- Written by Peace Loise Mbae for KenyaKidz
Death is a taboo subject that many parents avoid discussing with their children. However, this uncomfortable topic becomes inevitable when a parent or close relative dies and failure to address it cautiously can affect kids with research saying children who don’t process the event can experience more depression, anxiety and low self-esteem in adulthood.
According to a book, Bereavement: Reactions, Consequences, and Care, the tendency to impose adult models on children has generally led to a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding about children's grieving leading to lack of care when handling children when death occurs.
“The first stage to breaking the news is finding the right moment in terms of environment, mood and make sure there are no interruptions. Find out how the child is mentally and what they probably know so as to determine how much details you are willing to disclose to them,” says psychotherapist Jason McEvoy-Edwards.
Edward says caution should be taken when breaking such sensitive information to children and depending on their age one should make sure the child understand what you are saying to them by asking questions like do you understand what I am saying to you? What do you think about what I have told you?
Although there is no such thing as the right moment, he says ensuring you are in a calm environment and in the right mood will help you hold a conversation. Ensure you are very clear.
“It is important to be as transparent as possible whether it was an illness an accident. Give the child the capacity to understand and close to the truth as possible. Depending on how religious you are you can say the parent went to heaven but emphasize that they are not coming back,” he said.
Another important aspect while breaking the news is to give the child time to process the information while you are with them. This according to Edward enables the one giving the information to be emotionally there for the child no matter how they express themselves.
Although some children do not start to grieve until a year or so passes, it important to monitor their behavior, comfort them and give the assurance that things will be alright.
It is also advisable to seek professional help from a therapist, counselor or psychologists specialized with grief. Ensure they are licensed and are members of a professional organization.