Monthly Archives: July 2014

Ask Dr. Phelps: How do I explain death to my young children?

Guest blog column by Dr. Pam Phelps is the owner/director of the Creative Center preschool and doctor of Early Education. Her posts answer parenting questions.

Parent:

Dear Dr. Phelps,

Our dog just passed away and we aren’t sure how to explain it to our 3-year-old and 5-year-old daughters. How can we help them understand that our dog will not be coming back home without scaring them?

— Doggone in South Florida

Dr. Phelps:

Dear Doggone,

Deaths are hard for any of us to understand. Below are some tips to help children cope:

  • There are some lovely books about death that help young children.
  • Collecting pictures of the family with the dog and making a book about the experiences can be visited over and over again.
  • Discussing the gifts that the dog brought the family and what children loved about him helps also.

Children’s first experiences with death will help them with later losses so encourage them to talk. Little ones have no concept of time so they may ask where the pet is over and over again. It is a good idea not to say things like, “He went to sleep” or “He just got sick” because they can become frightened about themselves or other family members. Statements such as “his body was just old” or “his body just couldn’t work anymore” are less frightening. Here are some suggested book titles:

  • Jim’s Dog Muffins by Miriam Cohen
  • The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst
  • Lifetimes by Bryan Mellonie

Saving the little baby’s life

A Florida adoptive mother came to one of our staff members to express her concerns about a baby her adopted children’s biological mother just gave birth to. The staff member stepped in to inquire about the baby’s status and discovered that the baby was kept in the hospital with withdrawal symptoms, although both parents tested negative for drugs.The adoptive mother who had approached the staff member adopted five of the infant’s siblings after drug use and physical abuse led to parental terminations. 

After looking into the couple’s court history, the staff member discovered that both parents had been given only a single-panel drug screen for cocaine but had not been tested for other substances.

The staff member contacted LifeStream Behavioral Health Center to learn more about drug testing and learned that drug use could be hidden by taking a certain substance. As a result of the staff member’s inquiries, both parents were ordered to take a 12-panel drug screen – during a hearing to shelter the baby – and the test results led the judge to order the baby be placed with the adoptive parent of her siblings.

The staff member met repeatedly with the child protective investigator, Children’s Legal Services and the Program Administrator to monitor the infant’s status and safety, and ultimately her decisive action saved the child’s life.

This is one of many inspiring stories – we’ll be sharing more in the coming weeks and months!