Age Old Problem: Talking to Children about Getting Older
As we live in an increasingly ageing population, more and more senior adults are moving into residential care or assisted living properties. As a result, our children are also seeing their grandparents move from being able to take care of themselves on a day to day basis, to needing to be looked after constantly by family members, doctors or nurses. It can be tricky to explain to children about growing older, but there are ways in which it can be done sensitively. Here are a few hints and tips on how to talk to kids about the ageing process.
Explaining to Children About Getting Older
· Seniors are still individuals: Just because a senior is no longer able to live in their own home, it doesn’t mean that they have lost their individuality or sense of self. Encourage children to talk to their grandparents about their lives, to listen to stories from their past and to keep their social history alive. This can not only help bridge the age gap but help seniors themselves to fondly remember their own lives and share their memories. In cases in which a senior has suffered memory loss, consider making ‘Memory Books’ to share photos and stories together.
· Talking about the ageing process: If an elderly relative is sick or needs to move into assisted living for some support in looking after themselves, it’s important that it’s explained to children in a sensitive, but mature way. Talking about illness can be frightening, but it’s better to keep up good communication with children throughout than to have to try and explain what’s happened when it is too late to do anything about it. Children can be surprisingly resilient and often can deal with upsetting or traumatic information better than we think.
· Finding common ground: Talk to your children about the similarities and differences between their lives and those of their grandparents. Helping them explore the connections between then and now can really help them to understand that growing old can be a good thing and doesn’t need to be something to be scared of.
· Stereotypes regarding ageing: There are a lot of myths and stereotypes regarding the ageing process. Often times, getting your children to explore their notions of what their images and wisdom are of growing older can be a great way of breaking down the barriers and showing them that ageing is not a bad thing.