or Connect
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Mom › Parenting › Parenting the Gifted Child › Death- how much info do you filter out of books for your gifted 4 year old?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Death- how much info do you filter out of books for your gifted 4 year old?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

Not sure if my child is gifted, but he shows a few interesting qualities. He is bright, but we are not looking to have him tested for giftedness. He has been diagnosed with Aspergers.

 

I thought this the best place to post my question, because of the topic and relevance.

 

He is currently interested in the building and sinking of the Titanic, and has become bored with most of the books. He is now reading books with more info. This means more info about loss of lives, drowning, freezing to death in cold water, people in lifeboats hearing screams, etc.

 

Question is this - how much do/did you "censor" for your child at this age? I have folded the pages of books and told him "do not read the folded page". I'm concerned about him knowing these things, he's only 4 years old.

 

Today he asked me a question about people drowning vs. freezing in the water, which worried me. It didn't seem to bother him, but it bothers me that he knows this. DH doesn't seem to be as sensitive as I am. Does anyone agree with me that this type of info is inappropriate for a 4 year old?

 

Any insight or advice would be appreciated.

post #2 of 19
Its hard to say. My dd will be 4 and has asked about drowning, funerals, death. I try to answer with a basic answer but she doesn't always accept it. She knows the answer and seems to be testing me. Drowning i explained thats why we hold our breaths under water and we cant swallow water. The freezing part I would say what our body temp is and I guess hypothermia a little. smile.gif Im learning on this adventure with her.
post #3 of 19
Sorry didnt read the book censor part.

She is reading first readers. So its not from books the questions sorry.
post #4 of 19
I would be worried that that kind of information at so young an age would make him calloused to the suffering of others. I tend to be on the shielding end of the spectrum regarding suffering, death and young children.
post #5 of 19
I don't know if everyone is the same, but for me, death didn't start to horrify me until I got older and started to have more life experience. I grew up knowing about death because my grandfather died just before I was born so I was raised visiting a cemetery every weekend, but since I had not yet experienced anything awful myself, I had no idea what feelings to relate to death, accidents or seeing other people in pain. Hearing about people suffering would not have effected me in the least. I knew suffering was bad, but just in theory, not in practice. I think it's for those very same reasons that it's impossible to tell some kids why some things are dangerous, why hitting is wrong and why you have to be gentle with animals.
If he wants to read all the details, I don't think I would sensor it. He's using his own imagination as he reads so his own mind is pretty much in control.
I think men are more "sane" on this topic than moms are wink1.gif I know I was a lot less sensitive to these things before I had my son... Now whenever I see something horrible happen to anyone I break down thinking 'what if they had a child' or 'what if that was my child' but kids are too inexperienced to think like that.
post #6 of 19
Another thought. Find out how much your husband and friends were censored as children, then look at how sensitive they are to the feelings of others, especially children.

Basically, though, I go with my gut, regardless of what others say. I'm the one who will be looking back on this time, when my son is grown. What will I wish I had done with the information and feelings I had? That question helps me decide.
post #7 of 19

You know your four year old best, but it's certainly not too young to be able to handle details of the Titanic disaster.  Both of my kids have been visiting museum displays, and graves related to the Titanic since before they could even walk, and they just absorbed what they were ready to absorb, and ignored the rest.   The Titanic disaster is so far removed from their own experiences that it's easy for them to keep a bit of emotional distance. 

post #8 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the replies everyone.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pek64 View Post

I would be worried that that kind of information at so young an age would make him calloused to the suffering of others. I tend to be on the shielding end of the spectrum regarding suffering, death and young children.

I worry about that too, but I guess it could go either way and maybe he could become too sensitive about it. I myself am a highly sensitive person by nature. I can not watch movies or hear stories without it affecting me deeply. I think my son has the same attributes. But other times, when he is overloaded with sensory input, he will say something like "he killed that man" or "you're going to get killed" - emphasizing the word "killed". I'm not sure he even knows what he is talking about, just that it's a word that comes out when he's overwhelmed.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Escaping View Post

I don't know if everyone is the same, but for me, death didn't start to horrify me until I got older and started to have more life experience.
I think men are more "sane" on this topic than moms are wink1.gif I know I was a lot less sensitive to these things before I had my son... Now whenever I see something horrible happen to anyone I break down thinking 'what if they had a child' or 'what if that was my child' but kids are too inexperienced to think like that.

I agree. And you got me thinking. My reaction to his questions has been to change the subject. When he talks about how many lost their lives, I usually change it to "well there were 750 who survived" and I try to take it from there. Not sure if he is picking up on my discomfort with the topic.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rachelsmama View Post

You know your four year old best, but it's certainly not too young to be able to handle details of the Titanic disaster.  Both of my kids have been visiting museum displays, and graves related to the Titanic since before they could even walk, and they just absorbed what they were ready to absorb, and ignored the rest.   The Titanic disaster is so far removed from their own experiences that it's easy for them to keep a bit of emotional distance. 

