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4 year old sons "obsession" with death.....

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Old 02-25-2010, 07:34 PM   #1
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Default 4 year old sons "obsession" with death.....

My oldest son went through this phase....but not nearly as indepth or long as my four year old has. Nobody in the family has died recently. The only close death that has happened was back this son was only 8 months old.

Just to get it out there, DH and I do not believe in a higher power of any sorts.

So for the past few weeks DS has been asking all sorts of questions about death. When do people die, why do they die, how do they die, what happens to them when they die, etc, etc, etc. Thankfully we have a few books about the topic from when my oldest son was asking. We have "Lifetimes" and "When Dinosours Die". First it started out as him asking why o people die and we pretty much told him that when people get really old their bodies get tired and they stop working and unfortunately we won't see that person again. But the questions keep getting more and more intense. Today he was so upset and crying because he says he'll miss us when we die and wondered if we'll ever see each other again. He said he can't ever not see us again. I couldn't help but cry right along with him. He told me that when I'm dying he'll tell me he loves me.

I really really really really want to just pretend that I believe in God and tell him that when he dies, or we die or his brother dies that we are going to be in a place filled with rainbows, flowers, and chocolate....but DH totally disagrees with me. He thinks we should be completely honest with DS in terms of our beliefs. We have explained religion to him and have told him that some people believe and we have also explained to him about evolution...the big bang theory..... But he's only four years old, so I'm not sure how much of it he actually understands but I want him to be able to make his own choices .

I'm really not sure where to go with this. My oldest son was curious about death, we explained it to him and he stopped asking within a couple of days...
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Old 02-25-2010, 07:59 PM   #2
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It's a tough call, and while I don't have any kids of my own. I remember when my cousin's son when through this phase at about 4 or 5, my mom and I both babysat him while his mom worked so he was around our place a lot. He used to ask to go to the "Berry Gardens" which we assumed when he first asked was the place that we went to get to Strawberries, since it was that time of year. But after we took him there he asked again, then we realized he meant the "Bury Gardens" of course the Cemetary. Just remember, some kids are a lot more sensitive than others, just support him the best you can. It's all anyone can do.
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Old 02-25-2010, 08:08 PM   #3
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It's possible he's misunderstanding "really old" and thinks that you or your husband dying is a more immediate concern, instead of something WAAAAY off in the future. A simple "It will almost certainly be a VERY long time, not until you're even older than mommy, when you have to worry about mommy dying. It isn't going to happen any time soon". It's not a lie, but it may be reassuring to him. Kids have a different concept of "old" than adults...you're all grown up, so you're already "old".
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Old 02-25-2010, 08:16 PM   #4
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I'm not sure I can be much help on this one, but almost all four year olds have an almost impossible time grasping what death is. No matter how much you explain, they still wonder why you would put someone in the earth to wake up trapped there later, and if there's a lock on the coffin to keep people in, and is heaven inside the coffin? It goes on and on. They don't understand the concepts, really.

So, really, I'd try to keep it as simple as possible. It sounds like you've tried, and your son needs more info, some kind of reassurance. Try to completely skip the part (for your son who is already apprehensive) about how any of us could die any day, and just go for the old and long, happy life, aspect. I suspect if he thought he could die tomorrow, he'd be afraid of everything.

Would your husband agree to telling him that you just don't know what happens when you die, if he won't let you talk about the possibility of an afterlife? Of course, saying you don't know may get him thinking about even worse possibilities, so maybe in your case that's a poor choice.

I don't want to tell you to compromise your beliefs, but if he's already upset, maybe he needs to hear you tell him that there's either a place where all of the Grandmas are and everyone's happy, or that your spirit lives on and you can watch your loved ones here on earth, or some combo of those. Then, he can form his own beliefs once he's a little older.
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Old 02-25-2010, 08:17 PM   #5
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I agree with Amanda. He probably thinks you're old now, because he classifies all adults that way.
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Old 02-25-2010, 08:19 PM   #6
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I don't have any kids, so I don't have any parental experience to go on. All I can say is I remember when I was his age going through the same thing.

I would get up in the middle of the night and run downstairs sobbing because I didn't want my parents to die. It was like having a panic attack and it was all I could think about. I know it happened more than once. I remember being really scared and really sad. I couldn't tell you now anything that my parents told me about death at the time. I DO remember them holding me tight, making me feel loved and reassuring me though.

