What else should parents know about how their children deal with death?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 14,128
    Parenting educator Dr. Rene Hackney talks about what else parents should know about how their children will deal with death.

    Rene Hackney

    Originally a full-time preschool teacher, Dr. Rene Hackney now holds a Master?s in school psychology and a PhD. in developmental psychology from George Mason University. She trained at the Developmental Clinic at Children?s National Medical Center and for the public schools, teaching in parenting programs at each. She has also acted as a consultant to several area preschools.

    For the last four years, Dr. Hackney has owned and lectured for Parenting Playgroups, Inc, a parenting resource center and preschool classroom in Alexandria Virginia. She has offered workshops to a wide

    range of parent, teacher and social work groups during this time.

    Workshop topics include eight hours on positive discipline techniques, five hours on early academic issues and common issues such as sibling rivalry and potty training. All workshops provide well researched lecture, in-class practice and open discussion time. Additionally she hosts a monthly parenting focused book club and fun play programs to introduce the preschool setting to young families.

    Dr. Hackney is married and has two young children of her own.

    Host: What all should parents know about how their children deal with death?

    Rene Hackney: When children are dealing with grief, or dealing with death, it's also good for parents to know that there may be a lot of regression in behaviors. Dealing with a death is just like dealing with any other life stressor that you may see regression; you may see a lot of testing of limits, or children acting out, having temper tantrums more often, just because that stressor is happening. You may also though on the other side get a child who really is well behaved, super well behaved, that though is still isn t a very good sign. It means that they are feeling a sense of pressure, maybe they feel a sense of guilt and so, recognizing that as a parent and knowing that child needs to talk about it and get it out.

    It's also important to cross ages for parents to know that they should avoid using euphemisms. When parents say things like, oh it's like a deep sleep, or oh they are just resting, it may really scare children about sleeping, you may develop sleep problems, where you didn t have them before or parent who says well yes we lost Uncle Johnny. Saying that somebody is lost, that euphemism, it may give comfort to the parents because they are not speaking directly, about death before a young child that can be very scary, they may think well, I might get lost, and if I get lost does that what that means. So, you want to be as direct as you can and as honest as can with the language but very small. It's also good to know that there are lot of good books on the market. If you go to a children s book store, there is a Whisper in the Woods, there are several books about grandparents, or about pets, when pets pass on, that can help children in dealing with death. It may also be helpful for parents to realize, when children do ask questions about death, but they really are looking for a sense of security and safety themselves. So, when a child comes over and says, Mommy, are you going to die? The very first thing, parent should answer with is, I plan to be here a long time, there will always be someone to take care of you, you are safe, your family is safe. So, it's giving them that reassurance, before you answer the question. It is also a good practice at any age to allow children to have small experiences with death. That I have been told is the good thing about goldfish, you buy goldfish and two weeks later, three weeks later, at least one of them is going to die and children can have small experiences. For parents who worry about that and they shield their children, they replace the goldfish or they don t tell them about the goldfish. It means that their first experience with death might be, an uncle or an aunt or a grandparent, where it's much better for children to practice, with smaller things. We have that ourselves, where we had got a baby hamster and within a day that baby hamster apparently had died of stress, which the pet store thought was very common, but my husband was so worried he said, We can't let the children see this, we have to hide this. But it really opened the door for them to ask a lot of questions about death, and we had a lot of open conversations that day, before we had a nice little burial service for the hamsters. So, allowing for those experiences helps children to be able to manage and cope.