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Shinrin-Yoku- Forest Breathing Re-Invent Your Experience

I love the woods!

Did you know that in Japan, there is a term which literally means to bathe mind and body in green space? In Japanese, shinrin means forest, and yoku refers to a “bathing”, showering, taking in- with all of our senses, the forest atmosphere!

I am lucky to live not far away from Walden Pond, I walk or swim there almost everyday. I take myself offline during the day and give myself a chance reset. I go forest breathing for the intention of re-invention- to re-invent the experience of the forest with all of my being. And to re-invent myself, too. Because I realize by slowing down, I’m not doing less, I’m doing more.

I am breathing in the air of the transcendentalists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Louis May Alcott and more. These places are immersed in the tradition of conscious living and communing with the land. I am reminded that when I breathe, all I need to do is become aware of the preciousness of life and tap into the molecules of genius in the air around me. This is my way to greet the day!

Our aptitude for stillness is all but lost, however, when we deliberately take ourselves to bathe in nature…”it is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon (our) hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that wonderfully changes and renews (our) weary spirit”- Robert Louis Stevenson —so true, right?

We are energy beings. We send out energy according to our feelings, thoughts and moods inside of us. And we take in energy from the environment that surrounds us.

For many, our jobs are killing us. So the days of being unconscious with our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are over. It’s time to re-invent ourselves and eliminate destructive, self-critical patterns.

In 1990, Dr. Yoshifumi Miyazaki of Chiba University conducted a small study in the beautiful forests of Yakushima to test shinrin-yoku. Home of Japan’s most pristine forests, Yakushima contains 1,000 year old cedar trees. Miyazaki showed that 40 minutes of walking in the cedar forest improved mood and feelings of vigor. Further, his findings reported lower levels of stress hormone cortisol in subjects who took a forest walk compared to the control group of subjects who took indoor walks. Miyazaki’s study was the first evidence-based proof that the walk in the forest is not the same as other environmental settings.

It is important to note that a reduction in stress hormones is almost certainly a boost for the immune system. Natural chemicals secreted by evergreen trees, collectively known as phytoncide, have also been associated with the cure for tuberculosis. Since the 1800’s, research physicians in Japan, Bavaria, Germany and the Adirondacks of New York State have studied the beneficial effects of breathing forest air.

There’s something else I want to share with you, it is especially in Springtime that pine trees secrete a healing balm into the air that is magnified! A testament to shinrin-yoku and the preventive benefit of the ancient forest. Therefore, aside from the mental aspects, the physiological benefits of ancient forests stand tall as reason enough to preserve what is left of these beauty-filled, quiet places.

Perhaps, it is my 25 years of experience working with chronic and terminally ill children that has kept me in the service of health promotion and disease prevention for children. I remember the excitement for a bone marrow transplant child patient confined, alone, to a laminar air flow room, coming “alive again” when I’d bring my hikes in the mountains using music and color photos projected on the walls of that tiny room. Much of my training in mind/body techniques evolved from my work at Boston Children’s Hospital and led me to be taken on as research assistant to co-founders of the Mind/Body Clinic, and NY Times Bestselling authors, Harvard cardiologist, Dr. Herbert Benson, The Relaxation Response and Dr. Joan Borysenko, Minding the Body, Mending the Mind.

My doctoral studies in cross-cultural healing taught me that indigenous healing practices place much importance on investigating the underlying thought patterns and emotional disturbances that are the cause beneath the surface symptoms of our illnesses. The many patients who came to the Mind/Body Clinic also began to appreciate this perspective using meditation practice. But another way to get there which requires only a novel bit of awareness, is through solitude in nature.

Now, more than ever, our world needs to prosper. We must learn to enjoy our life and model this for our children. Don’t we want to help our children awaken the power of inner energy?

Start with space— no distractions! When we have space outside, we automatically and naturally clear space inside. Both worlds inspire us, stretch us, inform us. From each reveals the interconnectedness of all living things. Now, consciously add the breath and the forest-air.

Good things come from such a peaceful place as the forest. Let’s start right now. We’ll follow our breathing and “take in” the forest air by turning our attention away from the day and bringing our attention inward. The pathway to the quiet mind is the breath. In the breath is a clearing space.

Whether we know it or not, the forest has its influence on us. The trees are asking us to be present. Nature is trying to capture our attention but most of the time we are too oblivious, we miss the subtle invitation. Even so, part of us does connect! We can leave a green space feeling better than before we got there and never know why.

