How can I talk to children about death and dying? | Sunday newspaper

“Your grandmother is in the hospital. She won’t live long and will die soon.” In one way or another, children are often unexpectedly confronted with the subject of “death and dying”. Often the adults find themselves in a stressful situation: they have to deal with their own thoughts and feelings and at the same time take care of the children. It is often all the more difficult for them to have a conversation with the children and young people about the latest.

Talking to children and young people about death

The conversation about death, death and grief can be prepared and practiced early in everyday life. We provide tips on how to talk about death and dying with children in your community between the ages of three and ten. The suggestions are not only suitable for people who are acutely confronted with the subject.

On the contrary, dealing with the topic early helps make the emotional world of “death and dying” appear accessible and less threatening to children. First of all, it must be pointed out that the proposals should of course be adapted to the respective level of development, interest and age. Here are the tips:

Paint pictures about death and dying

Take your time and paint a picture together. Make suggestions for your child that can be taken up depending on their mood. From “Your grandfather is going to be buried soon. Shall we draw him a picture?” to “What do you think a bone looks like? Shall we draw one?” everything is allowed. It is only important that the child specifies the action and the pace. If they do not want to respond to the proposals, they have their reasons, which must be respected.

Visit a cemetery

Walk through a cemetery with children or young people. Look at different gravestones and talk to the children about the grave decorations and/or plants. In a completely relaxed way, you can explain the difference between urn and coffin graves and talk about how a person dies and is buried. Or you ask how the children imagine death.

Read books about death and dying

How about a reading class together? There are now a number of recommended children’s books on the subject of death. For example, for younger children, “Goodbye to Grandpa Elephant” by I. Abedi & M. Cordes. Children from 5 years old can “farewell, death and grief” by M. Brockamp & P. ​​Mennen from the Ravensburger Verlag series “Why why why?” benefit. A little tip: If you know the book before you read it together, you can answer the questions that may arise in a more prepared way. For adults, for example, R. Caspers “If father is dead now, will he die?“. This book is a wonderful compass for appropriate answers to unexpected questions.

Talk about transience

You can also talk about the impermanence of our existence while taking a walk. Bent blades of grass, dead beetles or dried earthworms are a good starting point to draw the child’s attention to finitude. Sometimes the child also feels the need to bury the dead animal and organize a small funeral. Pick up the idea, because that’s how the first intellectual and emotional discussions with the subject take place.

cherish memories

The death of a pet is a good time to start a conversation with the child about that animal and the memories of it. Questions like “What is your fondest memory of the animal?” or “Should we pick a picture and hang it up?” ensure the integration of the memory of the deceased pets.

Many families also have a place where they post pictures of their loved ones. Quite randomly, it can be explained how the family relationships are – or when and under what circumstances a relative died.

Watch movies about death and dying

Children’s films are also a good way to get in touch with the subject of death and dying. These include:

  • Bambi
  • Lion King
  • Brothers Lionheart
  • Over
  • my girl
  • In a country before our time

The following applies here: It is best to watch the films together with your children or young people and pay attention to the FSK recommendation regarding age. Even when children are older, they may respond very differently to emotional scenes and may need adult classification.

Make an urn or grave

If someone close to you has died and the child comes into direct contact with the death, it is helpful to remain able to act, that is, to look together for activities that make it easier to deal with the subject.

This may mean that you and the child can design the deceased’s coffin or urn. Handprints and childish drawings for the coffin or grave provide such a good opportunity to talk about the deceased.

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