Talking about death – children need honesty

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Unfortunately, death is omnipresent, even in families. Children are confronted with the topic sooner or later. Be it through the loss of a family member, a kindergarten friend, or the beloved family dog. Dealing with death is a sensitive issue even for adults. For children it is much more abstract and the loss is harder to understand. But children in particular need the honesty of their parents and answers to all their questions.

Death should not be a taboo subject for children

Nobody likes to talk about death. It’s really not a popular topic of conversation for a family over dinner. Nevertheless, it is just as much a part of life as, for example, the birth of a sibling. Therefore, death should not be made a taboo subject. When children are confronted with dying in their environment for the first time, they try to deal with the issue very actively. Especially when they are not acutely affected by the loss themselves, their natural curiosity increases – and they look for answers to all their questions.

Child-friendly explanations help to understand

It is not uncommon for children (from an adult perspective) to have very abstract questions about death. Your ideas can vary from the evil grim reaper who forcibly brings people to the beautiful rainbow that leads into the sky. Every child has different ideas, fears and questions. These should be answered first. If parents worry about not finding the right words, special picture books can make the conversation easier. Depending on the age, metaphors such as a butterfly flying in the sky or the bright star in the sky can serve as symbols for the deceased.

Child mourns a loved one
Image: © esthermm / Adobe Stock

“It is important not to explain to the children that someone fell asleep somehow. Many children then fear that they will fall asleep themselves and never wake up again. Since death is such an abstract thing for children and they try to shed light on the “darkness” with the help of their parents, one should be very attentive to the pictures that one draws in children’s heads. ”

(Torsten Esser – Founder 1-2-family.de)

Every child deserves the truth

Unfortunately, it sometimes happens that close family members, such as siblings or even parents, die. Unfortunately, if it happens suddenly and unexpectedly, you cannot prepare a child for this situation. At such moments, as described above, only what happened can be explained. However, if an illness – and its course – is the cause of impending loss, a child can be reasonably prepared for it. This should also explain what is ahead in a child-friendly manner. Children have sensitive antennae and quickly sense when something is wrong in their environment. To “only” tell the child that someone is sick, but not to report about the (possible) impending death, would be the wrong way. A child has a right to honesty, truth. This is the only way to adapt to the situation in the best possible way.

Time to say goodbye

When the toughest moment of all comes and it’s time to say goodbye, kids can do that too. We can talk together about how this is designed. Some children may want to go to their deathbed with them. Some hospitals have trained pastors who accompany families, and especially children, in such moments. Others want to paint another picture and say goodbye along the way. Every family finds its own correct way of saying goodbye. The funeral can also be organized and experienced together. If the family always takes a special look at the children and is ready for the grief, fears and questions, this difficult time can be overcome together.




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