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7 year old boy - sad and anxious about death

(7 Posts)
jjack38 Thu 11-Dec-14 11:06:07

Can anyone help. My 7 year old son is such a happy confident boy - he enjoys school and has good friends. But recently he's become very emotional at bedtime. He worries about death - me, my husband, his sister, himself - he's worried that we will die. Nobody in the family has died and nobody is ill. He remembers every news story he has heard that involved a death. He's particularly upset about accidental deaths and murders - he talks a lot about how people's lives can be ruined.......It's not just the concept that we won't live forever - it's also the enormity of the sadness that bereaved people carry around with him. I tried Rescue Remedy last night but it didn't help. I've tried staying in the room with him but it distracts him and he can't get to sleep. We have tried distraction techniques - think about what you would have in your ideal tree-house/space station/underground cave. Nothing is helping him. My son has always been ahead of the game on the emotional/communication front - to talk to him you would not think he was only 7. I don't know why but he seems more mature than his friends. I'm really worried about him - could be be depressed or is this a phase that all children go through and we're seeing it more vividly with him because he is more able to communicate his feelings? It's affecting his sleep - sometimes its 10pm before he eventually drifts off..........any advice you could give would be so helpful. I don't want to take him to the doctor - I think that might make him worse. How can I help him? Thanks for reading. xx

Esmum07 Thu 11-Dec-14 11:22:08

Oh bless him. DS, who is the same age, recently began to voice concerns about us dying. We have had a few deaths, older uncles etc, in the last few years so he is used to the idea of things coming to an end. We've tried to reassure him that we will, as far as we are able, be around for a long time (didn't want to promise as you never know what his around the corner and words can come back to haunt you sometimes).

He also reads the paper (we distract him from the horrific stuff) but he hears on Newsround about people being killed in disasters. We try to explain that people do get through things - he had a small amount of bullying in reception and managed to deal with it so much so that he and the bully are now friendly so we used that to explain how things change moved the years. He has also seen the Lion King which is excellent for explaining that life does go on, differently but still goes on, after a death. So he is beginning to realise that life would change but you come through it because that's what people do most of the time.

One thing that works for DS when he can't sleep will seem odd (it did to me when a friend explained it but it works for DS so worth a try). I say to him, as we have a cuddle and kiss goodnight, that I am going to unzip his forehead - make an unzipping motion and sound - and I will take out all the rubbish or nasty thoughts. Then DS 'takes' them, screws them up and pretends to fire them, with a bow and arrow, out of his window whilst we call out 'bye bye horrible thoughts'. Tried it last night when we had forgotten and he was having trouble sleeping and he was asleep within ten minutes! I think it is just the act of taking the thoughts and screwing them up that is a sort of catalyst.

Good luck. It's horrible watching them go through things and feeling helpless.

jjack38 Thu 11-Dec-14 11:28:58

Thanks Esmum07 - and thank you for the tip. It doesn't seem odd to me at all! I'll try that tonight. Your son sounds very similar to mine - I get frustrated because when his friends come round they don't seem similar at all. They seem to live in their own little worlds, but my son in comparison seems so alive to what's going on in the world.....and he can't cope with it! I'm also going to really limit what he's exposed to. He spent some time with his cousins at the weekend and they watched the start of Guardians of the Galaxy (it's a 12 rated movie, I didn't know they would put that on) - at the start the little boy's mother dies of cancer! It's good to know this could be a process rather than depression or some indication that he's unhappy or not coping.

AnneOfCleavage Thu 11-Dec-14 11:50:28

Yes, this seems very common. My DD (now 10) started this around age 7 and we used to blow up an imaginary balloon with the bad thought inside and then pop it. More often than not it would work. She also has a dream catcher which we got in year 4 as she would still have the occasional bad thought/dream - it would come and go in fits and starts. At age 10 she still has odd moments of thinking about dying but it can normally be dispelled quite quickly as she's more rational now so as your son is quite a mature 7 yr old he may be the same.

Watch out for other worries though as DD would think about fires happening whilst asleep, burglars breaking in but tbh honestly I do believe most children go through periods of worry so it's not as rare as you may think.

Sorry you're experiencing this though as it is an anxious time for us parents to try and alleviate their thought process but not disregard their feelings/thought as rubbish.

I bought a book called 'What to do when you worry too much' which may help at your son's age as you can draw things in it etc. It's a book to read through together.

HTH thanks

Cedar03 Thu 11-Dec-14 13:04:49

I think it's normal at that age. My 7 year old girl has started worrying about going upstairs in the evening in case there is a burglar up there. It's not something she'd have worried about before. It's just as they get more aware of the world around them and the fact that bad things do happen.

When she was 6 she was allowed to watch the news when it was all about a child who had been beaten to death by his parents. And she talked about that a lot.

The start of Guardians of the Galaxy is a flashback and it is still affecting the adult life of that character so that may be why he is worrying about the bereavement aspect.

Dontstepinthecowpat Thu 11-Dec-14 13:14:50

I was that child, even now as responsible adult I can't think to deeply about life and death without a rising feeling of panic. I don't know what would have comforted me to bd honest. Even now I settle by giving DH or DC a squeeze but I'd never tell DH why. If you don't mind me asking are you religious? I was brought up catholic and feel a lot of my fear stemmed from church teachings. Could be something totally different for your DS though, like guardians if the galaxy!!

jjack38 Thu 11-Dec-14 14:36:14

Thanks everyone - good to know this is common. I hope he'll grow out of it. AnneOfCleavage - I will give that book a try. And yes it's a tough balancing act - I want him to know i'm here and i'm listening, but I need to show him how to stop wallowing.....

Cedar03 - he is also worried about burglars! I have to show him that his windows are locked at night. Some boys tried to break into our garage a couple of weeks ago - this didn't help! It's tough trying to tell him the world is a safe place to be when all evidence points to the contrary!

Dontstepinthecowpat - No we are not religious - I sometimes wonder if it would help him if we were. I don't know where he gets it from - he's just a really emotional child. I hope the comfort you give your children will help them to feel safer. I'm sorry you still feel scared - but having children kind of makes sense of it all doesn't it! x .

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