How to Talk to Your Preschooler About Death

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Last month, we received a bad news that Hubby’s grandmother passed away. My mother-in-law that time was here with us for a month vacation. It really is easy to accept things like this even though we’ve already accepted grandma’s fate. She’s been suffering with a long term disease for so long, and we know that it’s really hard to be in her place during her medications and appointments with her doctor. How we all wish we can cheat on death.

Anyway, but how about for preschoolers? My sister-in-law has two kids. Explaining death to an 8 and 7 year old kids are easier than telling it to my 3 1/4 year old toddler. The thing is, she remember well grandma’s face since we were with her for a year. I tried to explain to her in a nomads way, but to no avail. There was a photo that was save on my phone and she saw it. She told me that it’s grandma. I then reminded her that grandma is not with us anymore. But for her it’s like she’s still around. I may not be the one who is in this situation right now. It might be another mom like me who are searching for a best way to explain things to their little ones, so I made a research on how to explain death to our preschooler.

Death is one of the hardest subjects to broach with young children, especially when you’re struggling to deal with your own sorrow. But death is also an inescapable part of life, and children want to understand it and find ways to grieve that feel natural.

Don’t dodge her questions. Answer her questions about death, and don’t be afraid to read stories about children whose pets or grandparents die.

Give brief, simple answers. Young children can’t handle too much information at once. At this age, it’s most helpful to explain death in terms of physical functions that have ceased, rather than launching into a complicated discussion of a particular illness: "Now that Uncle John has died, his body has stopped working. He can’t walk or run, or eat or sleep or see anymore, and he doesn’t feel any pain." It’s also important to help a preschooler understand basics such as who’s going to take care of her. "She thinks, ‘If Mom dies, who’s going to give me my bath?’ " says grief specialist Michael Towne.— this is how we explained things to our Julia.

Express your own emotions. Grieving is an important part of healing, for both children and adults.

Avoid euphemisms. State the reasons for the death as simply as possible.

Be prepared for a variety of reactions. Children not only feel sorrow over the death of a loved one, they may also feel guilt or anger. Reassure your preschooler that nothing she said or did caused the death, and don’t be surprised if she expresses anger toward you, the doctors and nurses, or even the deceased.

Expect the subject to come up repeatedly. Be ready to field the same questions from your child over and over again, since understanding the permanence of death is a struggle for her. Just keep answering them as patiently as you can.

Memorialize the deceased. Children need concrete ways to mourn the death of a loved one.

Don’t try to be perfect. Ask for help from friends and relatives, and remember that the more you help yourself cope, the better you’ll be able to help your child cope, both now and later.

These are just simple explanations that you might consider reading. Hope it helps you out.

3 comments

  1. Janis Paredes-Dawal says:

    oh this is hard. but all your tips were right. esp. avoiding euphemisms, kids are kids, yes… but most of them are smart. we dont have to sugarcoat everything because death can never be sugarcoated. let them expect that it's going to be sad… and it's normal to not be okay as we grieve…
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