I breathed a sigh of relief on reading your post. Thanks :)

post #9 of 19

I may be biased because my dd is hyper-sensitive to suffering and death and violence of any kind. It's been exhausting trying to find books for her. Her ability to handle any type of intense content is probably below her age but she's reading so many levels above her age. 

In general, I don't think the details of dying a horrible death are really appropriate for a four year old. We do go to museums (never anything specifically Titanic related though) but we try to move on quickly from things that might be too bothersome for her to handle. I tend to agree with pek64. Emphasis on death and suffering at that age is bound to cause some desensitization issues that may or may not be a problem later on. 

post #10 of 19

My dd just turned 4.  She isn't reading herself yet, so I get to choose what information to edit out so far.  And I have thought a lot about this, so I commiserate!

 

My dd is really interested in immunology and bacteria so we get a lot of books that have at least a section on plagues, and of course,there are so many of the diseases that were historically deadly especially for children.  I was afraid for awhile that this would lead to fear and potentially hypochondria, worries about plagues or her family getting sick etc. She is also very keen on knowing very detailed workings of anatomy and how the body functions and with that comes a very real awareness of sickness and death and how they could happen to her.  

 

Also, she is into the periodic table/elements, with a special interest in radioactive elements. Sigh.  So...of course, books mention hydrogen bombs, nuclear accidents, Marie Curie dying from her research...etc.    Did I ever imagine that I would be discussing how bombs work with my 3 or 4 year old?? no. 

 

The approach I have taken has been not to avoid things but to face these issues with the same scientific frankness I do all her other questions and concerns.  So we talk about vaccinations and how lucky we are to live in a country where we don't have many of the diseases we read about, and how our bodies heal but sometimes they just can't.  And we talk about decomposition and our thoughts on death.  And we talk about what bombs DO and why people would use them, and that how most people work to build and learn things for GOOD not to hurt people.  And how scientists like Marie Curie learned important things that help keep us safe now.  

 

I guess what I'm saying, that I think applies to whatever your kid is into....We acknowledge the scary stuff (plagues, natural disasters, bombs, accidents), explain them the best we can...and then talk about how people work to avoid those things when they can, the things we do to stay safe from them, and how people help each other when they DO happen. 

 

It would never have occurred to me that knowing about tragedies at a young age would make them calloused somehow.  When I was a child I was fascinated (always seems like the wrong word) by the Holocaust and if anything, it had the opposite effect...of course children can't really comprehend such things fully (can anyone?) but I can't imagine that reading about the Titanic would somehow cause them to lack compassion.  But, grim details would give me pause still I guess.

post #11 of 19

PS.  If my mother had folded down pages for me not to read?  I would have been really excited to read them and see what was so forbiddenlol.gif

post #12 of 19
This is not really the same, but the mention of the Holocaust made me think of this.

Friends of mine don't believe in protecting their children from violence. The family watches violent movies together, etc. When the two oldest were 14-16 (I can't remember their exact ages), their mother had them watch a movie about the Holocaust (Schindler's List?). She had waited as she thought it would be too much for them when they were younger. I asked them the next day what they thought of the movie. They shrugged and said they didn't understand why their mother was worried, since it wasn't that bad. I asked if they knew those things had actually happened to people, and they shrugged again. Then the oldest said she supposed it must have been difficult for those, but that didn't really affect her.

That had *me* thinking.
post #13 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by ilovemygirl View Post

Emphasis on death and suffering at that age is bound to cause some desensitization issues that may or may not be a problem later on. 

 

I have to respectfully disagree that (normal) people can be desensitized to any kind of violence unless they have other issues going on. I have a brother 5 years older than me, and we grew up on violent video games, movies and playing with guns, etc. but the older I get, the more sensitive I seem to be getting to violence and suffering. I know several soldiers who have come back from the Middle East with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, my uncle and several of his colleagues are "Doctors Without Borders" and they too are severely traumatized. My grandfather was a paediatrician for 60 years and absolutely refuses to look at sleeping children (I found that out when I gave him a photo album of my baby and he picked out all the ones with my son sleeping and gave them back to me). 

I think that people who are inherently violent or unsympathetic for other reasons just tend to gravitate towards violence in the media, literature, etc. but a normal child won't be desensitized by reading about death or suffering. Especially since literature about tragedies such as the Titanic or the Holocaust don't glorify the deaths or suffering. 

post #14 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by pek64 View Post

This is not really the same, but the mention of the Holocaust made me think of this.

Friends of mine don't believe in protecting their children from violence. The family watches violent movies together, etc. When the two oldest were 14-16 (I can't remember their exact ages), their mother had them watch a movie about the Holocaust (Schindler's List?). She had waited as she thought it would be too much for them when they were younger. I asked them the next day what they thought of the movie. They shrugged and said they didn't understand why their mother was worried, since it wasn't that bad. I asked if they knew those things had actually happened to people, and they shrugged again. Then the oldest said she supposed it must have been difficult for those, but that didn't really affect her.

