By A. R. Johnson
Your four-year-old asks, “Are you going to die?”
Should you tell the truth -- explain about life and death?
“Absolutely not,” concludes
University social work instructor Dee
Barclift. “A child could better reason with a four-eyed monster coming to eat
him than with the death of a loved one.”
What should parents and guardians do then? According to Barclift, "the
first priority to establish with a child of any age is to let them know that
they are safe.” And, if you’re dealing with a much younger child –less than
seven— you simply say “No.”
According to the instructor, young children cannot understand the concept
of life and death. Although some children develop reasoning and coping skills
sooner than others, Mrs. Barclift said this depends upon the
So, how do children deal with deadly airplane crashes and other news?
According to JSU child specialist Jonathan Adams, instructor of social
work, news of death "causes a lot of insecurities because we all want to know
what to expect. Expectations give us security.
"Children don’t know what to expect, and when they’re in an environment
where they might not be receiving any nurturing, then in those situations
[learning about death] adds to their insecurities. It also, in turn, affects
their ability to form relationships and connections between their family and
members of society.”
When these walls of security are torn down, it causes a, “crack in their
foundation,” says Mr. Adams, “Unless you repair that damage and get some
professional help to fix these issues, a person can lose most, if not all,
He said children then have a very natural need to feel safe.
According to Adams, children have what social
workers call a cycle of need. This model demonstrates that human needs are met
through repetition and intervention that ultimately should result in relaxation
and security. When needs are not met, a “crack in their foundation”
Along with needing to feel secure, children need to understand how the
A child who asks his father if he’s going to die has the need to
understand that he will never be abandoned; that he’s safe. In time, he’ll come
to understand that everyone dies and that things change. Helping a child feel
secure will help guide him from one change to the next, according to
For further information, contact Dee Barclift at (256) 782-5738 or
email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jonathan Adams is available at
(256) 782-5338 or email@example.com.