Ways of Teaching Young Ones About Death
Death is never a topic someone looks forward to discussing. Trying to explain death to your children can be quite overwhelming. However, it’s severely worse when that discussion becomes inevitable. But how can you approach the subject of death to a child that has had no experience with it? There’s a lot of thought and pressure that goes into a conversation like that, but teaching them about death before it happens to a pet or someone close to the family could save a lot of heart-wrenching questions.
Everything on this planet has a season or a life span. Introducing death to young ones is as simple as teaching them about the flowers that bloom in the spring. A flower is a great example of life and death. Plants and flowers are so similar to us yet, opposite. Just like us, they need food, water and sunlight. However, we rely on each other for life. We need their oxygen; they need our carbon dioxide. Teaching kids the facts of life and pointing out that death is a fact can help them to generally understand life’s cycle.
Sadly, some children are exposed to death at a very early age. Other children are able to make it to late-teens before personally knowing a pet or someone that has passed. Which scenario is better? Neither. They both have their downfalls because a loss is just that… a loss.
Some folks have used goldfish to be a first death experience. It’s a lot less traumatic than losing other pets. As most of us have experienced firsthand that goldfish do not have very long lifespans. A goldfish is a great example of a ‘being’ that must be named, cared for and loved. But once its life is over, parents can teach their child in-depth about loss by having a mini-funeral around the toilet bowl or a shallow grave in the yard. This experience teaches a child that there is honor in life and honor in death.
Don’t Be Afraid to Talk About It
Death isn’t scary. How people die can be. But don’t be afraid to talk about death with your child. Kids are curious, so it’s better to learn from you, the parent, than from other outlets. Death is on TV, video games, the internet, etc. Getting the facts from you is better than your child thinking they have extra lives because that’s how the video game works. Or even worse, they do their own random search of facts that has the potential to scare the crap out of them.
Remember, to also talk to them about your beliefs. Share with them about what you think happens after life. Give them comfort in their questions. Reassure and comfort them when they express their fears. (Yes, they will have some.) And most of all, keep the door of communication open on the subject. They will have questions that popup at any time.
Letting Your Child Mourn
Mourning is a necessary process when losing a loved one. Whether it be a pet or a family member, whether you, yourself are mourning too, allowing your child to know that it’s a normal emotion to feel grief during this time is very important. There are five distinct stages of grief: Denial and isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and finally, Acceptance. Be reasonable as they process their grief. They might not be where you are in your process. Sometimes children sail through the stages, or they may get stuck on one stage longer than expected. There is family counseling that can help with this subject at any stage. Don’t be afraid to seek help if needed at any point.
Death is a fact of life. But, making it easy for just anyone to understand can be difficult, let alone a child. Teach them that everything on this planet has a lifespan. Perhaps, let them experience an example of death on a less-traumatizing level. Talk with them. Listen to them. And always keep the door of communication open. These things can help build a healthy outlook for your child on the facts of life and death.
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