Talking to Children About Death



James Handlon, via Flickr

Adam Navis and Robin Basselin look at an important and difficult topic for parents and other caregivers: talking to children about death.

Transcript


Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight. I'm Adam Navis.

Voice 2

And I'm Marina Santee. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1

Children know about death. They know even more than parents think. At a young age children experience situations of death. A favourite dog is killed. A funeral passes by their home. A parent dies of AIDS. A brother is killed in war. Or a government leader is murdered. Sometimes death is far away, sometimes it is close. But death is all around us.

Voice 2

Today's Spotlight is on talking to children about death. This is not an easy thing to do. But children need adults to help them understand death. They need people to listen to them. And they need people to tell them what they feel is normal.

Voice 1

It is not easy to talk to children about death. When someone dies, adults are often very sad. They can be so sad that they do not say anything to their children. They may think that their children will not understand death. Or they may be trying to protect their children from feeling sad. But every child has the right to be included in important family events. This is true even if the events are difficult.

Voice 2

It is natural to try to protect our children. And since death is a mystery, adults may not know what to say. They know they do not have all the answers. They also may not know how to answer their children's questions. But adults still have the responsibility to teach children.

Voice 1

When talking to children about death, it is fine for an adult to say, "I do not know." Dr. Earl Grollman has studied and written about talking to children about death. He says:

Voice 3

"Parents must be quiet and learn to listen to their children. They must sit down and watch them while they work and play. They must watch the way they act. They must hear the way their children's voices sound. The children should be encouraged to tell the adults how they feel about death, what they think, and what they know. Parents should let the children know that they understand what their children are trying to say. Adults should attempt to answer questions at the same level at which they are asked."

Voice 2

Children are not like adults. Children of different ages are able to understand different things. A five year old child may understand death as temporary. For example, they may see a funny character on television get hurt, but then stand up and walk away. The young child may not understand that when someone dies they cannot be seen or talked to again.

Voice 1

Between ages five and nine years old, children understand a little bit more about death. They begin to understand that death is final. They know that all living things must die. But they still do not understand that they also will some day die. It is only after age ten that most children completely understand death. At this point they know that death is final, unchangeable, and that one day they will die.

Voice 2

Hospice is an international organization that supports people when they are close to death. On the organization's website, it says:

Voice 4

"What parents say about death to their children will depend on their ages and experiences. It will also depend on the parent's own experiences, beliefs and emotions. Each situation is different. Sometimes parents will discuss death with their children because of a news report or a television program. These will be less emotional discussions. Other talks may result from a family crisis and be filled with emotions."

Voice 1

There are many things that people say to children about death. Some of these things lead to less understanding for children. It is important to avoid saying these kind of things. For example:

Voice 2

"Mother has gone on a long trip."

Voice 1

This kind of statement may lead the child to believe that his mother will return one day. Most young children do not understand time like adults do. They may think a long trip is only a day or two.

Voice 2

"God took Daddy because he loved him so much."

Voice 1

This explanation may lead a child to be angry at God. She may also wonder, "God loves me. Maybe God is coming to take me next."

Voice 2

"Death is like sleeping forever."

Voice 1

This may make a child afraid to go to sleep. They may be afraid they will not awaken.

Voice 2

"You will see Daddy in heaven some day."

Voice 1

For adults who believe in heaven, this offers a lot of peace. But the idea of heaven is difficult for children to understand. Children may think they can visit the person in heaven. For a Christian parent who believes in heaven, it may be best to say that there are many things people do not know about death, but there is one important thing we do know. Christians believe that they, like Jesus, will one day live again. Death is not the end!

What are some other good ways to talk to a child about death? First, adults can encourage children not to hold in their emotions. Sometimes children will express happy emotions. Sometimes they will express angry or sad emotions.

Voice 2

If they want to, children should be permitted to attend a funeral. But before going, parents should prepare the children. They should tell children what it will be like. And after the funeral, parents should talk to their children about their experiences. And later, after some time has passed, parents should continue to ask their children about their thoughts and feelings. But remember, the most important thing that parents can do is listen to their children.

Voice 1

We end today's Spotlight program with the words of Dr. Grollman. For parents who do not know how to begin talking to their children, he suggests.

Voice 3

"You can start by talking about the flowers. They grow in the spring and summer. Then they die away in the fall and winter season. This is the process of life. For all living things there is a time to grow, live, and then to die."

Voice 2

The writer and producer of this program was Adam Navis. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. Computer users can hear our programs, read our scripts, and see our word list on our website at http://www.Radio.English.net. This program is called "Talking to Children about Death."

Voice 1

If you have a comment or question for Spotlight you can email us. Our email address is radio@English.net. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Thank you for listening. Goodbye!

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
ahmad and houda
said on July 02, 2010

thank your Adam Navis and Marina Santee was topic wonderful and i’am learn it’s many thinks but i want ask you question are you Muslim because form see you on the the topic seems to me that are you Muslim and i hope hoping to be that i thank you from the topic and i every day follow all your topic .

see you in the topic next . bye bye

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foxnight21
said on July 03, 2010

Dear Spotligh radio,

Thanks so much for all of things you are doing to help the English lovers all over the world. I learn a lot of thing from each lesson you gave on Radio Spotlight, not only listening skills, speaking skill, but the knowledge too.
Each lesson is all your meticulous effort , from preparation to implementation.
I wish you have the life’s filled with happiness and the most important is have a good health.

Bell,

Ps: a raving fan of Spotligh radio

Adam Navis's avatar
Adam Navis
said on July 21, 2010

Dear Ahmad and houda,
Thank you for your question.  I am a Christian as are the other people involved in Spotlight.  However, I am glad that you enjoy the program.  I believe that Christians are called to care for the poor, the earth, and serve other people.  I hope that we continue to examine topics that you find interesting.
Adam

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Conny
said on July 25, 2011

As usual a very interting program, I am an Educational Psychologyst and I agree with the text. I want to improve my English, and I must confess I am very bad in listening, and I have found in Spotlight a very useful tool.
Besides all your programs have a very nice message, thanks for that. This is the first time that a wrote something, but I have followed Spothlight since more than one year, and I am fan in facebook.
Congratulations!!!

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kenhieuloilam
said on July 28, 2011

When we were children in our village in our country, we were taught about death. Death remind us to try always to live our lives well. In the life, there are many risks of leading to death. I don’t know something about my death. Nature and I are like friends. I try to live my life well. I’m happy I see everyone. I have my responsibilities and duties to complete. If my death comes close I will be afraid most.

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vukhucthienthanh
said on July 28, 2011

Death…the starting of a new live

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antoniorrpereira
said on July 31, 2011

Congraprogramatulations for more this

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antoniorrpereira
said on July 31, 2011

excuse me for this mistake

Congratulations for more this programa about the word tthe God.

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funtimes
said on September 02, 2012

Thanks for your effors…always wonderful

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Rain Bows
said on September 02, 2012

Thanks for the program.
Very helpful.I loved the final analogy about the flowers.
Greetings.
SofĂ­a Miketta,
Manta-Ecuador.