The invitation from the forest is to commune with its energy. For when we let the forest energy become our energy we receive its power, its strength, its healing. This is a one-way communication. But it really becomes “magic” when we communicate back to the trees; then the connection becomes two-way!

Real magic is impossible unless we are aware. Ask the tree huggers why they hug the tree and say “I love you!” When you are hugging that tree you are connected not only to that tree but to all life in the forest.True magic is expansiveness! When you love, your heart opens, your awareness becomes more and more. You have the revelation that this tree feels me and I feel the life force of these ancient trees. The tree “allows you to be there”. The tree does not judge or criticize you.

In my private practice, I go to the forest with children who have anxieties of all sorts and I encourage them to sit against the tree and ask the tree- “how do you stand there for eons?”

“I’m having trouble focusing and being still?” In this manner, we are asking permission for healing. We are having two-way conversation. It’s like a radio, we have to “tune in” to the station. When we slow down, we get information.

Believe it or not, many of the children that I work with have this knowingness. By using the forest setting, I am cultivating expansive awareness. The tree “knows how to just be”— without self-judgement. This is the magic, you allow the blocks in your body/mind/spirit to be cleared.

Let’s meet all life experiences with the attitude of expecting mind-expanding, heart-opening re-inventions.


Side Bar-Insert Mini-Meditation:

Forest-air breathing is inspirational! Why? Because to be inspired means to be breathed or to take in breath. In this process, we take in, inhale that which surrounds us. It is natural and automatic.

The breath has three parts: there is a filling, receiving and the exhalation, a letting go, emptying.

But the third aspect of the breath is subtle and sometimes missed or misunderstood. It is the segment of gently holding the breath. The holding of the breath is the most important part. It is the magic now, the choice point between in and out; conscious and unconscious. It is the strategic middle ground between the inhalation and exhalation, the center point of infinity.

This choice point is our moment of awareness. We have a choice, to stress ourselves with our thinking mind or to tap into our inner resources, relax, renew, refresh. We tap infinite possibilities This is the point of rebirth in each breath. You are in the magic now of birthing anew in each breath.

Become aware of this moment and this one too;

it is the forest-air of new life breathing you.

Holding, ever so gently, the breath is holding, reverently, life.

Take three deep breaths- slowly, easily and say to yourself:

As I breath in, I take in the beauty all around me.

As I breath out, I express the beauty within me.

As I hold my breath, I honor the fullness of all that is.

I am the beauty of new life.

I am the peace of the forest-air.

Thank you

“I help stressed, anxious children calm down and reduce their anxiety with natural methods so they can improve their focus and concentration, do better in school and just be happier overall.”

Side Bar: Inspired by her study of cross-cultural healing practices, Dr. Daleo believes it is possible to weave the ways of ancient people into the fabric of modern life in an effort to help the young claim this wisdom as an essential part of who they are. The most relevant and timeless aspect of ancient practices is the sincere understanding of the interconnectedness of all living things. It is a knowing that everything that is in us is in the atmosphere we breath- the receptacle from which we draw our life energies that nourish and sustain us.


Dr. Roxie’s website:

Stress Reduction/ Relaxation CDs and Books

Mobile App Guided Imagery Relaxation

‘Using Your Energy Wisely” vimeo

Recharge Your Resourcefulness

I started cross-country skiing when I moved to New Hampshire. I was taking a new job. It was my first chance to do play therapy for children at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. After a stressful day’s work, cross-country skiing was a place I could to to recharge myself.

…I heard only the delicate sound of each downy flake as it hit the evergreens on either side of me on that trail through the quiet woods of deep snow…that day, my mind was sharp and focused…my body, steady with physical determination to stay balanced with each glide and to make each push-off count to send me farther and farther along that narrow trail…I remember the feeling of being totally part of all…connected to the natural world around me…and in touch with something sacred and divine…it was powerful yet peaceful…I thought to myself, as I ski, I am living into the feelings New England’s poet Robert Frost expresses.

Try reading Robert Frost “Stopping by a Snowy Evening” illustrated by Susan Jeffers to your child and see if it evokes happiness. Your child can start the good feelings flowing with anything they love—a song, photograph or wonderful experience.

Even today, when I am cross-country skiing or just thinking about it, the experience can reactivate my mind in the time and space of the initial, impressionable experience. I can feel it in my body and relive it in my imagination.

