How to die easily 1

Children's view of death

Dr. Sven Gottschling has learned from his work as a palliative medicine specialist how important it is to address children not only openly, but also in an age-appropriate manner. Because how death is perceived depends on the age of the child.

Children under 3 years: death means "not being there"

For children under three years of age, death is incomprehensible. It is synonymous with a temporary absence. The finality is not yet cognitively grasped. Of course, however, children realize the changes associated with death. They react to this with behavioral changes in terms of sleeping or eating habits.

Fear, anger, and frustration also occur. Other typical behavior patterns are waiting and searching, as children of this age cannot differentiate whether the mother is not there because she is still working or because she has died.

Children 3 to 6 years old: death as a temporary condition

Between the ages of three and six, children develop their first vague ideas about death. However, death is still a temporary condition for them. It is associated with darkness and immobility.

An essential point: death is always the death of others. It is not yet possible to establish a relationship with one's own person, even if children of this age are often quite impartial and very interested in exploring death.

On the other hand, the confusion and upset in the case of actually experienced losses is often very great. It is not uncommon for these children to experience a regression of behavior: For example, a previously dry child can rewet it.

Children between 6 and 9 years of age: death as punishment

Schoolchildren begin to grasp the finality of death. However, there is still a lack of comprehension. Death is often personified. And it is often seen as a punishment.

For the first time, references to one's own person are made. Reaction patterns consisting of fear of loss and separation as well as a mixture of reality and fantasy characterize the behavior of this age group. In addition, the six to nine year olds show a keen interest and a certain fascination with the subject of death.

Children between 10 and 14 years: Realistic death concept

During puberty, children understand that death is something final, something final. This is where the questions of meaning arise: "What is the meaning of your own life?" or "Is there life after death?".

It is not uncommon for children of this age to develop so-called somatoform disorders with severe losses: for example pain, gastrointestinal complaints or pseudoneurological symptoms. So the children react physically to the psychological stress.

Death shouldn't be a taboo

For the palliative care specialist Sven Gottschling's day-to-day work, this means that the parents must always be informed in the presence of the terminally ill child. It is worse for children when they are talked about and not with them. He also advises adults not to make the subjects of death and dying taboo.

When he talks about dying to his little patients for the first time, he asks what they know about it so that they can build on it. He is sometimes surprised by the reactions he then receives: death is often less threatening for children than for adults. So it can happen that dying children comfort their parents.