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I'm not sure if this thread belongs here but here it goes for now. Let me preface this to not intending to insult/judge anyone who practices a religion.

My dd is just over 4years old and just starting picking up the concept of dying, i.e. being gentle with insects; realizing that those "sticks" that the pirates were holding in that picture are to hurt and kill people; "so you die when you reach 100 years old, right mama";....you get my drift.

Anyway, we are a secular/spiritual family (I was raised catholic but have now "converted" to secularism) so we didn't bring up the concept of heaven. Instead, we suggested reincarnation. We want our children to be exposed to different points of view without telling her which is "right". At her Montessori school she heard some kids talking about Jesus. Our kids can decide to believe what want.

The question is directed to secular parents. What have you said/or will say to your children about death and beyond?
 

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I've been honest based on what we believe. You go to sleep, aren't aware of what is going on and your body is used by the earth to feed other creatures as the perfect example of recycling (which we talk about, too.
)
 

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Hmm.......we've approached death without the idea of heaven, mostly. I mean, when we talk aboiut death, it's usually about how parts of our bodies, the parts that are still healthy, will be given to others so they can be healthy. The rest of our bodies will be burned up, and we talk about where we want those ashes to go (so far, one wanting Niagara Falls, the other wanting Disneyland.). And then who knows what our souls do? Do they float around, like ghosts, waiting for another body? Do they have a special spot to wait? Do they go to heaven? I leave it up to their imaginations.

Mostly, though, they just want to talk about the organ donation and cremation. Boys.
 

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Tell it like it is.
When you die your body doesn't work anymore. Eventually it turns into dirt again.

You can tell her that you're not sure what happens to the rest of us (that which is not body), and explain that people believe many different things.

Adults seem to make death more complicated than kids. My dd has had the opportunity to learn about death in the past year a couple of times (a couple of fish, and a distant cousin). I'm always amazed at how it's not so much of a big deal to kids. We all worry how they will handle it, but they do just fine.

g.
 

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We do belong to a religion, but I've handled it along the lines of:

"What a great question! That's something people have wondered about for as long as there have been people. Different people believe different things about that. Some people think your spirit comes back again as a baby. Some people think you go to be with the God and a bunch of angels. Some people think you end up in a beautiful garden with rivers and trees. Some people think that nothing happens at all - you're just dead."

Although my own religion isn't too big on the whole "heaven" concept, I don't think there's anything wrong with telling them about it, especially since it's an idea that is so prevalent in Western culture, and they're going to be hearing about it. But like you, I do want them to know that there are lots of other beliefs.

I guess, more than anything, I want to convey to them the idea that what happens after death is a really big mystery, and that the beliefs people have about it are very interesting. And that this is one of those questions that Mama just doesn't have the answer to.
 

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well when my 5yo ds has asked about certain photos or events that happened before he was conceived/born i told him "nope, you weren't there. you were just a little star in the sky".

then when he asked me what happens after you die i told him "well, your body goes back into the earth and your energy goes out into space". "back to the stars?" he asked. "yeah," i said. "and then we can be a baby again?" "maybe, my love, maybe".

i hadn't really thought about what i would tell him beforehand and this just happened very naturally, which was nice.
 

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I'm not teaching about heaven either. When my son was about 3.5 years old, he asked enough questions about a dead squirrel in our yard to hear this:

The squirrel's body stopped working. The squirrel's spirit---that part of the squirrel that feels happy and sad, and feels cold and hot, and loves its family--is not in the body anymore.

Of course, he asked, "Where did it go?" I said I didn't know. About five minutes later, he said, "Maybe it went into another squirrel." I told him that some people believe that's how it happens, but nobody is certain.

I've decided that my responses to these questions are going to accentuate how nobody knows for sure--I figure that this tactic a) is accurate, b) allows for discussing different traditions without somebody being right or best, and c) doesn't make me have to be the afterlife expert!
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by g&a View Post
When you die your body doesn't work anymore. Eventually it turns into dirt again.

You can tell her that you're not sure what happens to the rest of us (that which is not body), and explain that people believe many different things.
This is pretty much what we say. My older son is 4.5 and we have experienced two family deaths during the past year, so discussions of death have happened several times. He took it all in stride.

We also talk about missing the person who died, and remembering the things they did, looking at photos of them, and sharing stories about them.

We compost most food waste here and he asked some questions about bodies decomposing and he drew the comparison to composting. He knows that compost helps our garden to grow and that when people and animals die, their bodies become part of the earth again (so far we haven't discussed embalming or crypts
), and help the plants all over the earth to grow.

I carefully avoid any sleep metaphors. Dying is not sleeping.
 

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Seems a common age to start asking these things. My daughter is 4 and also really interested in death as well as reproduction, you should hear the questions on that one!


Quote:

Originally Posted by P-chan View Post
I'm not teaching about heaven either. When my son was about 3.5 years old, he asked enough questions about a dead squirrel in our yard to hear this:

The squirrel's body stopped working. The squirrel's spirit---that part of the squirrel that feels happy and sad, and feels cold and hot, and loves its family--is not in the body anymore.

Of course, he asked, "Where did it go?" I said I didn't know. About five minutes later, he said, "Maybe it went into another squirrel." I told him that some people believe that's how it happens, but nobody is certain.

I've decided that my responses to these questions are going to accentuate how nobody knows for sure--I figure that this tactic a) is accurate, b) allows for discussing different traditions without somebody being right or best, and c) doesn't make me have to be the afterlife expert!
This is exactly what I've said/done. In fact my daughter also suggested that an animals spirit would go on to become a new animal.
My husband is jewish and I am pagan and we are both non-practicing so we are not believers in heaven or that type thing. Truth is no one does know what happens and I tell my daughter that along with supporting her suggestions of what could happen and talking about things that some people believe.
 

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I think an interesting point to bring up in the "What happens when you die" conversation is to ask the child, "What was it like before you were born?" Then let them expound on that. My DS is only marginally interested in death, but I am saving this for when he asks.
 
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