My studies in social psychology and psycho-neuroimmunology introduced me to Harvard Professor Dr. Ellen Langer whose research revealed evidence of the body’s ability to return to a state of health and happiness from an earlier period of life. These reports described the powerful influence of memory to effect improved physiological changes, such as increases in counts of killer cells in the blood that combat disease as well as reduced blood pressure and cortisol levels overall improved perception of vigor. Our cells have memory, it’s proven.

We, ourselves, can bring forth our own state of pleasure and more importantly, resourcefulness when we need more confidence, more courage, more commitment. Here’s how:

STEP 1.   RECALL a time in your life when you were in a state of resourcefulness. It could be cross-country skiing or playing a sport and making a goal or completing successfully a musical performance and hearing the audience rousing applaud. You decide—when did you feel great?

STEP 2.   RE-LIVE it using all of your senses. Hear it (sound of snow falling gently); feel it (cool air through my nose and lungs); see it (beauty all around me); touch it (wet snow on my face).

STEP 3.   RESOLVE yourself to never giving up on yourself. You have within you all the power you need to do what you set out to do. Reactivate your resourceful state—your cellular memory will help you know it is still there within you. It feels like—YES!

The Apple Tree Said to Me

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Benefits of Learning Relaxation Skills

Benefits of Learning Relaxation Skills:

  • Fosters kindness and caring in ourselves and others
  • Gives the body a chance to recharge naturally from the daily everyday hassles
  • Gives your mind the moment to readjust to a more positive attitude
  • Learning relaxation skills is easy and makes you feel good about yourself

TIPS FOR PARENTS – Starting School Positively

Dear Moms and Dads,

This is Dr. Roxanne Daleo with a few helpful reminders for consideration as our children begin the school year. Whatever the grade our children are beginning, their success is crystallized with the full support and involvement of you, the parent. Remember, your own feelings of confidence or apprehension are easily transferred to your children so here is how to start school positively.

Teach our children ways to stay healthy in body, mind, and spirit. The physical body needs to eat good food and have good exercise. The mental body needs to have good meditation, good thinking, and good words. The spirit of the child needs to have fun and be loved.

So much of the focus in the curriculum today is about academic intelligence. The three R’s–reading, writing and arithmetic, the fourth R, relaxation, is also essential for education and it stands for the life skills in stress management and emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is a term coined by Dr. Daniel Goleman, which refers to the following skills to help children learn to manage strong feelings and reduce stress: learning relaxation techniques and calming down, identifying feelings, recognizing feelings in others, communicating feelings, reducing the negative effects of strong emotions, and controlling impulses.

In his work, Dr. Daniel Goleman points out the current condition of students as being more depressed, more defiant, more aggressive, more uncontrollable then ever before. Teaching children how to become happier, friendlier, kinder and caring people can not only help them as individuals but also helps produce a healthier society–ultimately.

A fairly accurate predictor of what kind of adult your child will turn out to be is based on what they think of themselves not what we think of them. What a child thinks of himself is a direct result of what kind of messages get reinforced on a daily basis. Your child’s self-image is learned. It is an accumulation of outside influencing messages, events and perceptions. These messages can be positive or negative.

More importantly is a child’s inner dialogue or self-talk which can be unconscious. Self-talk can reinforce the outside messages in a positive or negative direction whether these messages are true or false. Children can be taught to become aware of the inner talk and how to use relaxation and guided imagery to clear their mind and emotions, correct misconceptions, remember their goodness and gifts, and be emotionally intelligent about future outside influences and events.

If we want our children to value themselves, then we should teach them skills in emotional intelligence. The following are techniques to cultivate self-worth and confidence:

A positive mental attitudeGuided imagery relaxationReframing stressful situationsMental rehearsalUsing affirmations

(Side Bar)

Benefits of emotional intelligence skills and stress reduction skills are as follows:

Improved concentrationGreater impulse controlImprove self-awarenessAbility to stay calmIncreased self-esteem and feelings of self-worthGreater empathy

Let’s go through this list using the first day of school as an example of how emotional intelligence can be developed.

1. Set a positive mental tone for starting school.

Your attitude and the atmosphere you create in your home can either help or hinder your child’s ability to cope.

a. In yourself set a positive tone.

