HOBBIES ARE GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

Do you have a hobby? Hobbies can give meaning and purpose to your life in retirement. As Robert Putnam points out in his book, Bowling Alone, it’s easy to discount the importance of hobbies and social engagements. Putnam details the widespread decline in civic engagement, from PTA memberships to neighborhood potlucks and bowling leagues. Over a couple of generations, Americans have misplaced the concept of free time.

SPECIAL PLANS FOR YOUR SPECIAL PEOPLE

Lily is a beautiful, active and full of personality toddler who happens to have Down syndrome. Lily’s parents and I have been friends for years and I have the continuing pleasure of watching Lily and her siblings grow up. While Lily is becoming a physical therapy rock star and hitting all her milestones in a timely fashion, her parents have started planning for the future.

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WHY WE ENJOY OUR HOBBIES

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a hobby as “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation, engaged in especially for relaxation.” Hobbies include anything from playing a musical instrument to gardening, bird watching or sewing. A hobby is a way of focusing on something you enjoy just for the sake of that enjoyment. It may also be a way to clear your mental palette. You could be stressed out by a situation at work or the challenges of raising children and need an escape.

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explanations. If children are allowed to express their own feelings according to their ages and developmental stages, they will process the death at their own pace. If the child wishes to attend the visitation and the funeral, let them do so. Explain in simple language what will happen at the funeral home, church and cemetery, and let the child know if her emotions overwhelm her and she needs to leave any of the venues, you will respect her wishes and not force her to stay.


One of the most important things you can do for a bereaved child is to offer your love and support – give the child a hug and a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear to help them remember and release.


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TALKING TO CHILDREN ABOUT DEATH AND DYING

Telling a child directly will help her better realize and accept the loss of the family member or friend, deal more strongly with the event, build trust and grieve the loss in her own way. Children have great resiliency and know a lot about life and death. Trying to protect them from sadness and loss gets in the way of true grief. Children need closure just as much everyone else.


“Grieving kids will be healthier if adults are honest and earnest in helping them understand life and death,” writes Joseph Primo in his book, What Do We Tell the Children? When a death in the family occurs, it is a time of grief for all. Feelings are heightened and everyone, including the children, are incredibly vulnerable. Some of the coping skills exhibited by family members may show they are not able to see beyond the pain. The goal is to help children cope with death in appropriate and safe ways.


A child realizes life will never be the same, but caregivers and family members may be more helpful if they follow the child’s lead in explaining about the death of a loved one. Ask what the child already knows about death. Ask them how much they are ready to hear and go with that. Give them simple but factual

JEAN JEFFERS

Jean is an RN and a freelance writer. She is a staff writer for Living Well 60 Plus and Health & Wellness magazines. Her Web site is at

www.normajean.naiwe.com

more articles by jean jeffers

Molly was 7 years old when her mom died of cancer. Molly had known her mother was very ill; she had witnessed her slow demise. Molly knew what death was. One of her animals had died during the past year and they buried it in the back yard.


Molly’s dad was grieving when he explained to Molly that her mom had died. He said, “God needed another angel in heaven, so He took your mom.” The next day, Molly put up a fuss, not wanting to leave the house or see her father leave. When her father questioned her, she said, “God took Mommy, and He may want to take you, too, for one of His angels.”


When a death is unexpected, unprepared parents may say unhelpful – and, for a child – frightening things about what happened. As in Molly’s case, saying “God took your mother” may create a fear that God will arbitrarily “take” the remaining parent as well. If an adult tells a child, “Your mother is sleeping” when the mother is in fact dead, that may instill a fear of sleep in the child.


The best thing to do is to tell the child what has happened on a level the child understands. Be direct and straightforward. It is better to say, “Mommy has died” than to plague a child’s imagination with ideas of angels swooping down to whisk away another beloved adult or important person. Worse still is to ignore the child’s questions and push aside his or her fears and curiosity. Death is a natural part of life and it should be dealt with so the child can reach a place of acceptance.