Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Dealing with a child's fear of death

Tears at bedtime has led me to do some research

I have just had a rather difficult bedtime. My eldest has been a bit wary about going back to school over the last few days. There were many possible reasons for this, which I was aware of and keeping an eye on. But, as I put her to bed this evening, another possible cause came to light.

" I don't want to go to school, I am worried"
" What about?"'
Her face turned rather quickly to full blown tears.
" I don't want you to die..............."

Not an easy one to answer. I do not want to lie to her, I can't tell her I wont ever die. She continued to get more upset as we discussed it. I said I am not going to die for a very long time and I will be very old. She says " But I dont want you to die when you are old. I dont want to die. I dont want Daddy to die. I dont want to be alone."

So, it is a mixture of fear....death and being alone. I tell her she is never alone, she has lots of family to look after her "But they are all older than you and they will all die too"

No matter what I say, it was not stopping her getting upset. I managed to calm her down by telling her I wont ever leave her, I am always in her heart. We had a laugh by closing our eyes and imagining each other doing funny things, and imagining what Daddy was doing right now on his way home from work.

I was very upset, holding the tears as she broke her heart in front of me.

Thanatophobia, or fear of death is actually quite common in children aged 4-8 years. The advice which I have researched simply says to deal with it as soon as you can, and if it persists for 6 months or more, to seek professional advice.

Other advice is not to discuss it at bedtime,but to say we will discuss it tomorrow (whoops!!)
I have always tried to be honest about death with my daughter. We have gone through a pet dying when she was a lot younger, whom she often talks about. Going to a C of E school, the idea of heaven is discussed, but I always have taken the stance that when we die, our bodies go in the ground and the person we are inside floats above the clouds. She has often asked about the graveyard near our house and I have always been as honest as I can, explaining it as best I can for a young child.
It is a rather difficult subject and fear to overcome. One can only imagine the thoughts in a young childs head when thinking about such things.

Some helpful articles are :
www.telegraph.co.uk/women/mother-tongue/11075311/Children-and-the-fear-of-death.html
http://reneevandervloodt.com/blog/how-to-address-your-childs-fear-of-death-and-dying/11/2015
www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/emotional-problems/Pages/Understanding-Childhood-Fears-and-Anxieties.aspx

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