Reflect on what starting school was like for you as a child. Are your memories good or bad, or both? Just notice them for yourself before you say anything to your child. Then choose to give your child a positive perspective by sharing your own happy or funny stories rather than feeding their anxiety with your own anxieties.

b. In your home set a positive tone.

Create a daily routine to de-stress and relax, one that is calm, open and accepting. Make it safe and easy for your child to express his feelings. When you take time to listen to your child it makes him or her feel important.  You can create calm versus chaos by playing soft music, lighting a candle at dinner or just slowing down and being still.

2. Use your inner resources for relaxation and stress reduction and teach your child how to use his or her inner resources.

Put your own oxygen mask on first and then help your child put on his. In other words, you stay calm, be still and listen before expecting your child to the same.

a. Practice Relaxation with Guided Imagery

Every afternoon or before bed give your child the opportunity to check in with you about their feelings and stress level.

Take three, deep letting go breaths together with your child.  You can ring a bell or a chime and follow the sound for as long as you can hear it and then listen to the sound of your own breathing. This is a good way to start slowing down and then listening to your body.  What is there for you?

Children can tell where stress is in their bodies.  Often, they tell me they get headaches, butterflies in their stomaches, tightness in their throats or difficulty breathing.  These are all symptoms of stress.  Children can learn to listen to their bodies’warning signs using a guided imagery relaxation audio program or just sitting quietly together without distractions.  Choose a quiet place without distractions such as television, radio, computer, video games, etc.

These body signs warn us we are stressed and need to slow down and calm ourselves.  If you and your child select a theme such as confidence, general relaxation or caring and practice guided imagery once or twice a day for three or four weeks following the guidelines for listening, you should gain benefits with the consistency of this solid start.

(Side bar for Article)

Guidelines for Listening to Guided Imagery Relaxation Journeys

MindWorks are designed for all children 4 years and up.

Use a quiet spaceNo distractions such as TV or radio

Find a comfortable positionSitting or lying down

Just listenAudio program guides, relaxation, imagination and body awareness

Establish regular practiceConsistency is the key

Use your imaginationExplore other ways to use the programs following up with the child’s own story, poems, dance or artwork.

Recommendations for Parents to Take Mini Breaks.

If possible, after dropping your children off at school, plan on parking the car at a nearby waterway, rest area, or farm.  Insert a relaxation program into a CD player to recharge your own energy.  This is a good way to help you rest before letting the day get away.  This practice of just listening, aids you in staying calm throughout the day.

b. Reframe Stressful Situations.

Once you’ve established a time and routine for relaxation and calming the body, take it a step further and help your child learn ways to calm his/her mind and reframe stressful situations.  The inner dialogue or self-talk may be the root cause for his/her stress.  Ask your child what he hears in his head.  Ask,“If you could place a microphone there what discussion would you be able to pick up?”

Once they give you a word or a phrase such as“I don’t think Mary likes me or Mrs. Green, my teacher looked mad at me”reframe it.  Cultivate a friendly personality by teaching your child to see the best in themselves and in others.  Teach your child to be careful of how he/she talks to herself.

Help your child understand the impact of words and messages they say to themselves.  As parents, remember your words can make or break your child’s self-worth.  Tell your child you love them often and you know they are doing their best and they will try even harder to do better.  Tell your child he is bad, lazy or unfocused and he will do even worse because he will feel unworthy and inferior.

There is an age old saying that goes,“the child who lives with criticism learns to condemn.  The child who is given approval and encouragement learns to like himself”.

c. Use Affirmations.

To affirm means to make strong.  Make strong positive statements to your child he can hear and understand such as“you’ve solved problems before so what can you come up with now that will help”?  Or“What could you do to handle this?”Show your confidence in your child’s ability to cope by encouragement and asking the right questions.  They will automatically take those positive statements and start saying powerful messages to themselves.

d. Mental rehearsal.

In the days and weeks before school prepare your child using the technique called mentalrehearsal. Begin with a few deep breaths and imagine the first day going the way you would like it to go.  The Olympic athletes use this technique; they do not waste time imagining themselves failing.  They see themselves performing well over and over again.

e. Story telling.

Story telling is bonding and teaches values and coping strategies.

Tell your child positive or funny stories of when you were a child his age starting school.

In addition, use story books that have a good message for staying connected with

your child during school.The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn is an encouraging tale about a raccoon whose Mom designs a way to stay connected so that the little raccoon can reassure himself once he gets to school.  It is very helpful for children with separation issues.

