CHILDREN’S UNDERSTANDING AND REACTION TO DEATH ACCORDING TO AGE
(This may be used with various groups and individuals)
Children’s understanding and reaction to death will depend on their age and their developmental stage. The following are guides only as children will differ in their reactions and grasp of events for a range of reasons other than age alone.
AGES 9 – 12 YEARS
Understand the finality and universality of death
Awareness of their own mortality and may worry about their own death
May display psychosomatic symptoms i.e. physical complaints like tummy aches
May wish to stay at home close to parents
May display anger.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
- Dispel fears about their own health or the health of other loved ones by offering reassurance
- Encourage them to go to school
- Allow them to express their anger, offering appropriate ways to do so.
Fully understand the finality, universality and inevitability of death. Their experience of death is similar to adults May have a range of feelings: guilt, regret, anger, loneliness etc.
Death adds to the already confused array of emotions experienced by adolescents May appear to not care about the death
May seek support outside of the family.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
- Offer them time to listen
- Allow them to express their grief in their own way
- Be prepared for mood swings
- Don’t feel left out if they seem to value their friends more than their parents
- Children’s use of social media should be monitored and supported by parents.
If parents are grieving themselves, they may be emotionally unable to support their other children. In this instance, another supportive adult in the child’s life, e.g. other family members, friends, neighbours may need to offer emotional support.
It should be remembered that for children with special educational needs, their understanding of what has happened will be in line with their developmental age.