Speaking about death or a health decline can become a complex issue to discuss. So many emotions are connected, and it may not be an easy conversation to navigate. This can become difficult to have with children who may not be able to understand the finality of death.
Children are observant and perceptive. While they may not have all the information or emotional capacity to understand everything around them, especially during such sensitive times, they know enough to see that something is going on. The best way to address emotions and what those emotions can turn into action would be by talking with them.
People often wonder, “When is the right time to tell a child about this?” The right time does not necessarily exist. It is a difficult subject for all involved. As adults, finding books and children’s movies can start the conversation in helping them understand and allowing quality and meaningful time with their loved one.
Determine What They Know.
Find out how much the child actually knows. Have they noticed anything different about their loved ones? How do they feel about it? The best place to start is usually wherever the child is already. Kids talk to one another, and the chances are high that if one of their friends has experienced something similar, they have an idea about it. But it’s different when it’s happening to them.
Ask them what they know about the ill loved one and go from there. This conversation may or may not be difficult for you personally. That’s why it’s best to start with what they know, think, and feel.
Fill in the Blanks.
Once you know how much they know, break the news gently. When you tell them about that person’s declining health or death you must speak in clear and straightforward words. Having additional support in the room can also be helpful for the adult to begin the difficult conversation.
Depending on their relationship with the person, you should also put emotion and empathy into your words. It might be hard for them to understand that, after some time, they will no longer see that person physically anymore. Do not expect the conversation to be finished in one sitting. What’s important is that they can absorb and understand what you’re explaining. If it gets to be too much, change the topic and try again tomorrow.
Give Them Time with Their Loved One.
After any conversation, pause for cues from the child to avoid emotional overload. Allow them to be in the moment and ask a series of questions for understanding. Allow the child to spend time with the individual on hospice services. Whatever they have to say to your little one will be valuable in helping them cope with their absence. It’s essential to give them the space and time they need to say goodbye.
The time they spend together will be an essential part of their childhood and can help shape their attitude and behavior towards similar situations in the future and potentially even grief.
The Bottom Line
Children value honesty just as much as adults. When adults act differently when they enter the room or adults are irritated quicker than before, children sense that something is occurring. If a child has not experienced death from an immediate family member or friend, it will take your assistance to help them prepare and how to cope. While the conversation may be difficult, children can learn and grow from the experience with the guidance of the adult. As children adapt to this transition, adults can learn from it as it places them to be transparent and experience raw emotions with the child.
The passing or declining health of a loved one can be challenging for everyone involved. To provide exceptional care and a compassionate experience for your loved ones, consider hiring professionals. Golden Rule Hospice provides hospice care at home to 15 counties surrounding the metro-Atlanta area. We operate by the ‘golden rule’ providing the best possible care for your loved ones comfortably. To know more about our services, you can contact us at (470) 395-6567.