the deceased may return, or will awaken. Those who are more aware may jump to most outlandish conclusions: “If somebody dies of a heart attack, and if I get a boo-boo near where my heart is, I am having a heart attack and I will die”. Funny for us, serious for them.  

    We must be cautious yet firm when explaining everything.  We should not use euphemisms such as “passed away, sleeping nor gone to the province” as they will be taken in a literal context. Religious or not, you must explain the biological fact that creatures die, without getting into much detail.

    You can tell them that the person’s body is not “working anymore” and that doctors tried their best but they could not fix it. There will be much confusion and many questions such as “Will I die too?” or “When will you die?”  The only way to allow a child to develop a realistic attitude towards death is to keep answering his or her questions the best way you can. If you don’t know the answer, be truthful. Give your child a hug and say “I’m sorry, I really don’t know the answer. Maybe someday I will, maybe I won’t, but I’m here for you”.


    2. From 6 to 9, it’s in the extremes. A child can sometimes grasp the entire concept or be completely confused to the point of believing that he or she caused it by wishing it so. Like if an uncle passes away, they may revert to that one day that said uncle had scolded them and they wished they were dead. Also, they may believe that death is contagious, or something that can happen at the will of someone else.   Correct these ideas by talking them through, reading age appropriate books to them about the subject, and encourage them to express their feelings through art or writing.  

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