In October 1988, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. “When a child loses a parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes.” October 15 is observed annually in many countries as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. This day is observed with candle-lighting vigils and participants light candles and display them in their windows at 7:00 p.m. (local time). For more information about this Day, check here.
When tragedy strikes, it usually affects the entire family, including other children. The crisis that ensues produces a mix of strong emotions of fear, confusion, and feelings of helplessness. Addressing the worries of children can be a great challenge, yet children need reliable information. It is far better for a child to hear what is going on from a trustworthy source such as parent, than to hear rumors in the playground. As adults, we should share adequate information with our children and help them assimilate the information in terms they understand.
Children also need a sense of security, especially during such times of uncertainty and must have a place to express their feelings. Thus, an open discussion is invaluable during this time.
Below are some guidelines on to how to talk with your children:
- Allow the children to tell you what they have heard or what they think is going on.
- Tell them as much about the situation as the child is interested in knowing and capable of understanding. You do not need to provide all the details. Often the broad outlines are sufficient.
- Allow plenty of time and space for questions over the ensuing days.
- Answer all questions even if they are difficult or frightening.
- Answer all questions truthfully. Again, this doesn’t mean that you need to overwhelm the child with detail.
- Listen and respond without trying to take over or lead the conversation.
- Be willing to provide explanations over and over again. Repetition helps the child understand the complexities of the world and make him feel more secure.
- It is permissible and even advisable to say “I don’t know.”
- Encourage children to disclose what they are thinking about and feeling. Do not interpret or put words into their mouths.
- Convey the message that feelings of fear and anger which your child may have are perfectly normal and acceptable. There is no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed of these or any other feelings.
- Say something like “Many children feel this way” or “It’s fine to feel this way”.
- It is all right to share some of our own feelings with children but be careful not to overwhelm them with very strong feelings.
- Offer children constructive involvement such as writing a diary or starting a project in memory of their sibling.
- Maintaining regular routine is very helpful in creating and maintaining a sense of security.
- Parents are encouraged to seek guidance from competent mental health professionals.
- A frank discussion with children during difficult times can do a world of good!
- A talk can clear up a lot of confusion and uncertainty.
- A talk shows the child we are taking an interest in them, their thoughts and feelings.
- A talk can prevent unnecessary fears.
- A talk encourages and develops a child’s natural desire to understand the world around them.
- A talk gives them a sense of control and ability.