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April 23, 2009

Explaining Death to Kids

We are dealing with the circle of life issue this week. My prince's grandfather is - how do you say dying without is sounding so harsh? Going down quickly. Suffering. About to pass. *insert head tilt, sad face and shrugging shoulders here*. It's a sad time. Moreover, we have two kids who are listening, understanding to a point and asking questions.

There's a lot of "Is he going to die?", "What does heaven look like?", "Are angels real?" discussions going on at the dinner table.

I'll confess straight off - I am no authority on discussing death with children. I haven't read any books. No studies.

What I'm answering with is the truth but the truth opens whole other conversations.

Me: Yes, it is sad but Fito is going to die because he is sick.
Thing 2: Are you going to die?
Me: "um...I hope not today or tomorrow or anytime soon...but one day when I am an old Grandma...I will get sick and die too. Remember the book "I will love you forever"? it's like that book when the mom takes care of the baby and then grows older and he takes care of her."
Thing 1: Papa got sick in his blood but he didn't die
Me: Right, Papa was very sick and he's feeling much better now.
Thing 2: Do you turn into an angel when you die?
Me: I imagine you become an angel and follow the people you love so they aren't ever alone.
Thing 2: I think so too. 'cause when I'm alone I think of Fita and pray to her.
Me: That's a nice thing to do.
Thing 2: Can you put a chocolate kiss in my lunchbox today?


Is it wrong to support the angel myth? They believe in Santa and the toothfairy who watch over them - why not angels? Perhaps, it is because I don't think you turn into nothingness when you die - it's a personal and cultural choice I suppose. While on topic, I also don't think you come back as a tree.

Have you explained death to kids? Any advice?

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5 Comments:

At April 23, 2009 at 10:27 a.m. , Blogger Karen said...

We have had quite a few (3 in fact) older relatives pass away that my two boys (now 6 and 5) knew well enough to know they are gone now. We even visited one of them in the hospital when she was very sick. The kids seem less affected as they don't seem to understand the pain.

I made the choice (mistake) of telling my sons that my grandfather had given his body to the university to be studied and now the younger one keeps asking me "are they taking his skin off? Will they put it back on? What will they do when they are done researching his body?"

I tried not to mention "sick" when talking about dying as much as I mentioned "very very old" parents and friends get sick all the time and don't die, in older people it is often age that makes it hard for them to recover from illness and I think it is easier to focus on the age thing than the sick thing (my grandfather was 94 or 96 or something like that when he died last year)

We did not bring the boys to any of the funerals.

Also about a year and a half ago two children that attend the same daycare as my kids lost their fathers (both in my olders sons class in the same month or week) to very unexpected anurisms (sp?) losing a parent is much harder to explain than losing a great grand parent because "very very old" doesn't work.

I just try to be open and truthful and answer the questions as well as I can.

 
At April 23, 2009 at 1:16 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The truth is absolutely the best route in discussing most life matters. Death is a mystery and a very difficult concept to understand for all of us.

My, then, 4 year old nephew had "lost" his fish while he was at daycare. My sister very philosophically attempted to explain death ---- "Remember the other day when the dog ran on the road and was hit by the car, and he was just lying there very still?"

My nephew answered quite intelligently "What was my fish doing on the road?". She didn't say how he responded to what she had done with the remains.

Gentle honesty is best. The library will have good resources on this subject.

 
At April 23, 2009 at 2:45 p.m. , Blogger Parent Club said...

Thanks for the comments! (anon. "what was my fish doing on the road?" made me smile!

Two tweeple shared these books for explaining death to young children:

"The 10th Good Thing about Barney" (Viorst)

"Water Bugs & Dragonflies" by Doris Stickney

 
At April 23, 2009 at 4:18 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon's story reminds us to stick to the basics with children and not get tied up in our own interpretations of where they are at. e.g. Johnny asked his mother where he came from and she took the opportuntity to go into a detailed discourse about "physical lovemaking". When she was quite finished and proud of her "mothering", she asked Johnny if he understood. He said he guessed so but said his playmate, Jack had told him earlier in the day that he (Jack) came from Sudbury. KISS!!

 
At April 25, 2009 at 10:00 p.m. , OpenID cabadov said...

I'm sorry you're going through such a sad stage in your families life. We went through a similar situation when my husband's business partner and old family friend took his life. The kids had lots of questions. They feel some sort of comfort that he's watching over them along with our cat. I think they dealt with the whole thing better then we did. I'll keep you in our thoughts.
Carrie Anne

 

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