Teaching young children about death

As part of our ‘Who we are unit’ the children have been learning about basic first aid. How to tend to cuts, burns and bruises.

Today was a lesson on basic CPR.

The children had lots of questions and inevitably they veered into the afterlife.

“But what happens if you can’t get the heart to re-start?”

A great question.

Our school nurse gently explained that without blood the brain starts to die and the organs stop working.

The kids seemed happy enough with that explanation.

I’m sure there are many wonderings about the process of death and dying that were left unanswered today.

Nevertheless, I felt relieved to move away from this topic of conversation.  Death is not something we want to worry young children about so we tend to avoid the topic particularly in school where there are so many experiences and beliefs about the topic.

It will no doubt be discussed at home tonight by students with their families.

On the way home my own thoughts meandered to my own experiences with death. When one of my grandmothers died the extended family held a tangi for her. Before she was cremated, my grandmother’s body was taken to my aunty’s house for the weekend. Her casket was kept in the lounge with a family member always close by to look after her spirit before we said goodbye.

Through this process the older members of the family answered questions from the children about death on as a physical, emotional and spiritual level for younger family members. It wasn’t something to be feared or swept away but a normal part of life.

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