Helping A Child Deal With Death and Dying: Part Two
If you’re attempting to help a child who’s dealing with death and dying, the child’s reaction may be difficult for you to understand.
Here’s what many experts say: When you tell a child something that’s traumatic, don’t expect a response right away. In addition, don’t expect an adult response from a child. “Sometimes,” says Dr. Barbara Dane, “it takes time for a child to process the information.”
Here’s what happened when a mother told her 11 year old son that her father was dying. “He just stared at me, waited a while and walked away. Only four days later was he ready to ask for more information and talk about it.”
Accepting a child’s timing and waiting can be difficult and confusing for an adult. “What’s the matter with them?” frustrated parents ask. “Why don’t they say something?” According to Dr. Dane, “Kids hear what you say and then they shut down. It’s a way to cope with shock and trauma.”
Some children, like some adults, take longer than others. Tough as it is, adults should try to be ready to respond when the child is ready to ask.
Adapted and excerpted from “How Do We Tell The Children?” by Daniel Schaeffer, Ph.D. and Christine Lyons; page 77 and page 78.