How and when did you talk to your child about death - Mothering Forums

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Old 09-16-2009, 05:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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How and when did you talk to your child about death?


My DC (5 years old) and I were watching My Girl the other day (big mistake). When Tomas J got stung by the bees it brought up a whole bunch of questions about death. I felt cornered because i did not no how to answer them.
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Old 09-16-2009, 06:31 PM
 
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with my older son (who just turned four) we first talked about it probably a year ago, when i happened to be talking about my grandmother who has been dead for a long time. in my attempt to explain what that meant, i said that her spirit left her body and went back up to the stars, where his spirit had been before he was born.

so over the course of the past year, it has come up in other ways. like, when driving past a cemetary and he asks about it: that's where we bury people's bodies when they die, because they're not using them any more, and the good things in their bodies go back into the earth so new things can grow (okay, maybe not if they're in a coffin but whatever) and it's a safe place for them. he also had a pet ladybug that died (big surprise) so we talked about death and funerals quite a bit.

sometimes when i don't know how to answer a delicate question, i ask my son what he thinks the answer is, or i admit that i need to think about it because i don't know or because it's tricky and i want to think about how to explain it.
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Old 09-16-2009, 09:33 PM
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I talked about it with my kids as we experienced it - so when dd was 5.5 and ds was 5, I told them about their great-grandmother passing, because they remembered her well.
Then, when my grandfather died a year later we mentioned it again.
And most recently, when my FIL passed away this summer, I talked about it with my dd, now 9, and ds now 7.5, although my 4yo ds didn't really want to discuss it - he just took it on face value that his grandfather had died and he wouldn't be around any more. I think he got the general concept, though, from hearing the rest of us talking.
I think it's easier that all these people were old. We talked about the concept of aging as our bodies wearing out. I told them that when G-d decides it's time, our souls go back to Him, and our bodies are just a container for our soul to help it do good things in this world. So when the soul is back with G-d in Heaven, the body is like an empty container and isn't needed. But, because it was used for such a special purpose as housing a soul and doing good deeds, we put it in a respectful place called a cemetary.
We haven't had to discuss the death of a young person. I think I would talk about it in much the same way, if there was illness - that we never know G-d's plan but in this case G-d decided that person had finished the jobs they were here on Earth to do, so the body isn't needed. I'm not sure about answering their questions if there were tragic circumstances like accident.
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Old 09-16-2009, 10:45 PM
 
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We already talk about it, even though the kids are only 2 and 1, so I don't know how much they get yet. (We also talk about where babies come from, for that matter, we don't tend to hide much.) If we see a dead animal on the road we mention it's dead, when a plant dies we say it's dead, when our goldfish died he saw that it was dead and we said goodbye and took it in the garden. Sometimes if there are questions about it, we add that people die sometimes too - in a matter of fact way. Sometimes we say a short prayer and say goodbye to the animal/plant/etc, but it's not like there's a lot of drama about it - it's just a part of life.

We don't watch TV but we do have some DVD's and The Lion King is one of them. In the beginning the lion daddy explains to Simba about the circle of life, about how we're all connected and our bodies become the grass for the antelope to eat when we die (sort of) and I think that's a good way of explaining it. We don't tend to focus too much about the afterlife in our religion but we do say that the spirit lives on after the body dies, goes to the spirit world etc. So death isn't something to fear and we should live the best we can while we're here.

I'm not going to get into the more technical sides of death for a while, though. i.e. I believe very strongly (for religious reasons) against things like autopsies, embalming, and other such... unnatural things people do to the body after death. (I know autopsies are sometimes required, but honestly when is an open casket funeral required? I ramble, sorry.) Those types of things, which I do want to eventually express my views about, I'm not going to get into for a LONG time.

