How should the grieving process in children be managed after the earthquake?

Instructor See. According to Zeynep Deniz Seven, children who hear the concept of death often begin the process of creating a healthy schema in their mind about the concept of death. Noting that if the death schema cannot be made conscious by expert educators, children try to create this schema with their own experiences, media and cartoons, Seven said, “This situation can become a major factor that negatively affects their mental health through their anxiety and fears.”

Seven shared how children understand the concept of death by age group, making the following statements:

“Young children have a hard time understanding the concept of death.

babies 0-2 years old; They cannot understand that their relatives have died, but they feel their absence and the grief of those around them. This is how they respond to the people around them.

children 3-5 years old; Because they cannot think abstractly, they cannot fully perceive death. Trying to understand that all bodily functions have stopped, “Who feeds him in the grave?” “how to drink water?” They can ask questions like

6-9 years is a transitional age in understanding the concept of death. death of children; They are beginning to understand it as a cessation of biological functions and an end.”

Stating that children often react to death such as shock, disbelief, fear, objection, numbness or even laughter, Seven listed how children reacted to the death of those around them with the following expressions:

“Research has identified 12 different response behaviors to death. The child’s reactions to death vary according to the child’s age, the degree of closeness to the deceased, the nature of the child’s relationship with the deceased, and the cause of death.

Anxiety: Children can show that they fear what they have experienced and the death of a loved one by constantly wanting to be with their trusted parent(s) and have physical contact. They may worry if they don’t see the adult they trust, they may want to sleep with them at night, they may want to leave the lights on. They may also not want to leave their toys, blankets, and pillows behind so they feel more secure.

Difficulty sleeping: It can be seen very commonly. If sleep is used to describe death, the child may be afraid to sleep. For example, if death is explained as “he fell into a long sleep that he can’t wake up,” the child may be afraid to go to sleep. Similarly, if the child has experienced a traumatic event such as an earthquake while sleeping, this also causes the child to be afraid of sleeping. Children who cannot mourn the death during the day may therefore have many dreams and nightmares, wake up at night, cry, moan or talk in their sleep.

Sadness and longing: In general, children try to keep emotions such as sadness and longing to themselves because they can’t handle difficult emotions as well as adults. This does not mean that children are not upset or miss their loved ones. Because children have a shorter period of grief than adults, adults may think that children are not as upset as they are. This is a completely false belief. Children are sad and longing. This situation can continue for many years. Young children are lonelier than adults when dealing with the grieving situation because they are unaware of cultural grieving practices.

Guilt: Some children feel responsible for their death. They may feel responsible for what they do or what they think. That these feelings and thoughts are wrong must be explained to the child in an appropriate language. Associating the earthquake with a child’s mistake or situation can lead to lifelong guilt.”
Seven explains how to tell the child that a family member has died and makes the following statements:

– The news of his death should be announced soon. Since children are better able to cope with the problems of their family members, it would be more appropriate for a family member close to the child to report the news of the death.

– The person who will pass on the death notice must be open and honest. He needs to focus on what he has to say. The child’s questions must be answered clearly and accurately.

– Roundabouts, exaggerations, unnecessary associations or reasoning and abstract statements should be avoided. This can be confusing and misleading for children.

– The comparison of death with sleep or a journey confuses the child. Because the child thinks that someone who sleeps wakes up, someone who goes on a journey comes back. That death is the end of life and that a dying person never will
It is necessary to explain in a language suitable for the child that he will not come back. It is also necessary to explain that all bodily functions of the deceased have stopped, that is, he will not be able to breathe, eat or play.

– Adults have to listen very carefully to children to understand how children feel about death. Children need to be sensitive to the concerns behind the questions they ask and comfort them with the answers they give.”
Seven summed up the grieving child approach with the following statements:

– The death of the person to whom the baby is attached during the period of 0-2 years, which is important for attachment, can cause significant emotional problems for the baby. In such a situation, the introduction of an adult to the baby’s life, who can reassure the baby and meet the baby’s needs in a timely and appropriate manner, helps the baby to get through this period more easily.

– Children should be helped to recognize their emotions, name their emotions and distinguish their emotions. Children should be encouraged to express their feelings openly. At the same time, the adult’s sharing of his own feelings and thoughts with the child will be supportive in understanding the child’s feelings and thoughts.

– Children in mourning can ask the same questions over and over again. It is necessary to answer the questions patiently.

– The child shows with his pictures and games the situations that he cannot express with language. For this reason, the ground should be prepared for the child to take pictures and play games about what happened. The child can draw or play the same things over and over. This will help the child relax.

– Sending the child to another place during this period can cause great social and emotional problems. Since the child does not see the dying process, it can be more difficult to understand and accept death. If it is possible to stay with the people closest to the child during this period, it is important that he continues his routine to get through this period in a healthier way. For this reason, the child should be able to go to kindergarten or school as soon as possible.

– The necessary steps must be taken to normalize as soon as possible; The school must implement the standardization process programmatically.”

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