"When my mother passed away after an accident, I found it very difficult to deal with the loss. But even more baffling is the task of explaining this loss to my three year old daughter. Riya had been very close to her grandmother, especially because my mother used to take care of her in the absence of me and my wife; we both have full time jobs and relied on ma to take care of Riya. I do not really know how to explain the concept of death to Riya. I tried the 'God took her away' line, but Riya keeps asking me when will Dadi come back home! What should I do?"
Sanjeev is not alone in this dilemma. Most of us are at loggerheads when it comes to discussing the issue of death with our children. But the fact is that our children already know more than we think. They see dead birds and animals in real life and also on the television. They may not fully comprehend the issue of death, but they know something about it. If you avoid talking about death, or anything else that's disturbing, your chldren will also learn avoidance and may not open up about their feelings with you. So it s best to have a frank and open talk about death. This becomes even more important when a loved one has passed away, or when your child witnesses disturbing news like terrorist acts on the TV.
How you talk about death and how much you reveal should really depend on the age of your child. A toddler watches Mickey mouse being run over by a truck, but gettng up and walking about within minutes. So death is reversble and temporary in their eyes. It is your job to explain the finality of it. Older children understand the finality of it, but they still have difficulty in accepting it if there is a death in the family. Ths is when you should think about having your child meet a child psychologst for help in dealing with this.
There is no right or wrong approach to broach the topic. But you need not get nto much detail, especially if you have younger chldren. Try to keep them away from graphic images as they tend to get affected more than we can imagine. Do not shy away from the death talk because death is a reality of life and your kids need to know about it.