Thursday, November 3, 2011

Talking about Death to Children

This weekend Tucson non-profit Many Mouths One Stomach hosts what has become a favorite Tucson event, the All Souls Procession.

"The Procession is a sanctuary for community members from all walks of life to express their grief and loss in a celebration of creative energy and a rejoicing of living."
Part of the events this weekend is the Procession of Little Angels. An opportunity for children to create and to celebrate the lives of loved ones that have died in a way that makes sense to them. When someone dies many of us struggle to explain death to our young children. Sometimes we might even try to avoid the topic.  Death is a universal experience, it is fact of life that our children are exposed to from an early age, in many classic storytales, in nature, and in our families. When we talk with children about death, both when it is abstract and when it hits closer to home, we can explore what they understand about death, perhaps address fears and worries about death.  Child Life Specialist, Jolene Eggert, gave this advice about talking about death with children :
·         Always be honest with your children and talk to them at their developmental level (with terms they understand) as well as at their eye level.
·         Avoid terms which seem confusing.  Such as “passed on” or “taken from us” which can give mixed messages.  Children think in concrete terms.  Often times, hugs and just sitting close by can say a lot.
·         When a child dies ask for support from families and friends for surviving siblings.
·         Don’t be afraid to show emotion.
·         Include children in an end of life memorial.  Have them assist with picking out pictures, writing letter/drawing pictures for their loved one.
Jolene recommends the following book and DVD for preschoolers (a Sesame Street production): When Families Grieve. The program discusses the loss of a parent.
Remembering Crystal by Sebastian Loth is a gentle book with no religious input perfect for the preschool audience.
The National Institute of Health share this document which explores what to consider when talking to children about death. 

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