3. Fortify the Physical Body

a. Nutrition.

Have you planned healthy snacks and meals for your family?  A child’s energy level is directly related to eating healthy foods.  The brain needs protein first thing in the morning to get going and concentrate.  Try breakfasts of eggs, cheese, tuna fish, tofu, beans and rice or an easy protein combination.  Protein shakes are fun too!

b. Exercise.

Exercise is essential for you and your child’s health and is an effective stress reducer.  Try inventing ways to move the body.  Before school it could be quality time with Dad to walk to school.  After school, biking, walking, jumping a trampoline, or raking leaves, walking the dog, washing a car can be energizing.

4. Ignite the Spirit of Your Child with Love

Nothing can replace your attention and love.  Even more, for your child to love him/herself is so important to their balance and well being.  Using new ways to give your child uplifting messages of reassurance assists him in getting ready for school positively.

In short, listening to a guided relaxation program reminds children that they are not alone and promotes their inner resources which they can call upon to remember their own worth and goodness.  The goodness will come in forms of clearing their minds, uplifting their spirits and recharging their body.

It brings a smile to me to bring a smile to them.  This is what makes my spirit and heart sing.

I like hearing from you and your children.  Please e-mail me if you have any questions, concerns or success stories to share.

Trust yourself to try something new and see the positive in your child and in you.

Best wishes for a positive start for the new school year.

Dr. Roxanne☺☺☺

I am a New Year

The New Year is a good time to begin to make a promise to yourself about what is to come, about the possibilities. It’s like writing a new chapter in your book of life. Dream big, drop into your heart and let your imagination open to the power within you. I invite you to create your own poems, drawings, dance or song to bring your dream t0 life.

I am a New Year.

I am a clean page in my book of life.

I am my next chance at the art of being love.

I am an opportunity.

I am original.

I am open to receive grace.

I am all that I dream.

I am all I believe.

I am the spirit of purpose.

I am the song of power – joy, joy, joy.

I am all the goodness and determination

I can will awaken and energize with my heart’s desire on this and each new day.

I am the spark of the Divine.

— Dr. Roxanne Daleo

Do you believe in ghosts or do you believe in Angels

Charlie, tell me about God and the angels,” said six-year-old Lea to her newborn

brother. “I want to remember!”

My work with gravely ill children has been humbling. It’s opened my heart to the

absolute probability of life after life. I’ve become alert to the ways children can teach me

about faith, love and their own understanding of God.

I am convinced many children “come in with a deep knowing.” Sometimes I’ve seen it in

their innocent exchanges, overheard during play therapy. Sometimes it shines through

their artwork.

And sometimes I see it in the resolute way they ask me to deliver messages to their

parents. Messages far too mature, insightful and profound for their age. Such “deep

knowing” is inexplicable, yet undeniable.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your children about God and heaven. You might be surprised at

the wisdom that comes from the mouth of babes.

The Spirit of a Human Sparkler!

Boston Children’s Hospital article in Children’s Today:

Thirty Years Later-Happy Anniversary


by Dr. Roxanne Daleo


“Hi, Dr. Roxanne?” the voice on the phone said. “This is Chris…Christine Berl.”

“Chris!” I exclaimed. I flashed back to the first time I met her. It had been many
years, yet I could see her vividly in my mind; a sweet, fragile girl clinging to hope by
a thread.

“Can you believe it?” she asked. “This year will be my 30th anniversary since my
bone marrow transplant!”

Christine was just 13 years old when she came to Boston Children’s Hospital, where I
worked as a Child Life Specialist. She knew she faced a serious challenge with
months – maybe years – of recovery.

If Christine survived, she’d be a medical miracle. My job was to help her deal with
the pain, the stress and the emotional roller coaster she was about to ride.

Those were tough months, but Christine had a strong will and love of life, she had an
unshakable confidence in her doctor. Plus the loving support of her family who held the same belief that she held for herself.

And here we were, 30 years later. I was on the phone with the miracle I’d prayed for. Christine shared with me some of the thoughts her 13-year-old self couldn’t.

First of all, after I was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia and given 3 to 6 months to live, I immediately told myself, “I cannot die.” I never saw myself dying. I always believed I would survive.

