How Children Deal With Death Essay, Research Paper
How Children Deal With Death
Death is hard to deal with for everyone, but for children
especially; they view death in various ways at different ages.
At these ages children need help and guidance from their parents.
The first step is to help them feel a part of the whole
experience, doing this will allow them to deal with the death.
The rest is counciling and (quick step number two;) the parent?s
main part should be to listen while the child talks, doing this
is very helpful for understanding the child. This is also very
benneficial because it gives the child a chance to get his/her
feelings off, this relieves certain tensions. So in order to
help children get through the grieving process age and maturity
level of the child must be concidered, and council should be
centered around the limitations of those statistics.
Infants are one group, with no real understanding of death
but they can react to the way their parent/s react/s to loss.
When the physical love that a parent can provide is suddenly
missing, the child does have fears of separation. Infants are
also very tuned in to their parents? feelings of stress and
sadness. In relation to these feelings there might be noted
physical expressions such as: crying, crankiness, rashes and
clinging. How one can handle this is to talk with others about
one?s concerns with family members, or even the funeral director;
he/she has a good chance of knowing what to do. Seek support and
help from family and friends. Parent/s should try spending more
time each day with the child to ensure a secure feeling for the
child. (Wolfelt) I have learned on the Discovery channel that
children who are physically touched develop better and more
fully, so loving them patting them and holding them often does
worlds of help. (experiment covered by the Discovery channel)
For children ages two and a half to five; this is the stage
at which the child is likely to confuse death as a reversible
event like sleeping. Or the death of someone close to them could
be viewed as punishment for something they have done; make sure
they know this is not so. Children of this age are egocentric
and believe everything that happens to be caused by them or that
they will ?catch? death and die as well. A child might also
believe death to always be result of violence, this belief might
have come from what they see on TV. Behaviors to look for are:
the child showing little concern for favorite TV shows, going
back to bedwetting, thumbsucking, baby talk or fear of the dark.
These actions may be signs of/ or warn of depression. (Vogel 16)
It is a good idea for the parent might want to explain to
the child how life might be different, daily routines stopped,
parents/family grieving, funeral arrangements, and a house full
of people. Terms such as dead and death should be used to
explain to the child why he won?t be seeing the dead person
anymore. Try and avoid euphemisms they can often mislead, best
use the word dead this is to the point and truthful and will not
lead to conflicts in the future. Reassurance to the child that
death doesn?t hurt is benneficial, the person will always love
the child, as well as: ?we will always remember him?; these
phrases are comforting to hear. Consider the way the child will
act and be ready for any moving(if not disturbing) questions.
For children ages five to nine death is only a possibility
for others, that they are invincible. Whereas those of age nine
to eleven; are more understanding of death, that it is not
partial to anyone, that even they too could die. When there is
death in the family the child may question the biological and
physical aspects of death, or be interested in the funeral
arrangements. If there is a death close to the child
(relationship wise) his/her behavior may include crying, anxiety,
headache, abdominal pain, denial of death, poor grades, hostility
and lack of attention. As well as loss of manual skills,
withdrawal, becoming anti social, turning to drugs and sometimes
may display similar symptoms of deceased person. To help
preteens you can tell them that even though there may be no
feeling of grief at the time, that the grief just might hit them
much later on, or during an event like Christmas. It is good for
children to know crying is healthy, to let it out other wise
stress can build up and life can get miserable. Encourage them
to go to the funeral; this is important for closure, to see the
body peaceful and to verify death is vital for last sight memory
of the deceased to be one of comfort and peace. (Vogel 18)
Since the funeral is a significant event, children
should have the same opportunity to attend as any other
member of the family. They should be allowed to
attend, never forced. Parents should explain the
purpose of the funeral. It?s an opportunity to help,
support and comfort each other, as well as a time to
honor the life of the person who has died. (Wolfelt
Listen to what they have to say, usually just listening helps
immensely. (Vogel 18)
?Touching and holding the child can be as important as
the things we say. Listening means responding to the
needs of the whole person, not just to the words
spoken. It means being accepting rather than
judgmental. It means opening ourselves to involvement
and the possibility of being hurt. Listening is a form
of loving!? (Vogel 16)
Speaking of listening, adolescents can have much to say and
need to be heard. Teens are almost like adults; an adolescent is
more understanding of death and is able to think more abstractly.
However, suicide is looked at as means of getting back at someone
or to teach a lesson. Teens know that life is fragile; this
knowledge shows the complexity of their understanding life and
death, more so than the other ages. Some behaviors to watch for
are that of anger, aggression, wanting to assume a more adult
role in family status and increased risk taking. ?When my mom
died, I thought my heart would break, but I couldn?t cry? (Quoted
from Wolfelt 32) That is true, because I never shed a tear for
my grandfather when he died but that doesn not mean I didn?t
care; he was the type who didn?t want a big deal made out of
himself. Humble if you will. Some response to teens
experiencing death close to them would be to encourage and try to
continue family communication, possibly with trusted friends. It
is important to have lots of physical touching and for the teen
to hear the phrase ?I love you? doing this reassures that though
there has been a death everything is still the same. There will
be possibilities of changes in the family structure.
Death is hard to deal with for everyone, especially for
children, they view death in various ways at different ages. The
important thing is for them to be told the truth and guided with
help from others to enstill in the child a healthy look uppon the
ordeal of death.
Anderson, Sharon D. ?Talking to Children About Death?.
April 1995 revised April 1996 online posting. 11
November 1999. .
Kastor, Elizabeth. ?We?ll always love you, Mommy.?
(widowers Brian Grunenfelder, Keith Chappelow, and
Michael Goshorn). Good Houskeeping July 1998: 116-120,
Marks, Jane. ?We have a problem? (Daughter deals with
Father?s suicide). Parents October 1990: 56, 58, 61.
Vogel, Linda Jane. Helping A Child Understand Death.
New York: Fortress Press, 1975.
Wilken, C.S. and J. Powel. ?Learning to Live Through Loss:
Helping Children Understand Death.? 1991 online.
November 1996 online. 11 November 1999
Wolfelt, Alan D. Ph.D. A Child?s View of Grief.
Colorado: Center for Loss and Life Transition, 1991.