Ways To Help Children
As in all situations, honesty is the best way to deal with children. Talk to the child in a language that he can understand. Remember to listen to the child and try to understand what the child is saying and, just as importantly, what he's not saying. Children need to feel that the death is an open subject and that they can
express their thoughts or questions as they arise. Below are just a few ways adults can help children face the death of someone close to them.
1. THE CHILD'S FIRST CONCERN MAY
BE "WHO IS GOING TO TAKE CARE OF ME
(A) Maintain usual routines as much
(B) Show affection, and assure the
child that those who love him still do
and that they will take care of
2. THE CHILD WILL PROBABLY HAVE
MANY QUESTIONS AND MAY NEED TO ASK THEM
AGAIN AND AGAIN.
(A) Encourage the child to ask
questions and give honest, simple
answers that can be understood. Repeated
questions require patience and continued
expression of careing.
(B) Answers should be based on the
needs the child seems to be expressing,
not necessarily on the exact words
3. THE CHILD WILL NOT KNOW
APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOUR FOR THE
(A) Encourage the child to talk
about his feelings and share with him
how you feel. You are a model for how
one expresses feelings. It is helpful to
cry. It is not helpful to be told how
one should or should not feel.
(B) Allow the child to express his
caring for you. Loving is giving "and"
4. THE CHILD MAY FEAR THAT HE
ALSO MAY DIE OR HE SOMEHOW CAUSED THE
(A) Reassure the child about the
cause of the death and explain that any
thoughts he may have had about the
person who died did "not" cause the
(B) Reassure him that this does
"not" mean someone else he loves is
likely to die soon.
5. THE CHILD MAY WISH TO BE A
PART OF THE FAMILY RITUALS.
(A) Explain these to him and include
him in deciding how he will participate.
Remember that he should be prepared
beforehand, told what to expect, and
have a supporting adult with him. Do not
force him to do anything he doesn't feel
6. THE CHILD MAY SHOW REGRESSIVE
(A) A common reaction to stress is
reverting to an earlier stage of
development. (For example, a child may
begin thumb sucking, or bed wetting; or,
may need to go back into diapers or have
a bottle for a time). Support the child
in this and keep in mind that these
regressions are temporary. Adults can
help prepare a child to deal with future
losses of those who are significant by
helping the child handle smaller losses
through sharing their feelings when a
pet dies or when death is discussed in a
story or on television. In helping
children understand and cope with death,
remember four key concepts: Be Loving,
Be Accepting, Be Truthful and Be
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