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How do you explain death to a 3 year old?

(8 Posts)
lucylookout Sat 04-Jun-11 20:35:25

My 3.5 year old DS has started talking about death recently, mostly saying he doesn't want to die. I don't know where he got this from. I am not religious and I'm not even sure what I believe about what happens when people die, but I want to say something short, simple and reassuring for a child his age. So far I've said things about heaven, about souls not dying, and about it being only very old and very ill people who die (not true obviously, but I thought it might console him). Even found myself saying that a special medicine might be invented by the time he grows up to stop him from dying. Please help me, I feel like I'm not helping him!

exoticfruits Sat 04-Jun-11 21:05:44

Just answer his questions-DCs are interested. It is adults who find it difficult. I would keep off heaven and souls and the fact that only old and very ill people die. Stick to the truth in a simple manner.
Everyone dies eventually, most people are old and if your body wears out you wouldn't want to carry on living after 100yrs.
Say that people live on in people's minds -you don't stop loving them because they are not here and so they don't stop loving you when they are not here.
He is only a little boy and so he doesn't need to worry about it, and you hope that you will be an old lady and a granny one day when he is a man with children and he might even be a grandad.
There is a book-I think it is called Badger's Parting Gift that is good-someone else may know it.
Just be calm and matter of fact.

lucylookout Sat 04-Jun-11 21:35:37

Thanks exoticfruits, that's helpful. I think it's because he was asking in an anxious, rather than purely curious way that I was finding it hard.

Again Sat 04-Jun-11 21:38:13

I started this thread:


amistillsexy Sat 04-Jun-11 21:47:11

Please don't say any more about 'special medicines'. He needs to be able to come to terms with death (including his own!) as a natural part of the process of living.

It is quite a usual thing for children to start worrying about their own death at around this age, and I think the direct, honest approach is best:

Yes, we do all die. Most people live to a ripe old age and then gradually get poorly enough so that they die, but some people are unlucky and get poorlynesses at a younger age that are so bad that medicines can't save them from dying. Some people have accidents that are so bad that the doctors can't make them better and they die because of their injuries.

Then you need to do some reassuring (if appropriate and true!) you tell him that everyone around him is healthy and not poorly, that the adults are there to keep themselves and him safe so that accidents are not likely to occur and that if they do, the adults will know what to do.

Then tell him what does happen when people die...that their bodies are too poorly, or broken, or tired to go on living and so they die, and that is very sad for the people who love them, but that they are comforted by thoughts of what that person was like when they were alive, and by remembering special times with them...

Which is why I love our special times (you say to your DS), let's go and have one now...(then you eat lots of ice cream! grin).

He will come to terms with this, and then he will be ok about it. But you must be honest and truthful so he learns that when you say he can trust you, he knows that he really can.

Hassled Sat 04-Jun-11 21:49:28

The Lion King (film) is great re the whole death thing and aimed at young children. Yes, I know it's Disney - but it does handle it well.

exoticfruits Sat 04-Jun-11 22:29:30

AmIstillsexy has the right approach.

Timeforabiscuit Sat 04-Jun-11 22:36:32

DD1 is just doing this at the moment - every time I think i've finally answered everything honestly she floors me with another question - "yes but where is your daddy now?"

What saved my bacon was a nest of baby pigeons outside my office window .... that I showed DD.. which then got eaten by crows..

Sounds harsh but found it much easier dealing with it with a present example

She has now moved on to why Dumbos mother was locked up

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