Then, when Roxanne – light, laughter, paint, joy and roses – came into my life, I was given an enormous gift of being taught how to visualize and breathe as a way to deal with the pain. I also needed a way to cope with being confined to the tiny room, while dealing with all the other difficulties associated with undergoing the bone-marrow transplant.

Christine illustrates our potential within to awaken our inner energies. With mind/body strategies (self-regulation, meditation and guided imagery, etc.) we can access our inner self- our greatest source of healing.

I met Christine in 1982, when I was assigned to her as Child Life Specialist. I was still a doctoral student back then and research assistant to mind/body medicine pioneer Dr. Joan Borysenko. My mentors were noted Harvard cardiologist, Herbert Benson, MD, author of The Relaxation Response, and Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the UMass Mindfulness-Based Pain Reduction Program. I was implementing the techniques and groundbreaking research in psychoneuroimmunology which had direct relevance to the treatment and outcomes of the children in my care.

Opening children’s minds to the power within them became my guiding principle. Using the art of meditation under Dr. Benson’s guidance, I realized how important imagination is in relaxation therapy. He was using the language of imagination for adults and I adapted his principles to the language of imagination for children.

Psychoneuroimmunology explores the effect of emotions, thoughts, mental images and beliefs on immune function- to either inhibit or promote healing.
The research showed that we reach a powerful “choice point” in the midst of a medical crisis. It’s not so much about the disease itself, as about our response to it. As we spoke on the phone, she shared the image that she clung to all those years ago.

I am healthy – I look like myself again but even better – I have all my hair, I am happy and laughing. I am at the ocean, walking on a beautiful, white-sand beach. Then I see myself swimming in warm water. I swim underwater for a long time, but don’t run out of breath. After a while, when I am ready, I come up to the surface of the water and breathe in the salt air and peacefully look up at the sun and think, “Thank you, God, for saving my life, and letting me swim and be in the sun again.” My healthy new body feels light and relaxed as I glide through the water.

I had no idea, until now, 30 years later, how much I used this image to help me cope. I thought about it all the time. It was the one thing that brought me comfort in the midst of all the physical suffering.

Christine’s experience shows how our thoughts affect our emotions and our health. This approach was unusual then. But current practices in behavioral medicine take into account our beliefs for the prevention and treatment of disease.

Albert Schwitzer, MD taught his medical students: “There is a doctor inside each patient, they come to us not knowing this truth, we are at our best when we give the doctor within a chance to go to work.”

Deep healing is a conscious activity. Video gaming and distraction tactics for children do not effect the healing process in the manner of skills in conscious relaxation such as guided imagery. These life skills are necessary to access the inner most self-our greatest source of healing.

No one in the medical world expected Chris to live more than a few months. But she went on to finish high school, attend college and earn a teaching certificate and – perhaps most remarkable of all – to give birth to three beautiful children. Her success is a testament to the dedication of her doctor and the Boston Children’s Hospital staff, and to the power she accessed within her own beautiful self.

Managing Stress and Grief in Children

Managing Stress and Grief
in Children
by Dr. Roxanne Daleo

Managing stress and grief as a result of crisis, such as the one at the SANDY HOOK
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL is a challenge, even for the most experienced,
trained professionals. Here are some suggestions on how to begin and what you can
do if your child has been affected and is asking questions.

Under normal circumstances, talking to your child about death can be a heart-
opening experience for both of you; rather than something to avoid. Everyday you
have an opportunity to bring your childʼs attention to the cycles of life all around us.
From the tiniest insect, to a plant, or a fish; everything has a life cycle. Some are very
short cycles; other creatures like birds are longer. Animals and humans, usually even
longer. Everything is born, lives and then dies.

The natural world is a place to start to develop your childʼs understanding of death in the
context of life cycles.(See the book LifeTimes: The beautiful way to explain death to
children by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen), Bantam Books, 1983.) to help yourself
begin the conversation with your child in a calm and centered way.
Under unusual or tragic circumstances, we have to go deeper to meet our childʼs
needs and our own. And to be able to answer their questions, correct misconceptions,
ease worries and fears.

When a childʼs life cycle is cut short, we look beyond the physical, to the spiritual, to our
faith, to whatever we believe is sacred and Divine for ways to explain the inexplicable.
What happens after we die is a matter of your faith and your belief system.
For those of us who are confronted with our own uncertainties, referring to world
cultures may provide a way to come to grips with our own fears; learning from others
what they do may provide comforting answers for you and your child. In many places,
death is an integral part of life. Grandparents live in the same house and even die at
home surrounded by loved ones where family members can mourn together and
support one another. Infants and babies sometimes die and although it is out of order of
nature, there is ritual to honor the little life in itʼs entirety. Grief is the opportunity to come
together in praise of the individual who died.

