What Parents Can Do

Parents should be willing to discuss death with the child in a reassuring way. Because it is a child's lack of knowledge that triggers fear, adults should be honest with the child when someone close to the family dies. Many children believe they may have caused the death, especially if they ever had angry thoughts about the person. It is vital that parents explain this is not the case.

Many experts feel that a child should be at least five years of age before being exposed to a funeral home or funeral service—and only then if he is willing. Parents may want to describe a funeral or viewing as a way of saying good-bye to the deceased. Under no circumstances should a child be forced to touch, kiss, or even approach the coffin of the dead person.

Parents may find it helpful to discuss their own childhood fears about death, explaining that they understand how scary such fears can be.

fear of school The fear of school, also called school phobia, is not unusual in young children, especially those entering kindergarten for the first time. Such a fear may be caused by a number of different fears, so dealing with school phobia centers on finding out what is causing the problem.

Some children are not really afraid of school but of leaving home. Others are not really fearful of school but of riding the school bus, getting lost, failing, or being teased. Each of these possibilities must be examined and dealt with individually. School fears can be eased by teaming the child up with a friend who can share the bus ride or play at recess.

A child who is really afraid of leaving home needs to feel that parents are comfortable with the idea of school, and that a parent will be at home when the child leaves school.

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