I think that's what's most important. I don't think a child is looking for hard facts or beliefs or anything like that, so an overview about death is probably enough. I think a lot of what's really worrying them is the feeling of insecurity they get from thinking about losing you. After you're gone, will they just always be sad and alone? What they really need to hear is that it will probably be a very long time before you die and that no matter what happens, they'll always be taken care of. You'll always be in each others' hearts and they'll always be loved.

At least I think that was how it was for me, from what I remember. Hope that helps
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Old 02-25-2010, 08:49 PM   #7
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Try to completely skip the part (for your son who is already apprehensive) about how any of us could die any day, and just go for the old and long, happy life, aspect.
Oh, we emphasize the REALLY old part. Today I had to lie to him when he asked "do some kids die?" because he is sick....he has a problem with his bowels and has been hospitalized with recurring bowel impactions so I don't want to tell him some kids get or are sick and die...because that would make him upset for sure!
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Old 02-25-2010, 08:52 PM   #8
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You'll always be in each others' hearts and they'll always be loved.
About a week ago I had said to him "Even when mommy is really really old and has died and you can't see me any longer do you know where I'll be?" he says "where?" and I said "In your heart". He sits there looking at me for a few seconds and says "But how will you fit in there?". Haaaahahahahaha. Guess that didn't work very well!
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Old 02-25-2010, 10:05 PM   #9
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I can't imagine how hard this is for you. I really can't offer any advice other than to comfort your son and I agree with your husband that you should tell the truth about your beliefs. It cannot be easy for you because anyway that you can answer to him truthfully, based on your beliefs, there isn't much hope When you die it's over, other than "in your heart and memories" for the ones left here on earth....

My kids are all grown up now but these questions did enter their minds from time to time....and I am sure even at 28-26-22-19 they still do....but they know that no matter what happens to them or me or their moms....we will all see each other in paradise with Jesus....

I wish you the best
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Old 02-26-2010, 09:33 AM   #10
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While I'm not necessarily a religious person I do think that a basic spirituality is of great comfort to the ignorant. By ignorant I mean someone who doesn't have life experience or a basis of understanding for something so unfathomable. In other words, a child, or a person who has only learned one way of living.

There are more people than you can imagine who grew up in christian homes believing in heaven and after life that were forced to go to church and sunday school who have grown up and don't adhere to those beliefs and practices. So in your situation I think it would be a great comfort to your child to give him what he needs right now, and that's peace of mind. You don't have to use the words heaven or anything, but you could explain to me that once you die you've gone somewhere else and will be watching over him and will always be there for him. In essence your son is not asking you about your religion, he's asking you if you are going to leave him forever. Just telling him you're going to die and be buried and that's it, although it may be your spiritual belief, is not something he's ready to hear or understand. Leave it for when he's a little older.

Think of it this way. If you were a vegetarian would you deprive your child of meat if you knew he needed iron and protein? No... you would give him what he needs and as he grows up he will understand vegeterianism through observing you and then most likely adopt it for himself.

Someone once told me that being fair doesn't mean that everybody gets the same thing. It means that everyone gets what they need.
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Old 03-02-2010, 03:36 AM   #11
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Babygrant, it sounds to me like your son is an "Old Soul", sensitive and introspective. Children who suffer with illness often are!

I'd keep telling him the truth. Truth is good (age appropriate truth).

Does he have a memory of a favorite activity or outing or vacation or amusement park or party that he cried and was sad over not still having the ability to be at or do? If he does and he remembers it, perhaps talking to him about how much he loved this thing and missed it, but now he gets to remember it and talk about it and look at pictures will help him understand the joy of memories and love even in the absence of physical presence in the moment. Death is a challenging concept for anyone to grasp, but this idea may help.

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Think of it this way. If you were a vegetarian would you deprive your child of meat if you knew he needed iron and protein? No... you would give him what he needs and as he grows up he will understand vegeterianism through observing you and then most likely adopt it for himself.
Vegetarians have ample sources of iron and protein and don't have to abandon a plant-based diet to provide adequate nutrition to a growing child, even the American Dietetic Association says so.

In kind, children of Atheists or non-traditional belief systems don't "need" religion or ideologies that conflict with the parent's own beliefs to make them whole or healthy or well either.
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Old 03-02-2010, 03:52 AM   #12
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I think as long as you are their to comfort your son and answer his questions in a way he can understand, he'll be okay.

