Death: One of the many hard discussions I will have with my kids

I don’t know what prompted it, but my four-year-old has been worrying about death lately. It isn’t that anyone we know has died. In fact, my kids have never had to deal with the death of a loved one or even a pet. And for that I am thankful, but I realize that won’t always hold true.

A week ago, Lexie came in from riding her scooter with her brother saying she didn’t want to become a grandma because then she would die. My husband and I quickly pointed out that both of her grandmas were still alive and that becoming a grandma didn’t mean you were going to die.

“Then what will happen when I become a grandma?” she asked.

“You will enjoy playing with your grandkids,” my husband answered.

That answer seemed to be fine with her, but the subject didn’t go away. A few mornings later, Lexie was almost in tears talking about growing old and not wanting to die. We were on the way to preschool, and I didn’t want to discuss this in the car with her, so I said we would discuss it later.

After I dropped her off, I drove home torn with what I would tell her. I want to be truthful about death, but I also don’t want to scare her or cause her to worry about it. I can’t tell her that she or someone she loves will not die. She might never believe anything else I ever say if I told her those things wouldn’t happen and then they do.  I kind of hoped she would forget about the topic but no such luck.

On the way home, she brought up the topic again. I asked her why she was thinking about death, and she said it was from a dream. She went on to say that you die when you get a tummy ache or when you get sick.  I calmly pointed out that Daddy had been sick earlier this month, and he didn’t die. She then asked if sometimes you die after being sick, and I did agree that sometimes that happens but that many times you get sick and then get better.

Having the discussion in the car wasn’t the ideal place to talk about dying, but I think I addressed her questions and reassured her the best that I can. But I am sure this won’t be our last conversation about it. I just hope that I continue to find the right words to alleviate her concerns.

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5 thoughts on “Death: One of the many hard discussions I will have with my kids

  1. Joan Lindgren says:

    My bet is if you check with her preschool teacher, some other child’s Grandma has died recently. If is a difficult topic, but one that needs to be discussed carefully with no promises that the grandparents or anyone else will not die. Keep answering her questions simply. At her age, this is normal.

  2. I really appreciate your straightforward, factual reality check with your child. She may still be a little anxious about death, but with the balanced view you and your spouse gave her, not as worried as she was.

  3. Best thing I’ve ever done with my kids is to let them realize that death is part of life and not to be feared. When their grandparents died we didn’t hide it from them, they went to the funerals, could choose to visit the open caskets if they wanted (they chose to both times), and we answered any questions they had. Death is always sad for those left behind, but it needn’t be frightening, and it is part of life. Talking about it is exactly what to do, and never ever hide it from your kids, just present it in an age appropriate way.

  4. Nami says:

    Both my boys are also obsessed with death and they HAVE experienced both their grandfathers passing away. Guess it’s a fear that goes regardless of experience and the best thing to do is just be honest.

  5. Still focused on death this morning on our drive to school. I know it is normal but still hard to answer these questions truthfully and not have her scared. Wish she would have this discussion somewhere else but the car. My husband said her questions may have come up if they are discussing heaven at school so I will email her teacher today to see if she is addressing it in class.

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