Our Love. Their Courage. A Donald Berman Center
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Ask the Therapist

This month's question is answered by the Meshi School's guidance counselor Ayala Tauber.

Ayala TauberQ.. My 6-year-old son, who is wheelchair-bound, has become fixated with the subject of death ever since his grandfather died several months ago. Paradoxically, his grandfatherwas confined to a wheelchair during his final years, and I'm sure this has prompted my son to fear his own death.

A. It’s natural for a 6-year-old to become frightened when he experiencesthe death of someone close, but in your son’s case, the fearmay be compounded by the connection he’s made between his grandfather and himself. Since your son is not yet mature enough to comprehend the concept of death, he may conjure up his own explanations and anxieties that are even more painful than reality. Thus it’s essential for you to help your child face this subject. Remember: someone who doesn’t understand the meaning of death is fearful. And someone who does not understand it completely is even more terrified.

As parents, we must answer any questions that are troubling the child—using simple language, on his own level. Phrases like, “Usually old people die, not young people,” may help, taking care to explain the difference between the reasons that he and Grandpa were in wheelchairs. It’s ironic that understanding what causes death to be universal and unavoidable is what enables a child to become calm.

Ayala Tauber is an experienced special education teacher and guidance counselor. She joined the Meshi School staff five years ago.

To submit a question to a Meshi therapist, click here

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