If you are a caregiver who has been caring for your elderly parents in the later half of their life, they may have been spending extra time in your house. For you, caregiving may have reached the point of figuring out end of life care options. You are also figuring out paperwork and getting things in order. And, while it may be sad or difficult to discuss, death is a natural occurrence. Knowing how to talk about it, especially with young children who have formed a strong relationship with their grandparents will only help the process when your loved one does pass away.
Making sure that everyone involved in this process has some understanding of end of life will help everyone heal. Your children might ask where grandma or grandpa has gone, why they had to leave, and other tough questions. Taking time to explain the end of life process for them will ultimately help you.
End of Life Discussion with Children
Talking about death is never easy, especially when it is about your parents. Helping a child understand what dying is can be even tougher. You may think death is an “adult matter,” and refrain from explanations as a way to save your child from frightening news. However, if handled correctly, you can explain what is happening or has happened to your aging parents without scarring your children.
Discuss Death Early On
If you never explain what death is to a child, when it eventually happens, they will have zero understanding and face immense confusion. Talk about death openly with your children to give them some understanding of what it means. If your ailing parents moves in with you early, tell your children what is happening and why. Let them know what death is and how it happens. It may sound daunting, but it will save you time in the grieving process; you probably won’t want to talk about death for a while once it has happened. Keep your explanation brief. It can be as simple as explaining a sad scene in a movie, a dead bug or flower, or the death of a pet. Let them know death is final, but it doesn’t have to be sad.
Promote Healthy Relationships and Family Activites
A healthy relationship between grandparents and grandchildren can be beneficial for both parties after you explain what is happening to them at the end of life. At first, your children may be scared or uneasy, but spending more time with them will foster many memories and lift your elderly parent’s spirits. Take the time to document those memories. Take pictures and spend time as a family making scrapbooks or photo albums. It will help your children look back on grandparents they may not have been able to spend a lot of time with.
Listen to and Answer Their Questions
If your children, young or old, begin asking questions about death or what is happening to grandma and grandpa, listen to them. They may have really simple questions or in-depth ones, but they’ll appreciate you taking the time to understand what they are going through. If you have older children, they will understand the process better. But, they may have a harder time coping as they know more about the end of life process and have spent more time with their grandparents. If you notice they are having a difficult time with their grief or with the finality of death, take the time to sit down with them and talk.
If you have spent time talking with your children about the end of life process and they are still uncomfortable or have a hard time understanding, it may be beneficial to seek counseling. A therapist or counselor will know better techniques for helping young people cope with loss. This may also be a good time to inform teachers or guidance counselors at their school. If they are having a difficult time throughout the day, their teachers will be able to understand their attitude and take them for counseling if needed.
Dealing with a death in the family is never easy. When children are involved in the end of life process, it can be even harder to deal with the loss of an ailing parent or close loved one. By talking about a natural part of life early with your children and helping them form bonds and understand the lives of their grandparent, you will save yourself time and energy when going through the grieving process. Listen to your children to find which ways will help them deal with understanding end of life and loss the easiest and most comforting way.