Unfortunately, children do not escape taking leave. Consider, for example, the loss of a favorite hug, a move by a boyfriend or the death of a pet.
In daily life there are enough reasons to familiarize a child with farewell, loss and even death. That may seem cruel or at least exaggerated, but children who learn to deal with loss have a head start when they are actually faced with death.
If it has not been discussed with them before, it will all be harder to understand when they are suddenly confronted with farewell and loss.
Of course you want to protect your child and guard against grief, but this subject is inextricably linked to life ... and with happiness.
Difference between death and lifeless
First, it is important that your child learns the difference between death and lifeless. A car is lifeless, similarly toys, books, boulders, street tiles, furniture, household items, ambulances, police cars, you name it. Animals, flowers, plants and people, on the other hand, live and can therefore die.
Something that grows, moves, changes, breathes and eats, that lives and can die. Lifeless things have never lived and therefore can not die. There are many dead examples in everyday life. Pay attention when you walk across the street. Dead flowers, a dead bird, dead insects and sometimes even a dead duck or hedgehog on the road. These examples generate little emotion and are therefore good to start with.
The next step is to tell children that death can be caused by illness, old age or an accident. When there is a death in the area, it is advisable to talk about this with your child. Make the topic easily negotiable.
After this, your child can learn what happens next. Bury his dead hamster in a small box in the garden with a small memorial monument (if only a twig) on his grave. By performing this ritual, children become familiar with death. Eventually children will realize that they too are mortal.
Realization of death
Children up to about 3 years of age do not yet have a good sense of death. Of course they are afraid to be separated from mom or dad and they know (and feel) what loss is, the difference between death and lifeless is not yet clear. However, even children in this age can suffer from a loss.
Afraid of death they are not yet at this age. Do not try to convey your own fears on them.
How do you tell a child that someone is dead?
A child under the age of 5 will not understand that death is permanent. Take your child by your lap, gently pat his back or hold his hands. To let your child listen in a focused way, it is best to start your story with: "I have to tell you something bad ..."
Then try to tell very clearly that (for example) grandmother no longer breathes and can not feel anything anymore, has no pain, it does not feel cold and does not feel sick. Try to be as clear as possible and tell your child as honestly as possible what happened. Give him room for questions and take the time to answer them.
From your child you can expect questions such as: "How long will Grandma die?", "Eat the same food as we do?", "Where is Grandma going?" and 'When will Grandma return?'
A child can ask the same thing hundreds of times and sometimes a child can give an unexpectedly clear answer. It can sometimes sound even crude, but this is rarely intended.
Do not be afraid of your own emotions during the telling process. Of course you do not have to hide your tears, your child may well know that you are very sad. A hysterical cry is of course a completely different story ...
Sad messages can best be conveyed by the person with whom the child is most familiar.
Depending on the age and character of your child you can actually expect very different reactions. Some children become very angry, some do not respond at all (are dumbfounded) and some fire an avalanche of questions at you. However your child reacts, physical contact has a comforting effect on many children.
The younger the children are, the shorter the intense sadness will last. Children can very easily ignore everything and just continue playing. They do not have the capacity to endure intense pain for a long time. This allows a child to mourn intermittently and show sadness.
Children's books are published regularly with the theme: farewell, sorrow and grief processing. These books are often very suitable to read to your child and in this way make the subject open to discussion. An overview of these books can be found on our funeral book list.