When do children develop a mature understanding of death?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 18,722
    Parenting educator Dr. Rene Hackney talks about when children develop a mature understanding of 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: When do children develop a mature understanding of death?

    Rene Hackney: Somewhere from six to nine years old, children start to realize that death is permanent, that death once someone dies, they don't come back. They start to understand that non-functionality, that when the heart stops, it s not going to start again. They also start to understand that, there are more concrete reasons, less the artificial and magical thinking, more that a person might get hit by a car or a person might be sick and die.

    So, they start to understand those more external causes of death. As children are in that age range from six to nine years old, it s also good to know that they may become very curious about the body issues of death, the decomposition, what happens to the body after it's buried, or what embalming is all about. Now for a parent of a child, who is six to nine years old, this may be a difficult part of the process because if you are a parent and you have just went to a funeral of someone dead was close to the family and you have got a seven year old, they may come up a day or two later and say, What does their skin look like now? and that s really horrid for someone who is grieving, but if you can as a parent understand that from six to nine years old, that s what they are sorting out, that s what they are interested in, you can put it into perspective and help.