to not tell DS there is a heaven(21 Posts)
We are not religious. We are not fervently atheist, more run of the mill agnostic. We do not go to church, haven't been christened, children haven't been christened.
When we talk about death to DS (4.5) we don't talk about people being in heaven. It gets talked about a fair bit in our house as 3 of his grandparents died before he was born so he often asks about them (why did they die, what happens when you die etc).
I have told him in the past that nobody really knows what happens when we die. Some people believe people go to heaven, some people believe we come back as something else and some people think nothing happens at all. I've also told him I don't really know what I believe.
Several people (who also don't go to church) have been disapproving and said that it's much easier and kinder to just stick with heaven.
What so you, oh wise ones.
Difficult really.... I am not religious and don't know what I believe but I don't want to frighten my kids with the possibility that there is nothing after death. DD has asked about death but more what you look like when you die . Not sure what I will say if she asks where you go. Will watch this thread to get ideas though!
DS is 4.6 and has been asking a lot about death in the last few weeks (no idea why). We are atheist and have told him some people believe in heaven, but that we (dp and I) don't - that we think nothing happens at all.
I had not thought about what to say beforehand and it just came out that way as it felt right. I have told a friend who disapproved because she felt we should say no-one really knows. I find that hard as ds struggles with the concept of "I don't know" at the best of times- he thinks we know everything! I have told him that "God" is a sstory that some people believe - as I don't think I can explain the concept of 99.999% probability of there being no God.
I'd of said that people go where they believe?
So the Grandparents believed in heaven, they are in heaven, they are happy.
The people who believe in Heaven go there, the people who believe in..God, i dunno, Valhalla go there!
Makes it pain-free for a child rather that the thought of "Are my Grandparents happy in heaven? Or rotting wormfood?".
Thats just me though.
Yanbu, I don't see why anyone would lie to their kids about heaven. We had this conversation with DS1 (3.9) recently about our old cat and I just said that she'd been very old and poorly and died, and her body had been buried in the ground where bits of it would make new flowers and plants grow. He seemed quite satisfied with this.
yanbu, telling him what you genuinely believe without making it sound scary is the best possible solution, surely!
i think you have a very good approach, then if he is curious about the details of what others believe as he grows up you can indulge his curiosity more it's an excellent approach imho.
much more odd to lie and say X belief if you don't actually believe it
I told dd similar to you OP, that some believe that you go to heaven and that some believe you come back as someone/thing else. She was quite taken with the reincarnation POV. I didn't really emphasise the "nothing" part, just told her that different people believe different things and she can make her own mind up about it.
I do not pretend to DS that people go to heaven when they die, we talk about all the different possibilities that might occur after death, have looked into all sorts of differnt myths and legends, as well as the simple biological explanation of our bodies just rotting away and becoming nutrients in the ground for new life.
DS is rather taken with re-encarnation, but knows there are plenty of other possibilities, but that no one actually knows what happens after death as no one has yet to come back and tell us.
I don't think there is any need to gloss over it all and tell children there is a lovely heaven. No harm in it, if you want to, but no need to either. The alternatives to heaven don't have to sound horrible.
I think you gauge what to say by the temprement of your child, how sensitive they are, and their age and maturity.
If a child would be distressed beyond belief by the thought that granny just no longer exists, full stop, then there is no harm in talking about another life after death being a possibility.
I say similar to you, that I don't know what happens but some people believe x others y and still others z. TBH I don't really think it matters as long as they have something comforting to hang their hat on as it were. My dc have now decided that we turn to stars and have stars that belong to the grandparents, the uncle, the dog and even the rat! THis brings them comfort and does not offend me at all so everyone is happy.
In the end I want them to make up their own mind without having too mcuh colouring from me IYSWIM so I talk about the fact that I don't believe something but others do and acknowledge that I don't know who is right.
@fruitstick: Do you mind if I borrow your description of what happens? It might not be the easiest answer, but certainly is a nice simple and honest answer.
I don't understand why it would be kinder to stick with heaven? Easier and more conventional yes.
DS is 19 mo, so this is largely academic for me. But I would also encourage him to understand what the different beliefs are rather than push any one point of view.
Once he find's (is old enough to find) our fantasy collection he will discover a wide range of concepts of what happens after death, recarnation and god's anyway
I see little value in introducing the concept of heaven to a child who hasn't come across it. (though I can see why Riven does)
We took the same approach as Meg. In our case it was goldfish being turned into honeysuckle.
DD lost a great-uncle she was very fond of at 3 and both grandpas at 6 - she didn't worry at all about 'where they were'. In addition to the physical reality of what happens to their bodies, they live in our memories.
The day my mum died (too soon and too young)my youngest daughter (then 12)said "you know in RS today we had to discuss if we believed in heaven or not. I kind of wish I'd said I did now"...
In the weeks that followed we inevitably talked about this a lot more and found comfort in the thought that there are many ways of living forever. My mum will never die as long as we remember her and continue to be influenced by her, as long as her name comes up naturally in conversation, as long as the children she taught continue to benefit from the lessons she gave them (we had so many lovely letters from past pupils).
When I had to comfort two grieving children I could understand why humans need to believe in life after death. The comfort of saying 'we'll meet again one day' is undeniable. But we did all find solace in our own interpretation of 'life after death'
(I'm not saying my belief is right or wrong btw, it's just my belief).
I told my 6 year old the same as you OP, that some people believe in heaven, some believe people come back as something else etc. I also said that mummy and daddy aren't religious but he can choose to believe what he wants to. He likes to say Grandad is in heaven because he says it makes him happy to think that grandad is in a nice place but he does understand there's other possible explainations.
I think you're being perfectly reasonable, I always try to be honest with my children. Sometimes it can make for a difficult conversation but that's part of good parenting IMO
I do same as you Fruitstick. DC's only protest is "But I don't want YOU to die, Mummy!" and then we talk about their feelings and I manage a few platitudes": "Don't worry, I won't die for a long time and you won't mind so much by the time it happens, and I won't mind when I'm dead because I won't feel anything bad at all" and they might disagree and I let them say their piece and we have cleared the air. It's not too much for them to deal with, it's not unkind, it's part of a life-long process they need to undertake.
As they get older I will tell them about "blessed release" often that someone gets to the point that death is the only good outcome. Knowing that helps me accept death, too.
ragged I think your approach is spot on.
Though we might want to protect our children from any feelings of pain at all, wouldn't it be more cruel to lead them on? Assuming you don't believe in heaven that is - if you do that is completely different scenario.
I think you tell your child whatever you think will comfort them and make it easier for them to understand what you're saying. It's a tough concept to tackle even for adults. If you don't believe in heaven then I don't think you are at all unreasonable not to mention it. Why would you? Sounds like you're doing just fine with what you're saying.
Thanks for the compliment!
DC have most encountered death thru pets dying. Judeo-Christian-Islam traditions don't allow for pets going to heaven, do they? So I think most kids have to come to terms with death as atheists understand it, anyway.
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