Early elementary age children are still trying to understand what death means and often they have confused thoughts about what death is. They may still think that death is temporary. They may also think they person who died may still feel things, such as hunger or sadness. They may want to leave things for the person who died, to help them with these feelings (such as food for if they are hungry). They also may envision the person as a ghost, angel or skeleton. They often have very blunt questions about what happens when a person dies, what changes happen to the body, etc. Providing them with age appropriate information to answer their questions is very important. Often, what a child at this age imagines is much worse than the truth. They may have very blunt questions about how the person died.
Some common reactions are:
- Dreaming about the person who died
- Blaming themselves for the death
- Being anxious or having increased fears
- Increased clinginess
- Being fretful or distressed
- May not want to go to school
- Some regressed behavior
- Increase of behavior issues
- Physical complaints
Adults can provide comfort and support to these grievers by keeping routines and normal activities going as much as possible. Allow the child to participate in memorial and/or funeral activities if the child wishes to participate. Provide consistent and normal rules and expectations – children at this age become anxious if the rules change. Allow questions and provide honest, age-appropriate answers. Encourage physical activity. Please click here to get more information on how to help young elementary children who are grieving.