Activity for Children in the Home of a Dying Parent or Grandparent

Jillian Brasch | February 13th, 2011

beaufort-sea-canada-sunset-92541-swWhen there are small children in the home of a dying parent or grandparent, a helpful activity is to have the children decorate the dying person’s room with drawings of heaven. It’s an interesting activity on many levels. It gives the children a sense of something helpful and important to contribute. And it gives the adults in the house a sense of what the children are thinking, and how they’re processing the dying.

The children may just draw clouds, but they may also draw pictures of God or angels. They may draw a pciture of a house with a dog, something just like what they see on earth. A younger child may draw his favorite toys because that’s what makes him happy, and he wants the dying person to be happy. An older child may draw something he knows is special to the dying person (a sailboat, a car, a guitar, or a ball of yarn with knitting needles).

Picking up on the strss of the home, the child may also draw something scary. Sometimes children’s emotional needs are neglected when their is a dying person in the home. The pictures can help identify what the child is thinking and feeling, as well as his fears and concerns. All of this information will help the adults in the home know how to address the child’s specific needs. This is also a good time to get further help from a hospice social worker or chaplain. One of the primary goals of this activity is to open up communication among everyone involved–the children, the dying person, the caregivers in the home, and hospice workers.

The pictures of heaven remind the dying person that he is remembered and loved every time he opens his eyes. The pictures also tend to have a calming effect on everyone who enters the room, making the room feel warm, loving, heartfelt, and creative. This activity gives children a sense of comfort and control when their lives may feel wildly out of control with all the changes going on around them.

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