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How To Help Children Cope with Death

Death is probably any human being's biggest fear. The fact that death is inevitable and unpredictable makes it frightening to people. The occurrence of a death in the family affects everyone from the emotionally stable to the emotionally weak. Therefore, it is important that you understand the situation and behave appropriately. It is helpful to be a pillar of support to the family and dear ones, at this time of need. And explaining death to children is mandatory, as coping with the death of a loved one can be a mammoth task for them.

When a death occurs in the family, it may be expected or sudden. It is a strong blow to all family members, and they have trouble coping with it. This results in your young child being surprised by the happenings around him. But your child may not be able to completely understand why there is a sudden change in the behaviour of all the elders around him. This leads him to seek answers directly from you. And if he was close to the person who passed away, explaining the absence of that person to the child can be a delicate issue. A child, depending on his or her age, may not be able to grasp the concept of death easily. This makes your role all the more important.

In the Case of an Expected Death
In the event of an expected death, you must tell the child in advance about what to expect. You need to make sure you use the right terms so as to avoid frightening him. You must make sure that he understands clearly about the effects of the death. This is to ensure that he does not ask inappropriate questions before the terminally-ill person, or any other relatives. You can also suggest to the child that he should spend quality time with the sick person, so he will have special memories to treasure.

In the Case of a Sudden Death
Children are more affected if someone they were close to passes away suddenly. This is because they didn't get any time to prepare for the event. The best solution under these circumstances is to help the child focus on the better times he spent with the deceased person. Doing this helps the child think positively about that person. Another way of helping the child cope is by helping him grieve. You can do this by letting him know that it is alright to cry. Helping a child grieve is very mandatory, according to many child psychologists. Giving him an avenue to vent his feelings plays an important role in coping with a death.


Why it is Important to Help him Cope
It is a difficult task to console a child and explain to him about a death. This is especially true when you yourself are struggling hard to come to terms with it. But you must keep in mind that if you do not take up this responsibility, it may have an adverse effect on the child. Children of different age groups cope with this situation differently. But your interaction with your child will lessen the damage. Children above 8-9 years of age may get depressed and go into a shell if an unexpected death occurs. It is important that you reassure the child of his safety, and answer all the questions he or she may have.

Reassuring the Child
If the child is very young, you can begin by behaving as normally as possible with him. This should calm the child down considerably. After this, you need to explain to him the incident, and why it had an effect on the other family members. Depending on his age, you can use terms that he will understand. Make sure you do not use words that may strike fear into him, like saying that the person will 'never return', or has 'died'. Though older children can face reality, younger children will only take it in the literal meaning and be affected by it. Ensure that you do not set false expectations, though. Even if you are softening the blow for your young one, it is not advisable to create wrong illusions about death.

Older Children
Explaining death to a teenager though, is different. This is because most teenagers are aware of death and the effects of it. But along with their awareness, their fear of it is also heightened. Breaking news of a death to a teenager is easier if you can do so with spiritual undertones. You should also remain calm and controlled in this situation as teenagers understand body language well. Being emotionally stable will make it easier for your teen to find mental balance as well. Most teenagers will turn to friends during a difficult time, so allow him or her to do so. Close friends can be the best remedy for your teen, under the circumstances. But make sure you play your role before you let him interact with his friends, so that no questions catch him unawares outside home.

In the event of a death, definitely take into consideration your child's emotions. It goes a long way in making him a stronger individual.

4 comments:

  1. THE TREE I SEE amazing storybook APP on i-tunes, offers a moral to help children also with death or difficult life moments and moving on -

