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What Is The Emotionally Healthy Way To Teach Children About Death?

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Host Naimah Latif

Host Naimah Latif

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"Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust."  "From God We Come, To God We Return." There are a number of religious sayings that remind us of the temporary nature of physical life. But when a family member passes away, how do we express this to a small child? Some parents may say the deceased is "asleep." But seeing a loved one in a closed casket, a child will feel frightened at the thought of the person locked inside a box, not able to breath. Some people believe it is better not to take children to funerals. How do you explain death to a four year old? Do you not talk about it? How do you help a child grieve over the loss of a parent or sibling if you don't let the child attend a funeral? How do you prepare a child for the death of a terminally ill family member? Where do we say a parent or sibling who has died is gone? What does the "Heaven and Hell" concept create in the mind of a child?  Are we really helping our children get in touch with their spirituality by instilling fear of eternal punishment? Are we teaching them moral and ethical values? Or are we blocking their spiritual growth? Do some of the "New Age" philosophies about life and spirituality contradict long time religious doctrines? How do you answer a child's question about why someone died? Based on some religious teachings, will death be seen by the child as  "punishment" for being "bad"? How do we prepare children for the inevitability of the end of this life in a manner that they can comprehend? How old is old enough to discuss death with a child - three? four? five? How were YOU taught about death? At what age were you taught? How did it affect your life? What is the emotionally healthy way to teach a child about death?

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