|Babar is riding happily on his mother's back when...|
Shortly after this, we went to the California Science Center which was not only hosting a mummy exhibit (thus, requiring an approximate explanation of what a mummy is) but also has a rot room in which one can "examine maggots feasting on a dead organism" among other things. Well, this really was the jackpot. Our son was fascinated by the machine which, when you turn the handle, shows a time lapse video of a fluffy bunny decomposing and being consumed by maggots. Truly repulsive to me, but an endless source of questions for him. It does also show strawberries going from fresh to rotten, but a dead bunny is waaaay more interesting.
|My sweet and thoughtful boy asks the deep questions|
I know that with young children the best way to deal with "big" issues, like death and dying, is to give them straightforward information but not to give them too much. As this excellent BabyCenter.com article suggests,
Young children can't handle too much information at once. At this age, it's most helpful to explain death in terms of physical functions that have ceased, rather than launching into a complicated discussion of a particular illness: "Now that Uncle John has died, his body has stopped working. He can't walk or run, or eat or sleep or see anymore, and he doesn't feel any pain."So we try to be quite honest with our children when they ask questions, but, as Betsy Brown Braun says, we use "the drip method" of providing information. We give them a little and wait to see if they ask questions. Then we give a little more information and wait to see how they process it. For example, when my husband had his heart attack last week, I waited a day to see how long he would be away from home and then asked my sister-in-law who is a therapist specializing grief counseling, how to proceed. She said the worst thing to do is to lie to children or to use euphemisms. You never want to say to a child "Grandma went to sleep" if she actually died. All that will do is make your child scared of going to sleep. Give your children information in terms they can understand and allow them to ask as many questions as they have. In our case, I simply said Daddy was sick, he went to the hospital because he had a boo boo on his heart. When they asked what kind of boo boo, I gave them the simplest explanation of what a blood clot is that I could come up with and said that it made the blood stop getting to daddy's heart like a plug in a drain. A few more questions about blood clots and that seemed to do the trick.
|Mommy, Is Santa going to die?|
I wish magic could fix everything. I know that eventually our children have to learn about death and illness and losing people they love. It breaks my heart to imagine, and I am so incredibly grateful that they haven't yet had to learn such a huge lesson.
Have you had talks with your kids about "big" issues yet? How have you handled them? Which topics were hardest for you?
Thanks for reading!
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