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May 8, 1999
Helping Children Understand Death
Tip--Make a habit of talking with your children about death and your beliefs, however trivial or serious the catalyst is.On the Wings of a Butterfly, "We cannot, and should not, shield children from [death's] reality. Understanding death is a life-long process that stretches from childhood to old age. Death education begins when life begins."
Children are exposed to death in many ways:
Children are also impacted by deaths they hear about in the media and by the entertainment industry's portrayal of death in movies, TV, and video games. These situations range from the benign (plants) to the traumatic (losing a close family member), and include real experiences and pretend deaths, but all are opportunities for teaching, sharing, and loving discussion.
Tools--Dr. Marilyn Maple, author of On the Wings of a Butterfly: A Story About Life and Death, encourages parents to talk early on with their children about the natural process of dying as it relates to the continuation of life. In her book she uses a butterfly, a symbol of eternal life, to help tell the story of Lisa, a child dying of cancer. She likens Lisa's journey through life and beyond to the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. Dr. Maple urges parents to talk openly with their children about their religious beliefs of life after death and to use her story, and other good children's books on the subject, as an uplifting start for the delicate task of talking with children--and listening to them talk--about death and dying.
(See also Tip & Tool article Talking to Your Children About Death, Nov. 9, 1996 for children's age-specific concerns.)
You’ll find more practical tips you can use right now in On the Wings of a Butterfly: A Story About Life and Death by Marilyn Maple, Ph.D.
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