Help children face life, death with composure

Ms Clara Chow's column ("A young boy afraid of death"; Monday) set me thinking about how today's parents bring up their children.

In this age of technology, where parents have to ensure that their children are aware of the facts of life, such as the birds and the bees, another matter to be tackled has arisen - thanatophobia, the fear of death.

While birth brings joy, death brings sorrow and grief.

This can create complicated emotions for an observant child, as Ms Chow discusses in her column, with reference to her 10-year-old son, who had become plagued by thoughts about the end of existence.

Philosophy writer Gary Hayden says the viewing of cherry blossoms cultivates our appreciation for life for a brief time ("'Relish each day the joy of survival'"; Tuesday).

Beauty, like life, is fragile.

How can the fleeting beauty of life be understood by a 10-year-old?

How can the pain of being separated because of death be explained?

On television, children see death happening, through visuals of natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

How do they view them? In a detached manner?

It will be worth watching and studying how a child reacts after viewing death up close, such as in the death of a pet he loves.

Will he become paranoid? Or will he take it as an event he has no control over? Will he not be bothered about it after some time?

Death is a certainty. It is better to expose this truth to the young, instead of hiding it.

Parents have to keep an eye on their child when a death happens in the household and try to check his reaction.

There is a lack of communication these days. Where an issue is a delicate or embarrassing one, there is a tendency to keep silent.

What will the child do?

If he is old enough, he will try to satisfy his curiosity by visiting websites, but he might keep his thoughts to himself.

His parents might think he is too innocent to understand anything.

But children should get the moral and emotional support from their parents or other elders to cultivate an attitude to face life and death with composure.

Anandi Ramanathan (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2016, with the headline 'Help children face life, death with composure'. Print Edition | Subscribe