Friday Two Cents: Helping Children Deal With Death


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This past week I finally finished my two-year program to get my BAS degree in Early Childhood Education. YAAAY!! Yet I do not want to talk about the degree program but the final subject. We had a final in class presentation for the final class with various topics on teaching and caring for children. I did literacy with a partner and there were also ELECT, ADHD and Nature curriculums, yet the presentations that stood out were the other three presentations. These were on helping children deal with the trauma of death and dealing with a thermal disease.

The biggest questions were “How do you talk to children about death?” or “How do you help them deal with a terminal disease or someone they know with a terminal disease?” These made me think about situations that happened to me with children under my care. I have had children who lost parents, uncles, aunts or grandparents and with each incident I let the child take the lead. I would always be there for them in whatever capacity they needed.

I even had a couple of children who had to deal with cancer. This I can tell you was very difficult. I found that the difficult part was with my own emotions. My first instinct is to protect the child but when there is nothing you can do I just fell back on trying to help them understand. I found that being honest with them, to the level of their understanding, is the best. Even when talking with other children about the child with the disease, honesty, limited by their understanding and privacy of the child, is the best. It turns out that, it is all you can do.

This topic was an interesting one but I began to think about my own situation. My parents are not getting any younger and I know that I will have to deal with the eventuality of them passing on. Yet the first thing I began thinking was not of my well-being but that of my nieces. They are very young and they love their nana and nanu (grandma and grandpa) and my first instincts are to protect them for the hurt that it will bring. Even their grandparents on my brother-in-laws side are of advanced years as well and I know this topic will eventually come up.

Stock Photo from 123RF

Yet I know that as difficult as it is to deal with the loss of a loved one, everyone must deal with it. The one constant in the presentations is to be honest and use language appropriate to the child’s level of understanding. You have to use the appropriate words with children. Words such as “died” and “dead” are all right but “gone”, “passing away” or “lost” may send a message that might confuse the child. They may think that the person might come back. Saying and explaining that “dead”, means that the body has stopped working and that there is no medicine or anything else that will make it work again. You must reassure the child that the body feels no pain, fear or hunger.

I know this is a heavy subject but it truly made me think this week. It made me think, life is precious. That there truly is life in every breath and we must enjoy every moment and everyone within our lives.

At the school they are having a fun fair for the children and I was thinking of not going, but I changed my mind. This might be the last chance I get to see these children and parents in an informal setting because in September I will be attending teacher’s college full-time. I will be leaving this school for a new adventure but I should enjoy every moment I can with these people. For who knows when our paths may cross again, but until that time I will try to make every moment count.

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