How do you explain death to a child?
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15-11-2013, 12:44 AM
RE: How do you explain death to a child?
When I was small... My idea of death was that bit in the Wizard of Oz where the witch melts.

So when my Great-Grandmother died (she'd be 101 now), I was expecting her to be literally (as I put it) "a puddle on the floor"... But I was only 4 at the time.

I was 8 when my Grandfather died, at just 69 years old... If there's one thing that fucked me up for life, that's it. I knew he was Ill with what the grownups called "a tumor", but no-one told me he was going to die from it...

Last time I saw him was my 8th birthday, he was dead 3 days later... From that moment on I've suffered with periods of anxiety and depression.

I think if the facts had been explained to me from the outset, I wouldn't have had all the problems that followed. It was about the only thing that ever made me devoutly religious...

So my position is... Be gentle, but honest. It might well cause tears and upset, but it'll make it so much easier for the child to deal with later.

And also, watch out for feelings of guilt... Kids can often feel guilty about the loss of a family member.

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15-11-2013, 01:04 AM (This post was last modified: 15-11-2013 01:28 AM by EvolutionKills.)
RE: How do you explain death to a child?
In simple terms for children, I would tell them that we are all stardust and will be stardust again. If they ask how, explain to them the basics; that everything we are made out of and all of the planets are formed out of the remnants of stars that already ended as super novae. If they are afraid of death, ask them what their life was like before they were born. They'll probably come up with something along of the lines of 'that's silly, how could I know what it was like before I was born?'. Exactly, you where entirely unaware before you were born, and that's what happens when you die. There is no pain, no suffering, you will not be aware at all. You will eventually go back to being stardust, because the molecules in your body are as old as the universe. You may only be X years old, and I may only be X years old, but the molecules that make up our bodies are 13.7 billion years old. Not only that, but we are most likely not the first lifeforms that they have been apart of (they might have been part of dinosaurs!). Not only that, but the atoms in our right hand probably came from a different star than the atoms in our left hand. We were once stardust, and we will be stardust again.

If that doesn't intrigue a kid enough to get them interested in astronomy, science, or dinosaurs; I'm not sure what will.

That right there is enough to answer most of the big concerns, and lead into questions about cosmology, geology, biology, evolution, and physics. Do you have Netflix? Watch a few episodes of 'How the Universe Works', especially the episode on Black Holes (really fascinating stuff). Be prepared to stop and answer question for him and explain things as simple analogies. You don't have to get too technical, just enough to get the basics (atoms get crushed so hard they turn into new atoms). He'll hopefully be so fascinated with learning how the universe works, that he'll forget about being depressed over something he cannot control anyways. If later on you do find yourself at the funeral for a loved one that passed on and your kid can keep a smile, because he knows where life comes from and were it's going back to, then mission accomplished. After I started to study science, cosmology, and biology, I never get sad at funerals anymore. I still miss people, but I don't worry for them. Funerals are for the benefit of the living, not the dead.

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15-11-2013, 07:39 AM
RE: How do you explain death to a child?
My children have understood from an early age that things die, that one day I would die, and one day they would die. I think if you don't make a fuss about it it doesn't have to be difficult. That said, my Mr 4 has recently been working through and asking me questions that indicate he is or was worried about these things.

I fall back to the idea that we were all dead for billions of years before we were born, and that it didn't inconvenience us in the slightest.

Give me your argument in the form of a published paper, and then we can start to talk.
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15-11-2013, 08:02 AM
RE: How do you explain death to a child?
(14-11-2013 08:55 AM)J-Hova Wrote:  So my little boy is two and where I do not see imminent death of anyone on the horizon I can't help but to jump ahead and wonder how do you explain these things to a child. Obviously the answer would vary greatly on the age of the child and what they can comprehend but for instance if a child is say 4 or 5 and a grandparent died how would you explain where they are or what happened to them?

"Daddy, what's death? And why'd Grandpa go there?
"This is hard to explain.... X, do you remember what it was like before you were born?"
"No"
"That's what death is probably like; exactly how you were before you lived. As for why grandpa died (insert drastically over-simplified cause of death)"

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15-11-2013, 08:05 AM
RE: How do you explain death to a child?
(14-11-2013 08:55 AM)J-Hova Wrote:  So my little boy is two and where I do not see imminent death of anyone on the horizon I can't help but to jump ahead and wonder how do you explain these things to a child. Obviously the answer would vary greatly on the age of the child and what they can comprehend but for instance if a child is say 4 or 5 and a grandparent died how would you explain where they are or what happened to them?

Funny - but I just had this conversation with my granddaughter. She's 8. Started with a conversation/explanation about how wood becomes petrified rock instead. That led to talking about how most everything turns into decomposed matter (dust to dust so to speak). Which in turn, changed into how we all are matter that someday decomposes and why. I found that simply making mankind matter that should decompose and turn to dirt like almost everything else helped her. Made it far less personal and less scary.

Hope this helps.
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