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Old 09-16-2009, 10:50 PM
 
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Originally Posted by LittleBlessings View Post
My DC (5 years old) and I were watching My Girl the other day (big mistake). When Tomas J got stung by the bees it brought up a whole bunch of questions about death. I felt cornered because i did not no how to answer them.
If you don't mind me asking, what sort of questions were brought up that you couldn't answer? Were they things that you didn't want to answer or that you didn't have a religious answer to? It's OK to say that you don't know the answer to something. Like, if your kid asks if you personally believe in Heaven but you *personally* don't know whether you do or not, it's OK to say that.

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Old 09-17-2009, 02:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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If you don't mind me asking, what sort of questions were brought up that you couldn't answer? Were they things that you didn't want to answer or that you didn't have a religious answer to? It's OK to say that you don't know the answer to something. Like, if your kid asks if you personally believe in Heaven but you *personally* don't know whether you do or not, it's OK to say that.

I do not know how to explain it to a 5 year old so that she would understand and not be scared.

some of the questions:

Why is that boy not waking up?

He goes to the hospial to get better. Right mom?

DC also asked why he died because he got stung. I do not know how to answer this because I do not want DC to think she is going to die if she gets stung.


I do not not remember the other questions
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Old 09-17-2009, 06:15 PM
 
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I think if it was me in that situation, with my kids, this is how I would answer the questions. Doesn't mean it's the "right" way, but this is what *I* would say.

Why is that boy not waking up?

He's not waking up because he died. That means his spirit went to the spirit world. When that happens, your body doesn't work anymore and it looks like it's sleeping. The boy's spirit is OK, it just went somewhere else.

He goes to the hospital to get better. Right mom?

Usually people do go to the hospital when they're sick, and the doctors there make them better. But sometimes the body gets so sick or hurt that the spirit doesn't want to live in it anymore. It usually doesn't happen until someone is old, though. By the time the doctors found this boy, the spirit had already left. Once the spirit leaves, the doctors can't bring it back.

DC also asked why he died because he got stung. I do not know how to answer this because I do not want DC to think she is going to die if she gets stung.

Usually a bee sting just hurts a little bit. But some people are more sensitive than others, and that boy got stung by lots of bees, and they made him really sick. That rarely happens, so it's nothing you need to worry about.

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Old 09-18-2009, 05:37 AM
 
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Originally Posted by LittleBlessings View Post

Why is that boy not waking up?

Because he died. His heart stopped beating and his body stopped working.

He goes to the hospial to get better. Right mom?

Most of the time people can go to hospital and the doctors help make them better, but sometimes the doctors can't help them.

DC also asked why he died because he got stung. I do not know how to answer this because I do not want DC to think she is going to die if she gets stung.

His body doesn't work the same as ours. When we get a bee sting it really hurts but when he got stung by all those bees it stopped his body working properly and his heart stopped beating.

I try to be very matter of fact about it. DS knows that everything living dies but that we don't know when we're going to die. I tell him that I believe that our soul goes to Heaven and our body goes into the ground and rots.


I do not not remember the other questions
I also like to make the distinction that our heart stops beating. Mainly because our hearts only stop beating when we die. I don't want to freak him out about holding his breath incase he thinks that if you aren't breathing you're dead! I've never really tiptoed around death either. We've watched vet shows where animals had to be put down, my Mum had to get their cat put down, my Nana died, we talk about DH Grandad who died many years ago, but we have a photo of DH and him together.

It's complicated.
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Old 09-18-2009, 06:03 AM
 
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My three year old asked me the other day, point blank, what it happens when you "get dead".

I explained it a lot like the PPs-- your spirit leaves your body, and your body is usually buried.

He was fine with it until I mentioned that everyone dies-- then he freaked out and told me I couldn't die.

The conversation totally took me by surprise-- I just tried to answer his questions simply and honestly.
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Old 09-18-2009, 05:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think if it was me in that situation, with my kids, this is how I would answer the questions. Doesn't mean it's the "right" way, but this is what *I* would say.

Why is that boy not waking up?