That had *me* thinking.

 

I don't think that the lack of an obvious emotional response to the Holocaust is necessarily a sign of desensitisation.  I think a lot of kids look at tragic events and ask themselves:  Is there anything I can do about it?  Does it directly affect anybody I care about?  and if the answer is no, they don't see how getting upset about it is going to do anybody any good.  I've met kids who don't get worked up about historical tragedies, but are passionate about helping the victims of current tragedies and injustices.

post #15 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by rachelsmama View Post

 

I don't think that the lack of an obvious emotional response to the Holocaust is necessarily a sign of desensitisation.  I think a lot of kids look at tragic events and ask themselves:  Is there anything I can do about it?  Does it directly affect anybody I care about?  and if the answer is no, they don't see how getting upset about it is going to do anybody any good.  I've met kids who don't get worked up about historical tragedies, but are passionate about helping the victims of current tragedies and injustices.

 

I agree that it's not productive to get emotionally hysterical about past events. However, I would seriously question anyone (child or adult) who described the Holocaust and/or Schindler's List as "not that bad". 

post #16 of 19

My four year old son has been asking questions about death for the last two years or so... I think it started with seeing the occasional dead animal and asking about deceased relatives ("Where does your grandma live, mamma?") We've always tried our best to answer simply and honestly. I don't want to lie to my son. I also think that it's important to give him accurate information in response to his questions, as otherwise he's left wondering and possibly coming up with explanations that are much more frightening. Plus I want him to continue coming to me with his questions and suspect he would eventually stop asking me if I showed discomfort and refused to answer him.

 

Coincidentally, DS actually asked about the Titantic distaster yesterday, after seeing a picture of it in a book about oceans. He asked how it sunk and whether there was a rescue boat. I replied that when the accident happened, the nearest ships were too far away to get there in time. I then explained that some of people were saved by getting into the lifeboats. Of course, he asked about the rest of the people, and I replied "I'm afraid they died in the cold water." DS gasped, "That's terrible!" and he obviously thought about it for a minute or two... but that was pretty much the end of the conversation (at least for now!) I don't think I've de-sensitized him - the vast majority of people in the world are aware that terrible things can and do happen, that we can and should feel compassion for the victims, but ultimately most of us push this knowledge to the side, in order to focus on our present lives.

 

In terms of desensitizing, I'm much more concerned about my son's exposure to violence portrayed as "fun" in the media, than I am about answering his questions about death and tragedies (though I wouldn't introduce any of these concepts intentionally, just discuss them with DS at an appropriate level, as they come up).

 

Linn

post #17 of 19
This was so interesting to me, as I was always curious about death as a child. Whenever we passed a cemetery I would ask lots of questions about what happens after you are put in the ground. This was before kindergarten. My mom would eventually become uncomfortable after the first dozen questions and eventually stopped driving down that particular road. I maintained this interest as I later studied the Bermuda Triangle, the holocaust, and the titanic in school during research projects where I got to choose the topic. It was a morbid curiosity, but I really wanted to know what happened and why.

My mother passed away when I was 17, which of course crushed me, and the experience was in no way similar to any of my reading or factual interest in those other topics. I went on to graduate with a degree in teaching, which I did for many years until having kiddos. A colleague of mine (who also lost a parent young) and I pursued an independent survey of "death in children's literature." What we found is that people most often want to shield and shelter children from knowledge. We had trouble even finding picture books that addressed the topic. (There are some good ones out there, however, which are wonderful teaching tools. The tenth good thing about Barney, love you forever, among others.)

Interestingly, however, all of the research we did in what doctors and psychologists had to say about it was almost universal in recommending that children be given opportunities to talk about, grapple with, and confront the idea in a sensitive and truthful way. Apparently, as with everything else, kids improve their ability to handle death when given multiple opportunities to confront it before it hits them on a very personal level.

This approach, however, relates to talking about and discussing death in a sensitive, truthful, yet respectful manner. This is not the same type of exposure that occurs when children witness violent games, movies or shows. Death in these cases is not presented in a way that helps kids grapple with reality! I too worry about the desensitizing effects of such media.

Giving kids the opportunity to talk about and handle hard topics is a sign of respect. Exposing them to callous interpretations of death, however, is not something I would want to expose them to unless you are using it to critique the manner in which it is presented. Kind of like watching commercials in order to expose the shameful manner in which they try to coerce you into buying things.

That is my two cents, and probably why I would lean towards books, facts and sharing conversations on these topics that handle death respectfully but truthfully. You know your child best, of course. Much good luck!
post #18 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by babymama_nursing View Post

Giving kids the opportunity to talk about and handle hard topics is a sign of respect.

 

Oh this!!!  Yes!  Exactly.  

post #19 of 19
It all depends on the child, and it is the mother who knows the child best.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Parenting the Gifted Child
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Mom › Parenting › Parenting the Gifted Child › Death- how much info do you filter out of books for your gifted 4 year old?