The concept of death is one of the subjects that children are most curious about. They hear conversations about death around them, listen to death news on television, and witness various death events. They can ask questions about death from a very young age. Children’s perceptions of the concept of death differ according to their age.
Before the age of 2, they have no idea about death. After the age of 2, they begin to understand death, albeit vaguely. But death in their eyes is like a long separation or journey.
At the age of 2-5, children hear about death. They perceive the meaning of death as the inability to breathe or the beating of the heart. This shows that they do not fully grasp the meaning of death. Children tell how the deceased ate, how they walked on the grave, etc. they wonder.
death for a 3-4 year old child; This applies not only to the living, but also to the inanimate. Death is considered a long journey.
Young children may use the word death without knowing the exact meaning of it. In this period, they have difficulty in understanding abstract explanations about death. At this age, children think on a concrete level. Although the concept of death is not fully developed in young children, it is natural to expect an extreme reaction to losing a loved one at this age. Even two-year-olds can express their understanding that the person they love no longer exists.
At the age of five, death can be synonymous with a long sleep, and it slowly starts to get scary. The child often asks if the mother and father will die. If the mother has explained that death is like sleep in order to calm down, some children may be afraid of going to bed and falling asleep. Again at this age, children ask very difficult questions about burial: These are questions about how the dead can move under the ground, what they eat and drink, how they breathe. These questions prove that children have a hard time accepting the idea that death is an end, an ending that is irreversible.
At the age of five or six, children begin to realize that there is a relationship between death and sickness and old age. They think that all old and gray-haired people will die soon. Still, the idea that one can come back from death as if waking up from sleep is dominant. In children’s fairy tales such as Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, the dead are resurrected with a kiss. In cartoons, swallowed creatures come out alive; oppressed, fallen heroes rise to their feet. In fairy tales and stories, bad guys always die. Death is always shown as a punishment for bad people. Thus, the child sees death as distant from himself.
How Can We Explain Death to Children?
Before children encounter the event of death, the concept of death should develop in a healthy way at the age level. Thus, they can be made to perceive that death is a part of life.
Death should not be told indirectly to the child, and realistic explanations should be given as much as possible.
It can be explained in simple language that death is the end of life and that the deceased will no longer come. It should be explained in an age-appropriate language that the deceased will no longer be with us, that he will no longer breathe, that he will not eat, in short, that his bodily functions are no longer present.
Before the age of 6, children have difficulty understanding religious concepts. It should not be said that Allah took the deceased person with him because he loved them very much. Such an explanation may cause the child to think that all loved ones may die and to experience anxiety.
Explaining death by analogy with sleep may lead to the development of the idea that he may die during sleep, especially in young children, and as a result, to have sleep problems.
Comparing death to a long journey, making explanations because he is sick or old, causes the child to fear travels, diseases and aging.
When the child encounters death in the immediate environment, the real reason must be told.
The death of a pet may be the best time to describe the concept of death. In such a case, the whole family expresses their sadness at this death, and the animal can be removed from the house with a ceremony. Not replacing the deceased with a new animal helps the child understand the concept of death.
What can be done when a child loses a relative?
When children lose a loved one, they may seem unaffected because they do not react like adults. Hearing the news of death, the child cannot believe this death and thinks that the deceased will come back. He begins to feel anger towards both the situation and the deceased. He gradually realizes that he will never see the deceased person again, and he begins to feel unhappiness and sadness. In time, he gets used to this situation and accepts the absence of the deceased.
During this period, children feel lonely and need someone who can support them. However, they may experience this emotional state over and over again later in life. In order for children to develop in a healthy way in the future, they need to explain this period in a healthy way.
This must be told to the child who has lost a loved one.
The person whom he loves, trusts and feels closest to should give the news of his death to the child. In case of death of one of the parents; it is most appropriate for this person to be the other parent.
It should be avoided to use sentences such as “he has now fallen into a deep sleep or has gone on a long journey”.
The death event should be described as concretely as possible. A statement such as “death means that a person no longer breathes, does not eat, does not go to the bathroom and does not grow” can be made.
When there is a death event, children are usually tried to be removed from the house, this is not a healthy approach. Children can attend the funeral according to their wishes. However, in a situation where there is intense mourning, screams and riots at home, the child can be kept in a relative’s house in the first days, this place should not be too far from home.
Children should never be told not to cry or be sad. Children should be given the opportunity to experience their feelings and express their thoughts.
The questions asked by the child about the incident must be answered and the correct answers must be tried to be given as much as possible.
Anger, aggression, infantile attitudes, etc., in the child who lost a relative. visible. It should be known that this situation is temporary, and the child should be treated with understanding and patience.
The child needs physical closeness as well as emotional support, it is very important to hug the child, hold his hand and be with him.
Children should be allowed to express their sadness through activities such as playing games, painting and sports.