How do I explain to a 4yr old?

(8 Posts)
skay Wed 31-Jan-07 16:31:09

His Grandad is very ill.
Doctors have said there is nothing else they can do for him.
Basically we are waiting for that horrible phone call telling us that the inevitable has happened.
He has met Dh's Dad and knows which grandad is ill. He's not close but I'm not sure what to tell him.

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Greensleeves Wed 31-Jan-07 16:34:47

I am terribly sorry to hear about his grandad

I would just be completely frank, no hushing things up or being euphemistic. I have a 4yo and we've been through some bad times lately - I've found that he copes best when we are totally honest and matter-of-fact about things. Sometimes it feels a bit counter-intuitive, because to me he still looks like such a baby, and the urge to protect him is very powerful. But at 4 they are far from stupid and if they know they are not getting the whole truth they make things up to fill in the gaos and end up confused and frightened. So honesty is the best policy IMO.

I hope you get a range of different answers so you can decide what you think is best - it's not easy, is it?

skay Wed 31-Jan-07 16:40:15

Thanks Greensleeves.
I may even end up taking him to the funeral. Espcially if I can't get anyone else to look after him. Not sure what his reaction might be to an open casket.

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franca70 Wed 31-Jan-07 16:42:51

yes, tell him the truth.
last year my grandmother passed away. ds had only met her a few times but I felt it was right to tell him, as an acknowledgement to her life and because my dad was so upset. I told him that grandad was upset, because his mother had died. She was very old and tired. He said that perhaps she had become father christmas. I said she might have, actually i think she'd have loved being father christmas.

Greensleeves Wed 31-Jan-07 16:44:11

I don't know about open caskets, I've never had to go to a funeral where there was one. Would there be any way of him not having to see it? I do think children should go to funerals if they are old enough to mourn the relative and need to say goodbye - but I think 4 is on the cusp really, it would depend very much on the individual child. I do think as long as they know all the facts and there isn't a culture of secrecy/hiding emotions, children are pretty reilient in the face of this sort of thing.

figroll Thu 01-Feb-07 11:41:23

Sorry about your news - my 2 lost their grandmother 3 weeks ago, so I know how hard it is. However, if my 11 year old is anything to go by, I really wouldn't worry. I told her in the morning and she just said, Oh. That was it, nothing more, no tears, no questions, back to bed to read her book. Clearly, your son may be different, but I don't think that at 4 they understand what is going on fully.

I didn't take them to the funeral - I didn't want them to see all the upset and tears. My youngest has just carried on as if nothing has happened at all - in fact after a few tears, my older dd also hasn't said much at all. If I were you, I would wait until the inevitable happens and then tell him. You may be surprised at his reaction - I know I was!

All the best to you and your family.

sunnysideup Thu 01-Feb-07 12:06:10

skay, sorry to hear about your FIL's situation....I would be very simple and factual about it when you tell your ds. Simply that 'grandad has died'. Then see what he wants to know about it and answer him honestly but simply. He may not have any questions immediately!

I would be wary of him seeing an open casket. I know that death is part of life etc and other cultures or generations may not have kept this separate from children, but dead people are very different to living people. I found seeing my grandad after he'd died, a very profound and unsettling experience, and I'm 39! For me I wanted to see my grandad to say goodbye and because he would have wanted me to show that care and respect, but I can't see it would serve any purpose at all to a 4 year old and could be really, really upsetting depending on the sensitivity and understanding of the child.

I'd avoid the funeral with my 4 yr old ds, didn't take him to my grandad's last year. He knows he's died and we talk about it and that is exactly all he needs to deal with it, no more than that - he didn't need a funeral in the way that adults do so I didn't feel it appropriate for ds to take him.

good luck x

skay Thu 01-Feb-07 15:17:41

In a way I wish I could avoid taking him to the funeral but, because my in-laws are Lancashire and we are in Berkshire, I just cannot avoid it. I suppose I could avoid him seeing the casket. Would that be enough?

OP’s posts: |

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