Talking with young children about death

January 9, 2013

A British sitcom video clip helps young children understand death
How do you talk to children about the death of a teacher, classmate, other friend, or relative? This two-minute video clip shows the way it was handled on a popular BBC television program called simply Rev.  It centers around the daily life of a Church of England vicar serving an inner-city church in London and working with its associated school. Although the program is a sitcom, Rev. also deals with serious subjects. One episode featured a popular new teacher, Matthew Feld, who had been raised Catholic but had left faith entirely and liked to argue with the vicar, ridiculing any belief that wasn’t evidence-based and scientifically proven. When this teacher was killed in a bicycling accident, the vicar had to break the news to the school assembly. Our Link of the Day video clip (from Series 2, Episode 4) shows how the vicar informed the children.

For more about the metaphor the vicar uses, see Doris Stickney’s 1982 children’s book, Waterbugs & Dragonflies: Explaining Death to Young Children which Stikney wrote to comfort children in her neighborhood after one of their young friends died.

(The brief video clip from Rev. first came to my attention when it was featured with virtually no comment on the personal blog of Cathleen Falsani.  After watching it, my curiosity then led me to do some research on the video’s backstory that I’ve included above. Cathleen Falsani recently left her position as web editor and director of new media at Sojourners but continues to be a featured writer there, working from her home in California.  When her father died this past Thanksgiving week, she published a moving essay about the surprising spiritual peace that enveloped her after being informed of his death.)

Letha Dawson Scanzoni
Letha Dawson Scanzoni is an independent scholar, writer, and editor. In 1978, she and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott wrote Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?, one of the earliest books urging evangelical Christians to rethink their views on homosexuality (updated edition, 1994, HarperOne). More recently, Letha coauthored (with social psychologist David G. Myers) What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage (HarperOne, 2005 and 2006). Another of Letha’s most well-known books is All We’re Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism for Today, coauthored with Nancy A. Hardesty (Word Books, 1974; revised edition, Abingdon, 1986; updated and expanded edition, Eerdmans, 1992).

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