When Explaining Death to Young Kids, We Must First Understand How They Grieve
“If I don’t get older soon, I’m never going to die and get to see Grandpa again.” Those words stopped me cold one afternoon on a regular Tuesday drive with my 5-year-old son. We’d been talking about nothing, or so I thought, as he was absorbed in his standard rapid-fire line of questioning. “How many days until my next birthday?” he asked. I was busy thinking about the million things that needed tending to that day so I dismissed him quickly, “It was just your birthday. Not for a long time.”
It is important to understand how your child is processing their grief. “Children don’t always verbalize or feel safe enough to ask questions about their feelings,” Jeanette Sawyer Cohen, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at New York Medical College and co-founder of Everyday Parenting Psychology, LLC explains. Being able to determine if their feelings of grief are driving “fight or flight” behavior in your child is critical.
NYMC Faculty: Jeanette Sawyer Cohen, Ph.D., Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences