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Losing a parent is a difficult life experience for anyone, but the tragedy can be especially difficult for young children. Children might not fully understand the meaning of death and can experience a range of extreme emotions as they adjust to the reality of the loss. The remaining parent and other adults the children are close with must support them through their grief. Fortunately, keeping a deceased parent's memory alive with special activities can help. One way to commemorate a deceased parent is to honor his birthday each year.
Around the time of the deceased parent's birthday, the living parent can plan a family get-together. The group can include children and adults, the deceased parent's siblings, cousins and close family friends. At this time, people can share stories or memories of the person who has passed. Encourage your children to talk about their memories as well, perhaps pulling out photos of the parent with the children. Such a gathering is a chance to celebrate the deceased parent in a warm and positive environment. The company of friends and family can be uplifting for children at a difficult time.
Visiting the Grave
On the birthday of a deceased parent, bring your children to the grave where the deceased parent is buried. The children can help plant flowers, clean up the grave site and spend a little quiet time thinking about the parent who has passed. The children may want to decorate the grave with special stones or even a bird feeder. You may decide to say a prayer with your children or encourage them to speak to the parent during the visit. Children can write letters or poems to read aloud at the grave site.
An Outing or Activity
Take your children on an outing to honor the birthday of their parent. Ask your children to think about something their parent loved to do. For instance, the children might remember that their father enjoyed fishing. Plan a fishing trip during which you can all honor their father. You can also do an activity at home. For example, if the deceased parent loved to barbecue, plan a cookout at home and grill up a meal he really loved to eat. If he had a favorite movie, make some popcorn and allow your children to stay up late to watch the movie.
Celebrating the birthday of a deceased parent can also be done with special treats. Bake a birthday cake or some favorite cookies. Have an interesting dessert or the parent's favorite pie. Ask your children to help you do the baking. Let them decorate the cake or cookies. They might choose to write a message such as "Happy Birthday, Dad!" with frosting. Light candles and allow the children to blow them out and make a wish for their parent.
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Rachel Pancare taught elementary school for seven years before moving into the K-12 publishing industry. Pancare holds a Master of Science in childhood education from Bank Street College and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Skidmore College.
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