However, I have been impressed at my kids' maturity in talking openly about death and to seemingly accept it as a part of life, even more than some adults seem to. Could this be because we talk about death (more than the average family) when I teach them about our ancestors and our family's history? Could it be because we take regular visits to cemeteries, and talk about how death is simply a part of life?
Although sorrow will always be a part of coping with the deaths of loved ones, children are not born with an inherent fear of death - it is something they learn from the people around them. Openly and regularly talking about the cycle of life and death makes the subject less taboo and less intimidating to children.
I love creating and using timelines with my children to teach family history, because they help them visualize the complete span of a person's life and the life events included within that span. Death is one of those events - an event that none of us completely understand from a spiritual perspective. But seeing death as a life event common to every person who has come before us is a powerful thing to be able to visualize, especially for a child. Understanding the universality of death and mourning doesn't necessarily make us less sad or angry when someone we love dies, but I do think it gives us a greater sense of acceptance and closure, especially if we believe in some version of a spiritual afterlife.
Our family does not share Mexican ancestry, but one of my favorite holidays that has elements which I think every family should embrace is Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Drawing on both indigenous and Catholic traditions, Dia de lost Meurtos festivities remember, celebrate, and welcome back the spirits of dead loved ones. Family members build altars (ofrendas) to honor their ancestors and visit cemeteries to clean and decorate grave sites. Though individual traditions can vary from place to place, most Día de los Muertos festivities generally take on a happy, celebratory tone, instead of a mournful one.
I am curious as to what other people think. Do you think that regularly discussing our ancestors with our children can help them process the mystery of death any better than children who don't know anything about their family history?
As always, thanks for reading! If you are interested in learning more about Día de los Muertos, check out these links below!
Kid-Friendly Resources About Día de los Muertos:
Teacher Page - MexicanSugarSkull.com
Day of the Dead - Smithsonian Latino Center
Día de los Muertos - National Geographic Society
Day of the Dead - National Geographic Kids
Day of the Dead History, Activities, and Resources - ArtIsFun.com
©2016 Emily Kowalski Schroeder