This is a bit of an emotive subject for everyone isn’t it? Its hard when children ask questions you don’t know how to answer or you know they won’t understand the answer to. So hard!
Reuben found a picture of my father the other day while we were bringing down the Christmas decorations (he passed away before Reuben was born) and started asking questions. It went a little something like this:
“Mummy, who’s that?”, “That’s a picture of my Daddy sweetheart.”…
“Your Daddy? Like my Daddy?”, “Yes, everyone has a Mummy and a Daddy”
and then… “Where is your Daddy, Mama?”
It pulled me up a bit short if I tell the truth, I thought I would have so much longer before this cropped up! So I went with my instinct and told him the truth (albeit a watered down version).
“My Daddy isn’t here anymore sweet pea, he passed away. That means he’s not with us anymore, we don’t see him, but he still watches over us up in the sky (I’m not too sure I want to introduce any religious context into anything yet or maybe even at all) to make sure we are ok.” And of course I was gifted for my generously honest answer with the dreaded “Why?”.
So I took the same approach and told him that everything that lives must eventually die. It is what we call the circle of life, and it isn’t something we should be afraid of because it is normal. Was I right? Should I have changed tact and moved onto something else?
It’s such a difficult topic to help children understand. I have come across several books that I think would be great for helping children to understand the concept of life and death but the book that really caught my eye was Water Bugs and Dragonfiles: Explaining Death to Young Children by Doris Stickney. I think that the simple writing makes it easy for a very complicated topic to be understood by a child, but also the images are engaging and fun so they don’t create a depressing story that will leave you feeling sad. The storyline of the water bug becoming a dragon fly makes it easy for a child to grasp why deceased person is no longer here to see.
I think I will be getting a copy of this for Reuben come spring, and we will maybe follow up with a little visit to a local wildlife pond where we can take a net and chat a bit more and have a picnic.
If anyone has recently suffered the loss of a relative, especially at this time of year when family would usually be around for a visit, I truly hope that you invest in a copy of this book for your kids if they are struggling to understand and that it helps them wrap their head around this really difficult topic!