He's not waking up because he died. That means his spirit went to the spirit world. When that happens, your body doesn't work anymore and it looks like it's sleeping. The boy's spirit is OK, it just went somewhere else.

He goes to the hospital to get better. Right mom?

Usually people do go to the hospital when they're sick, and the doctors there make them better. But sometimes the body gets so sick or hurt that the spirit doesn't want to live in it anymore. It usually doesn't happen until someone is old, though. By the time the doctors found this boy, the spirit had already left. Once the spirit leaves, the doctors can't bring it back.

DC also asked why he died because he got stung. I do not know how to answer this because I do not want DC to think she is going to die if she gets stung.

Usually a bee sting just hurts a little bit. But some people are more sensitive than others, and that boy got stung by lots of bees, and they made him really sick. That rarely happens, so it's nothing you need to worry about.
Thanks for your input. I love your answers to those questions.
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Old 09-18-2009, 11:10 PM
 
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Wow, there are some brilliant and lovely answers in this post. Maybe I print and post on my fridge?

My 6 y/o son has been asking a lot of questions and i usually try to answer but today I'm fighting a cold and sleep deprived.

He asked, out of the blue, "Mommy - why are dead people buried in the cemetery?" My mind just went blank as I"m quite exhausted and sick and I said, "uhm, so they don't rot?"

That wasn't so good, was it?

I think I"m actually going to write some of your replies down and bring up this subject again when I'm feeling better.
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Old 09-23-2009, 07:59 PM
 
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We've talked about death since they were tiny. As death happened, like another poster said.

When bugs die, when our rabbit died, when Gma's cat died, etc.

When they tried to run into the road (I explained they could be hit by a car and die), when they didn't understand why they couldn't venture into Gma and Gpa's pool alone, when DS1 choked and turned grey and DD wondered why we were so scared.

I just talked and gave it to them in small doses.
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Old 09-23-2009, 08:07 PM
 
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Originally Posted by LittleBlessings View Post
How and when did you talk to your child about death?


My DC (5 years old) and I were watching My Girl the other day (big mistake). When Tomas J got stung by the bees it brought up a whole bunch of questions about death. I felt cornered because i did not no how to answer them.
we didnt have a set time, it is something that has always been a part of our normal conversations.

Heavily tattooed and Dready Mama to my girls. YES we are STILL NURSING! love to and
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Old 09-24-2009, 10:16 AM
 
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My dd, 4, has known about death for a while, both in the context of people and animals. Since we have specific religious beliefs, I told her that as far as what happens after we die. I had originally told her usually people die when they are old, but it has come to her attention that it isn't always the case. When she asked what would happen if her dad and I died, we said she and her sister would be taken good care of by someone like her grandparents or aunt and uncle. She seemed happy with that.

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Old 09-24-2009, 10:28 AM
 
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My husband's grandmother is in the process of dying right now I wasn't sure if I wanted to bring my girls to the hospice to see her, and having to deal with the questions, but I ultimately decided that was selfish and the girls have been up to see her a few times, both with and without me. When my DD1 (4yo) asked me "When is great grandma going to go home?" we talked about death. I explained it much the same way that many of the pp's have. DD started to cry and told me that she didn't want great grandma to die and that she'd miss her. We talked about that for a little while, and the conversation naturally progressed to other people dying, and she told me that she'll miss me when I die. It sounds freaking morbid in print, but it was so sweet. Anyway, I told her that I don't plan on dying for a really, really long time, and that I plan on being here to see her get married and have children of her own if that's what she wants to do. That seems like forever away to her, so she's okay with everything now. But she still hits me with "Mommy, I'm going to miss you when you die. And Daddy too." every once in a while.

But, like, pp's have mentioned, it's part of life. She understands animals dying and even that often animals get killed for food, either for people or for other animals.Shielding her from it isn't doing her any favors, I don't think.

Bluegoat Our girls are exactly the same ages as yours! Congrats on #3.

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