I too had a weird death preoccupation when I was around that age. Of course, my little sister had just died (twins. one is still alive). My mom remembers me calling her into my bedroom and asking "Mommy, does everybody die?" Of course, she had to say yes, but I didn't really buy the whole "not for a long, long time" thing because my baby sister had just died! I think my parents had me see a counselor a few times, and I worked through it and had a perfectly normal, happy childhood. Of course, whenever people asked me about my sister, I would say "her twin died." People probably thought I was a morbid little kid.

Maybe, if your son is still very upset about death and dying you should talk to a child psychologist for advice, or maybe even take your son to speak to a child counselor. It might just take him to work through it. Poor kid, though. It must be rough pondering mortality when you're only four! I hope he stays well, too.
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Old 03-02-2010, 08:51 AM   #13
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Vegetarians have ample sources of iron and protein and don't have to abandon a plant-based diet to provide adequate nutrition to a growing child, even the American Dietetic Association says so.

In kind, children of Atheists or non-traditional belief systems don't "need" religion or ideologies that conflict with the parent's own beliefs to make them whole or healthy or well either.
I wasn't trying to make a point about vegeterianism. My point is that you have to give a child what he/she needs, not what YOU as a parent need. Lots of people who grow up in christian homes grow up to be atheists. Lots of people who grow up in meat-eating cultures grow up to be vegetarians. Lots of people who grow up in republican homes grow up to be democrats. Parents shouldn't feel that they have to close their kids off from other types of thinking so that they can grow up to be just like them - a kid will grow up to be his own person.

There are lots of religions out there, spiritual journeys, this is not the first time this question has ever been asked, and it's not the last time the OP's son will ever think about this issue. Even if doesn't learn about these things at home, he eventually encounter people from all walks of life as he grows up including atheists, christians, muslims, jews, buddhists, etc.

And suppose the child's doctor advises you that your child needs to eat lean protein twice a week due to a medical illness? Vegeterianism is not a religion, you give your kid what they need.
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Old 03-02-2010, 11:06 AM   #14
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I wasn't trying to make a point about vegeterianism. My point is that you have to give a child what he/she needs, not what YOU as a parent need. Lots of people who grow up in christian homes grow up to be atheists. Lots of people who grow up in meat-eating cultures grow up to be vegetarians. Lots of people who grow up in republican homes grow up to be democrats. Parents shouldn't feel that they have to close their kids off from other types of thinking so that they can grow up to be just like them - a kid will grow up to be his own person.

There are lots of religions out there, spiritual journeys, this is not the first time this question has ever been asked, and it's not the last time the OP's son will ever think about this issue. Even if doesn't learn about these things at home, he eventually encounter people from all walks of life as he grows up including atheists, christians, muslims, jews, buddhists, etc.
I agree 100% and that's why my child has attended a Sweat Lodge, Buddhist, Sikh and Hare Krishna Temples as well as Mass, Christian Churches and more. There's a difference between "closing a child off" and pushing something that conflicts with your own beliefs, or presenting something you don't agree with as FACT.

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And suppose the child's doctor advises you that your child needs to eat lean protein twice a week due to a medical illness? Vegeterianism is not a religion, you give your kid what they need.
Yeah...My point was that this isn't really something that happens very often in real life. Vegetarian proteins *are* "lean protein", especially plant-based proteins.
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Old 03-02-2010, 12:51 PM   #15
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I think you should ask him what he believes happens after death, maybe he wants an answer that he wants to hear from you.

Maybe tell him no one really knows, that some people think it's the end and some think it's a new beginning. Tell him he was to find the answer, and that it might take awile to find out.

Just show him your love.

It's a good idea to show him different religions.

Personally I think your son is an old soul, I think be does believe in life after death. I think he is frustrated that he isn't hearing it? Children always see things for what they are, they can see into thier own hearts better then anyone.

I believe you can get threw this. <3

Maybe take him to a church and see if he likes it? I respect your believes, and if not that's totally understanding. I, myself don't really lay my spirituality from the bible or from church, but from...my life experiences. Hard to explain this warmth in my heart, hard to explain all the things that have happend to me that shows me there is life after death. But anyway, aside from that I just want to let you know that I believe in a higher power and have a big connect becuase it comes naturally to me, even when I was little. No one forced me to feel this, I'm free. I believe you can be able to find your own path. Doesn't make much sense. Sorry. I tried.
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