Without a doubt, the loss of a loved one impacts most people significantly. However, loss can have an especially profound effect on young children under the age of 5 or 6. This is especially true for young children who do not yet understand the concept of death. If you’re trying to help your children cope with the loss of a loved one, here are a few tips that will help you do just that.
A child will have a difficult time moving on from the death of a loved one if he or she does not have a good understanding of the meaning of death. Therefore, to ensure your child deals with grief in a healthy manner, you should explain death to him or her in a child’s terms.
Children who are 5 or 6 years old and younger tend to have a very literal view of the world. To help your child understand death, it is important that you explain it in the most concrete and basic terms possible.
For example, if the loved one died of old age or illness, you can explain that the loved one’s body stopped working and the doctors couldn’t do anything to fix it. If the loved one died suddenly in an accident, you can explain that a tragedy caused his or her body to stop working suddenly.
You also want to make it clear that the death of the loved one is no one’s fault. Due to misunderstanding, young children are prone to thinking that their actions or behavior somehow caused the death.
Since many young children have a difficult time grasping the concept of death, you don’t want to make things more difficult by using euphemisms.
Many parents make the mistake of telling their children that the loved one “went to sleep” or “went away.” Since young children tend to think literally rather figuratively, these euphemisms may make a child believe the loved one may come back at some point. It is also possible that these euphemisms may make a child fearful to go to sleep.
Chances are your child is far more perceptive than you think. Be as honest with your child as possible and encourage him or her to ask questions.
Of course, you may not have answers for the most difficult questions your child asks, but just do your best. You can also share with your child the spiritual beliefs you have pertaining to death. Encouraging questions will create a comfortable and open environment for you and your child. You don’t want your child to feel as if there is a “right” way to react after a death.
Sometimes, the questions young children ask about death sound deep. However, in most cases, these questions are not nearly as deep as they sound to you. Once again, this ties back to the tendency of young children to view the world literally.
If your young child asks where the loved one who has died is, chances are he or she is being literal. Therefore, your child may be satisfied with the answer that the loved one is in the cemetery. However, this would also be an opportune time to share with your child the beliefs you have about what happens after life.
Dealing with loss is hard for both adults and young children. As you attempt to process your grief, it is important that you also help your child through this difficult time. Visit us at Fairmount Funeral Home and one of our family care providers will give you the help and support you need during this emotional time.