Things For You To Consider

When upset feelings happen, many of us are more likely to not want to talk about them.
But pushing our feelings away is not the best for our child. Even if they donʼt say
anything to us, our children are observant and they will “feel” our feelings, “read” our
facial expressions and body language. In short, by not fully expressing ourselves, we
teach our children to not express themselves in healthy ways. This can cause more
worry for your child rather than protecting them from hurt and emotional pain.
Be mindful of the age of your child. See Guidelines for Childrenʼs Conception of
Death Age and Stage of Understanding:

STAGE 1: Preschool to 5 years old

Death is not permanent and non-reversible; children understand death as
separation; more like a different kind of life. (ex. “How will she get around in heaven
without her wheelchair?”)

STAGE 2: Ages 5 – 9 years old

Death is understood as permanent; itʼs inevitability has not been realized.
Children can “elude death by escaping the clutches of death” (“I can run and hide so he
wonʼt get me!”) Children may think of death as a movie or story character, such as a
Halloween ghost, skeleton, grim reaper or shadow. In the case of a real dangerous
person, such as the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School (ex. “Will another bad
guy come after me?”)

STAGE 3: Ages 9-10 years old

Death is final and inevitable. Youngsters may have a pre- occupation with the
fear of bodily harm. Images of violence more prevalent and accessible from media and

Be mindful of the level of experience with death.

If your child was directly involved with the Sandy Hook traumatic event, that experience
is powerful, present, charged with emotions and pervades you and your childʼs
everyday life now. Whereas, explaining a distant event from news reports is best done
by answering only those questions your child asks with empathy and caring and at their
level of cognitive development. (See Guidelines for Childrenʼs Conception of Death-
Age and Stage of Understanding)

Be short and simple.

Answering questions with regard to the Sandy Hook tradegy can be done briefly.
Children want reassurance of their safety and security as well as yours.

Be Close.

Common reactions may include: separation anxiety, loss of appetite, fear of a repeat
lethal threat, nightmares. Donʼt expect your child to stray too far without you. Create
outings together or stay home in a peaceful atmosphere, perhaps use the fireplace and
make hot drinks for everyone. Sit together, welcome the quiet, just be with each other.

Be Heartful.

When parents allow themselves to get in touch with their own uncomfortable feelings,
without trying to ignore them or keep themselves hectic and anxious, they model coping
for their child by being able to compose themselves after showing true feelings of grief.
Parents can help themselves by openly calming themselves using soothing music,
lighting a candle, making a cup of tea in front of their child. Being centered, parents can
share more authentically and wisely.

Be Expressive of your beliefs.

When you say grace at meal times, acknowledge the worldview for peace as well as
acknowledging that “peace begins inside me”.

Be Tolerant of othersʼ beliefs

Teach your child not everyone has your familyʼs belief. People from different cultures
and backgrounds have different customs and traditions and thatʼs the way of the world.

Be Aware Children React to Death Differently Than Adults

Often children may not show sadness, but might act out, misbehave or have angry
outbursts. Changes in the patterns of their eating and sleeping. Be afraid to go to sleep
or wake with nightmares.

Be Peaceful.

Use Guided Imagery Relaxation Techniques
Sit with your child in the late afternoon or just before going to sleep, Listen to a guided
imagery recording; itʼs a natural way to turn the volume down on the stress response
and turn on the relaxation response. Children love to use their imagination, a skillful
narration of specific healing images and soothing music can help your childʼs brain
replace fearful ideas with calming ones. The use of guided imagery recordings before
your child goes to sleep is a highly effective way for your child to help himself calm and

Be Creative.

Create a tangible way to say “good-bye”
Place a flower on a memorial site; make a paper sailboat and send it off to sea, write a
message in a bottle and bury it or throw it in the ocean; write a message place it in a
balloon and sent it up to the sky.

Be Tender.

Remember the loved one. List the qualities of the person who you lost. Scape booking
the positive memories and photos is helpful. Evoking the tenderness of each otherʼs
spirit can be a life restoring event. Grief is gratitude for life; it is our opportunity to honor
the wholeness of the personʼs life regardless of the length.