When death knocks in a home, the family of the deceased often plunges into a state of instability, confusion, sorrow and sometimes panic, and all these overwhelming emotions often lead to the neglect of children.

When the family is busy preparing for burial, nobody is thinking about the children - what they are thinking or how they are feeling. The family can even forget altogether to properly break the news of a loved one’s death to children.

All that children see is the family house suddenly hosting crowds, with aunties and uncles arriving, and everybody in the household busy with activity. Some busy buying food for mourners, cows being slaughtered, and tents pitched.

In some cases, families can even decide to group children together and keep them at a different homestead, isolating them while elders mourn and prepare for burial. The children will sleep at the isolated area until burial is finalised and everyone has dispersed to their homes.

This is wrong and leaves children wounded.

“Death can be one of the most difficult things to break to children, but it is important to do so. In our culture, when death knocks, most families never know where their kids are, or if they have eaten. This is why when children grow, they begin asking uncomfortable questions about loved ones who died.

“The response to such questions is often devastating. Children can be told that their father went on a work trip and if they get told that at age three, they will grow up wondering why their father is not coming back from the said trip,” Mpho Modipane, a clinical therapist dealing with issues of mental health care and management, said.

She said this during a session dealing with grief hosted by I Am Woman 2twoo organisation in Gaborone this past weekend.

Modipane said it is important to announce the passing of a loved one to children, communicate with them properly and be ready to answer all their questions. Involve them in burial arrangements and ask them if they would want to view the body of the deceased or not.

She said in some instances, children of the deceased can also be neglected, and they grow up wondering what really happened to their parents.

During the session, one lady, a teacher, explained that one of her students was affected following the tragic accident that claimed the lives of 45 Batswana in South Africa last month.

“She is a form three student, and we were busy with examinations when she blurted out that they have a bereavement situation at home but nobody was coming out clear to explain what had happened. The student's sister had just died from suspected shock after she heard of the ZCC bus accident in South Africa because one of the 45 victims was their relative."

“When the school called the student's mother to tell her that her child might be in grief, the mother would not have it, insisting that her child was okay and should continue with writing examinations.

"We need to change mindset and involve these children, we should stop telling our children that 'mmago o phamotswe ke phiri' (your mom was snatched by a hyena) when their parents die. Because if we are not careful, we will drive them into depression unknowingly."