During the pandemic, more families are spending time in nature where people often encounter death. After all, it is inevitable, but here is my question.
Do you avoid talking about it with children because you are uncomfortable? Or do you see it as a teaching/learning opportunity?
In this article, I’ll share how to talk about death in nature with children.
How often do we encounter death in nature?
Some of you may be wondering how often we encounter death in nature. Surprisingly, it happens quite regularly when we are connected with nature.
We have crossed paths with a deer, a baby seal, fish, raccoons, birds, mice, many insects, trees, etc. When we live being a part of nature, we tend to encounter death more often.
Story of a dead deer
A few years ago, I was working (as a practicum student) at a daycare in the city. Before we left for a morning walk, an educator informed me about a dead deer on a curb on a busy road. What she told me was to avoid the topic by looking away.
Of course, I agreed, but I started questioning myself when we started walking. A couple of children had already walked by, so they knew about the deer.
What would you do when children start asking questions? Like the educator, would you cover their eyes or divert their attention to something completely different? Or see it as a learning opportunity?
How to talk about death in nature
A few of you may not be comfortable talking about death with children. Again, when you are in nature, you tend to notice things around you more. You will most likely run into a bad situation sooner or later. These next three tips will help you have a meaningful and educational conversation.
Tip 1: Respect & acknowledge feelings
Many children already know how to respect deceased animals and insects. For instance, when we found a baby seal on the beach, the children silently stood away from its body.
What we want is to show our respect, and acknowledge their feelings. Many of them are not yet good at expressing their emotions. As parents, we need to be role models by talking about it: they do what they see.
Tip 2: Have an open conversation
As you know, children are curious and they want to know why and how these things happen. They are trying to figure out their own world. So talking about death helps them understand the relationship between the life cycle and nature. After all, we are a part of nature.
Here’s what you can do. Instead of us telling children what happened, ask them for their theory. Simple questions like “What happened to the bumblebee?” or “How did it die?” make them think and investigate (a very important skill). Be open and listen to them for a better understanding.
Sometimes it expands to a discussion on the life cycle and environmental issues.
Tip 3: Say goodbye at a funeral
Like in another article on compassion, many children are empathetic. For instance, I’ve seen many children placing leaves, flowers, food, and even pillows in a grave for insects and animals so they can rest in peace.
Saying goodbye provides closure for death and the beginning of new life. We gain gratitude and appreciation for life.
Sometimes, talking about death with children is not easy. But it can be meaningful and beneficial for their learning.
Can you imagine trying to complete a puzzle but a piece is missing?!?!
Be present at the moment, so you can help your children figure out their own world.