Stories of meningitis, Ebola viruses, e-coli bacteria, Africanized killer bees and HIV are all over the news. Such news of sickness and disease can be very frightening for your child. While the reality is these types of reports focus on very dangerous issues, they probably have very little consequence for your child. Let your child know the realities of these diseases and how to avoid risk factors. This may take additional research, but if you are able to relieve your child’s anxiety, it will be worth it. For more information on sicknesses and diseases, visit www.cdc.gov.
Because HIV/AIDS is so prominent in our society, it deserves special mention. Research shows that as many as 93% of children have already heard about AIDS by the third grade. Even though they hear about it at school, on the news, or in the media, what they learn is often inaccurate and frightening. Using a news report to initiate a conversation about HIV/AIDS is a great way to find out what your child already knows about the disease and gauge how much this topic frightens them. Above all, make sure your kids understand the facts of how you get AIDS and how you don’t. You may need to research this information for yourself. Be prepared to talk about sex when you talk about HIV/AIDS. Don’t shy away from conversations about death either.
Conversations with kids about death can be extremely difficult, but they are so important. Helping children understand death may arm them with the skills they need to cope and grieve effectively when someone they love dies. Finding the right words to describe death to a young child can be challenging. Explaining the physical aspects of death can be done by simply saying “his body was so injured or so full of disease that it quit working. The doctors tried the best they could to fix him, but they just couldn’t.” Explaining the spiritual side of death depends on your religious beliefs and can be explained to children accordingly.
Children need to be assured that death is not the end—that love never dies. Just because the person is no longer living, doesn’t mean we don’t still love them.