    Writeen by a PA and based upon the life experience in treating and caring for patients, inspired the author to write this tale about a Tree who encounters a dark lonely moment. He developed the character of the Tree to represent any patient or individual who may feel isolated, scared, abandoned, and without hope. The story reminds all of us, that loved ones will be with us in our hearts, mind, soul, and memories, as we encounter any difficult life event. This realization occurs when we emerge from the darkness, either during this life or as we pass into the next.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Life is all about timing. Today would be my father's 70th birthday. He and my younger brother were killed in a house fire that I survived. So today he is very much on my mind. Personally, I agree with much of what you suggest here. I was 9 and it took me well into my 20's to grieve, heal and let go of my pain. Of course it never ends but learning to manage emotions that were unmanageable for a long time was part of it. I was very much encouraged to grieve by family, professionals, etc but everyone is different and you will only heal when you are ready, no one can push you into it. I had much anger issues especially as a teen as it is a confusing enough time emotionally. The biggest thing is always love your child; they are going to act out as a teen no matter what their history is. I was lucky to have my mother who never gave up on me as I could depend on her love and support thru my little mis-steps and especially during the larger ones. Life is all about making mistakes and hopefully learning and not repeating them. I am very grateful to be alive, and understand now that this is my life, I had a dark time but it has given me my unique view, just as your experiences have shaped you. I choose to have a positive outlook on the world as I allow myself to be loved and give love as much as possible. Unconditional love is key. The other thing is be brutally honest, even though I was a child I have a clear picture of adults trying to sugar coat their talking to me. Events like this are harsh reality; even if for some time you do live as if in a dream. From this moment on I was not a child anymore. That view of the the world had been shattered. A huge part of my healing was understanding that while my loved ones are physically gone, they are still with you, in your heart if you allow it. You can still talk to them, they won't answer you with words but if you are aware of yourself and surroundings an answer will appear in some form if you are open to your world and looking. I am very firm in that belief. Lastly I was perhaps given too much freedom at times, life is hard, life is not fair, the death of a child’s loved ones teaches this lesson very, very well. My life was turned upside down with this and I was not always held accountable, in school for example “he is dealing with his issues” thru the rest of elementary school. I don’t believe this is beneficial to the process, and affects my decision making process to this day. I would advise that friends, family, treat this child/hold to the same standard as everyone else, no free passes. The world didn’t stop for me when this happened, why should I be/feel entitled to special treatment later. Most of us will test our boundaries to see what we can get away with, especially children. Respecting accountability and reasonability are key life skills for success maybe even more important for those dealing with childhood trauma. It won’t be an easy road for any of us in life, and perhaps I am completely off base as to what the experts say, but this is my life.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Life is all about timing. Today would be my father's 70th birthday. He and my younger brother were killed in a house fire that I survived. So today he is very much on my mind. Personally, I agree with much of what you suggest here. I was 9 and it took me well into my 20's to grieve, heal and let go of my pain. Of course it never ends but learning to manage emotions that were unmanageable for a long time was part of it. I was very much encouraged to grieve by family, professionals, etc but everyone is different and you will only heal when you are ready, no one can push you into it. I had much anger issues especially as a teen as it is a confusing enough time emotionally. The biggest thing is always love your child; they are going to act out as a teen no matter what their history is. I was lucky to have my mother who never gave up on me as I could depend on her love and support thru my little mis-steps and especially during the larger ones. Life is all about making mistakes and hopefully learning and not repeating them. I am very grateful to be alive, and understand now that this is my life, I had a dark time but it has given me my unique view, just as your experiences have shaped you. I choose to have a positive outlook on the world as I allow myself to be loved and give love as much as possible. Unconditional love is key. The other thing is be brutally honest, even though I was a child I have a clear picture of adults trying to sugar coat their talking to me. Events like this are harsh reality; even if for some time you do live as if in a dream. From this moment on I was not a child anymore. That view of the the world had been shattered. A huge part of my healing was understanding that while my loved ones are physically gone, they are still with you, in your heart if you allow it. You can still talk to them, they won't answer you with words but if you are aware of yourself and surroundings an answer will appear in some form if you are open to your world and looking. I am very firm in that belief. Lastly I was perhaps given too much freedom at times, life is hard, life is not fair, the death of a child’s loved ones teaches this lesson very, very well. My life was turned upside down with this and I was not always held accountable, in school for example “he is dealing with his issues” thru the rest of elementary school. I don’t believe this is beneficial to the process, and affects my decision making process to this day. I would advise that friends, family, treat this child/hold to the same standard as everyone else, no free passes. The world didn’t stop for me when this happened, why should I be/feel entitled to special treatment later. Most of us will test our boundaries to see what we can get away with, especially children. Respecting accountability and reasonability are key life skills for success maybe even more important for those dealing with childhood trauma. It won’t be an easy road for any of us in life, and perhaps I am completely off base as to what the experts say, but this is my life.

    ReplyDelete

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