Grief Education
Children & Grief
Coping with Grief
 

How Four- to Six-Year-Old Children Cope with Grief

 

from It's Okay to Cry Guide through Grief
by Yvonne Butler Clark

Bereaved children between four and six have a limited and literal understanding of death. For a child in this age range, death may be explained in physical terms. Because thinking is very literal and bodily oriented, death may be best explained as follows:

His/her heart stopped beating and no one can make it start again. Therefore, we won't be seeing him/her move or talk anymore. We will bury the body in the ground, because (identify the person, using their name) is not able to do or say anything anymore.

Children will often note the discrepancy between burial of the body and the description of "going away" or "going to Heaven." While the young child probably can't grasp the concept, one might address the distinction as the part that we love--the part that smiled and laughed and loves us-is the part that has gone to heaven. The old, broken body is now what is in the ground.

Caretakers can facilitate therapeutic role-play by sitting with the child as he or she plays with dolls, stuffed animals, puppets, toy cars, and doll houses. Look for aggression in play and explore where the anger is focused.

 

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