Parenting the Preschooler About Death and Grief
You know it is a terrible, devastating event to lose your partner. If you haven't, you can only guess and if you have it can feel as though you will never be alright again. Parenting the preschooler during this time is so hard, so sad, and it's difficult to be strong. They will be frightened and have questions, or they may be so small that they do not understand.
It is so important that you accept help during this time. You need to take care of yourself, and you may have to answer some tough questions from your preschooler. It sounds trite to read an article on it, but here are a few thoughts to help. There are no "parenting guidelines" for a time like this, only some heartfelt suggestions. Please check out the books to help children deal with death at the end of the article, as they are excellent resources.
Always Tell Them the Truth
Do you remember the scene in Forrest Gump where Sally Field tells young Forrest that "vacation" is somewhere that when you go there, you never come back? (an example of bad parenting by a well meaning adult). And refrain from telling them that their parent has gone to sleep but will never wake up. This may well be an accurate depiction of death, but chances are it will cause your child to be terrified of going to bed. Do not make them the promise that you are never going to die. My mother told me this when I was five and when she died I was really angry at her for lying to me-even though I was 39. That's some personal advice, although I have talked since to others who experienced similar circumstances.
Let Your Child Grieve
In any way they need to and for as long as they like let your children feel their emotions. If their sadness becomes profound grief-evidenced by the inability to move on after a specific length of time or the inability to participate in life-get them to a professional who is trained to help children with the loss of a loved one. Profound grief is unusual in preschoolers, however. Most children of that age are resilient as one of the gifts of innocence. Finally, when parenting the preschooler regarding death, here are a couple of titles that will assist you in helping your children go through this very difficult time.