Your life has just begun. And their parents want nothing but the best for their children: to take care of them, protect them and keep everything negative from them as much as possible. But suddenly – or after a long illness – a grandfather, a friend or a hamster “only” dies. Suddenly the parents are challenged about a topic they want to spare their offspring more time. They may be asked to answer questions that they do not answer themselves. How do you deal with such a situation? When are children old enough to deal with death? What can they even understand at any age? Theologian and director of St. Bernard Catholic Day Care Center, Christian Huber, gave recommendations and advice to parents in a lecture.
There are no comprehensive answers to this topic. Because every person and every child is different. As Huber asserts: “Children grieve differently,” often they don’t show any obvious sadness at all, and possibly a change in their behavior. “Children before the age of Kindergarten often do not understand the inevitability of death,” and often experience some form of separation pain, sometimes accompanied by a headache or stomach ache. This can be expressed, for example, in such a way that the son follows the mother until the bath mat. So parents should keep a close eye on their child and start a conversation about any abnormalities, as it may be helpful to talk to other people who are close to them. In general, according to the theologian and teacher, it is especially important in such a situation to inform the child that he or she is ready to speak.
Huber describes an experience from his daily work, not from Fürstenfeldbruck, he asserts. On Advent Monday, kids take turns reporting about their weekend experiences, whether it’s about shopping, afternoon games, or visiting grandparents. Then a child tells us that his little brother died on the weekend, and that the mood in the room suddenly changed. How do you act in such a situation? Of course, the theologian could have referred the subject to the parents and thus excluded him from the circle of children of kindergarten age. But then he probably wouldn’t be a good teacher. Instead, take up the topic and talk to the kids about it.
Make the kids feel they can ask for anything
Hooper makes it clear again that, as an adult, one must above all convey openness to young people, giving them the feeling that they are allowed to ask everything – even if one cannot give an answer to everything. “Children have a right to get answers.” Even if they’re still young, they often understand more than you give them credit for, he says.
The educator is primarily interested in preparing to speak, and not in giving the child a comprehensive answer, for example to the question of what happens after death. It is perfectly fine to call your ignorance and helplessness, but also your sadness. “Children often understand this much better than you can imagine,” the speaker assures 16 listeners.
In general, Huber advises parents to approach the topic of death preventively and develop their own attitude to it. “We feel helpless when a child’s world suddenly collapses.” In this case, it helps that at least one’s point of view is clear. Moreover, you should always make it clear to yourself that you are in an exceptional situation; You also have to be careful not to ask yourself too much. Perhaps it will look different when the hamster unfortunately dies after two and a half years of age-related causes. According to Huber’s experience, such a loss is usually bearable for adults. However, for children who can understand the scope of death from around the age of three, the world can collapse.
taut walking with instinct
It’s a tightrope walk that requires a great deal of sensitivity, which is why, in Hopper’s opinion, parents, as their closest confidants, can do better. On the one hand, making the pain more bearable through solace and rituals, but on the other hand, also allowing it as long as it continues with that person. “No one has the right to control when someone else grieves,” he said.
In his experience, even cuddling can provide relief: “Being held by a caregiver is much more than physical contact with children.” Preparing a candle as a permanently burning sign that the deceased is memorable can also be very beneficial for mourners. Creating a memorial corner in the apartment together, a memorial album, for example with photos and shared experiences, or a special memory – sometimes the deceased celebrates the birthday of a deceased person as a kind of celebration – can help to overcome grief and pain. A spiritual attitude can also provide relief in such situations, as the theologian says: “Relationships can transcend death.”