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  • Explaining The Maguindanao Massacre To Your Child: Talking To Kids About Death

    With recent news such as the Maguindanao Massacre covered extensively in the media, it’s only natural that kids might have questions about death. Read this article on how to discuss this sensitive issue and how to respond to your child’s concerns.
    by Stephanie F. Esguerra .
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    Recently, news broke out this week about the recent massacre in Maguindanao . The massacre claimed the lives of 57 people. Photos and videos on television and on the Internet depict the crime scene and these images may be shocking for your child. It’s only natural for them to ask questions about it and about death.


    One of the most difficult things that parents have to do is sit down with their kids and talk about a sensitive issue. May it be about death, sex, or other grown-up matters, children look up to their parents as their most dependable sources of information and guidance on these topics. Let them know that you are open to listening to their thoughts and feelings and you are willing to answer their questions the best way you can.

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    How can parents talk to their kids about death and make sure they feel safe and secure? See the following guidelines:


    Death From a Child’s Eyes

    1. Keep in mind that each child’s thoughts and feelings about death vary. Factors such as age, developmental stage, religion, socio-economic and ethnic background play a part in how your child may have built association and beliefs about death. Their level of understanding and their emotional maturity, of course, will affect how seriously they will treat the matter.
    2. Identify your child’s sources of information or where he or she may have become exposed to the idea of death. Whether from school, religion, or the media, recognize references you may use as examples later on. This will help your child identify more with the concept and reality of death.
    3. Determine how he or she feels about death. According to the research of Children Now, kids feel “angry, sad, or depressed after watching the news.” On average, the news shows “graphic or intense” content that may not be suitable for your child. You may want to find out what his or her reaction is to death, especially after watching news reports.


    Discussing Death as a Parent

    1. Do not sugarcoat the truth. You don’t have to come up with a fictitious fairy-tale like story just to cover up the painful reality of death, but you may want to consider explaining death as a loss of life functions—dead flowers don’t bloom anymore, dogs don’t bark anymore, people don’t breathe anymore, etc. Avoid using words that connote a sense of being temporary, such as “sleep,” “went away,” or “rest.” It might be confusing and scary for your child since these actions happen in everyday life.
    2. Keep your words as simple and as truthful as possible. Make it a point to say it in a way that is consoling and comforting, so as not to worry or frighten your child. Make sure they understood what you said by repeating your explanation and asking them to say it in their own words.
    3. Listen to their views in a sympathetic and non-judgmental way. No matter how children cope with death or express their feelings, they need a lot of support from their parents and other grown-ups. Listen to them carefully and observe their reactions so that you can respond appropriately to your child’s needs.
    4. Ensure them that they are safe and that they have Mommy, Daddy, and other loved ones to take care of them. Be sure to communicate that what they see on TV won’t necessarily happen to them as well. Let them feel that you will be there to protect them for as long as you can.


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