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HELPING CHILDREN COPE WITH DEATH

HELPING CHILDREN COPE WITH DEATH

1. Begin where the child is.

2. Be there-physical presence is important

3. Allow and encourage expressions of feelings. Give permission to feel.

4. Be truthful.

5. Encourage remembrances-involves child to remember good things about the person.

6. Admit when you do not know the answer.

7. Use touch to communicate.

8. Start discussing death early-using naturally occurring events.

9. Teach children the difference between alive and dead-flowers, wood, birds

10. Accept differing reactions to death.

11. Use straightforward language and avoid expressions like passed away, expired.

12. Encourage natural questions.

13. Allow gradual exposure to experiences with death.

14. Reassure child that he is important and does not need to imitate dead person.

Children UNDER AGE 3

  • Little actual understanding of death.
  • Experts believe that infants and toddlers experiment with "being" and "non-being," (e.g. peek-a-boo).
  • Their grief, if any, is a reaction to separation rather than grief itself.

Children AGES 3-5

  • It is difficult for them to separate the real world from their own subjective world of imagination, wishes and fantasy.
  • They see parents as omnipotent-can fix anything even death.
  • They believe death is improbable (e.g. caused by accidents or shooting) and escapable (e.g. :The Roadrunner" is flattened against the wall, then in the next scene, he is back to life going "beep beep").
  • They are curious and ask questions.
  • They believe they have the ability to make things happen by simply wishing or thinking.
  • Sometimes they may fear they caused the death in some way.

Children AGES 6 TO 9

  • They are influenced more by peer discussion, formal education and the media.
  • They have less magical thinking, and more reliance on social and biological reality.
  • They develop an interest in cemeteries or caskets and what happens to a dead body.
  • They may personify death as a skeleton or as the "bogeyman."
  • Sometime around the age of eight, the child begins to understand that death is inevitable and universal.

Children AGES 10 & UP

  • Children have a more logical concept of death.
  • They no longer have magical thinking and do not personify death.
  • They hide this by making fun of death and telling ghost stories.
  • Teenagers sometime attempt to defy death by taking unnecessary risks.
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