How to talk to children about death
MANILA – Many adults find it difficult to explain the death of a loved one to children, but it can and should be done, according to a parenting and relationship expert.
Maribel Dionisio of Love Institute noted how some parents and guardians tend to make up stories to shield their children from the pain of losing someone dear to them.
This, she said, will only give kids a hard time coping with death when they get older.
“Huwag niyong lokohin ‘yung bata. ‘Yung iba kasi sinasabi ay ‘nakatulog lang si Lolo o si Lola,’ o ‘mahabang biyahe ‘yan.’ Sabihin natin na namatay, nagkasakit,” Dionisio said in an interview on “Umagang Kay Ganda” on Wednesday.
The task of explaining the death of a loved one to children, however, requires some preparation, said Dionisio, who advised adults to make sure that they are emotionally stable before doing it.
She said this will avoid instances of breaking down in front of the child, who may end up feeling more confused and devastated.
“Maghagulgol ka muna, siguro mga kalahating araw kasi kung ikaw din ang pinakaepektibong taong magkukuwento sa kanila, kailangan mo munang ilabas ang luha mo at sama ng loob,” she said.
“Kasi mahirap ipaliwanag ‘to, lalo na kung [malapit sa kanya ‘yung namatay]. ‘Yung bago siya umalis ng school ay na-kiss pa niya ‘yung tatay niya, pero pagka-four ‘o clock eh may sinasabi sa’yo na kailangan mo nang umuwi at wala na ‘yung tatay mo,” she added. “Ang importante dito sino ‘yung pwedeng magsabi. Sana ‘yung kung sino man ‘yung malapit doon sa bata… ‘yung suporta napakaimportante.”
A good way of explaining the death of a loved one to children is by providing examples, said Dionisio, who suggested that parents mention how some animals and other living creatures eventually die and stop breathing.
“Ihambing natin. Kunyari baka meron silang aso noon na namatay, o mga insekto o mga bagay-bagay na buhay na namamatay, nagkakasakit. [Sabihin natin] parang ganoon din ang nangyari sa tatay o sa nanay o kung sino mang kamag-anak na ‘yon. Para meron silang larawan kung ano ang kamatayan,” she said, noting that this is particularly effective among preschoolers.
Dionisio also stressed the importance of letting the children know about the possible effects of a person’s death on the family. This as some families tend to change lifestyles when the breadwinner suddenly passes away.
“’Yung pagpapaliwanag mahalaga. [Sabihin mo] ‘Ayaw kong mangyari ito pero kailangan nating lumipat ng bahay o ng paaralan kasi ‘yung perang naiwan ay ganito lang.’ ‘Yung parang assurance that we will survive. Let’s work at it together, ika nga,” she said.
Keep things casual
Meanwhile, Dionisio said adults need not wait for a loved one to pass away before making children familiar with the concept of death.
The key, she said, is to keep things casual and light to avoid scaring them.
“Wala naman masyadong drama,” she said.
Dionisio said a great time to casually discuss death to children is during All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day this November as families visit the graves of their departed loved ones.