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How to talk to 3 year old DS about death

(11 Posts)
thehouseofmirth Sun 26-Oct-08 07:37:57

Can anyone give me any pointers about what to say to my very intelligent and sensitive three year old DS about death without frightening him?

Neither DH nor I hold any religious beliefs and although obviously we're happy for DS to find his own way in that department I don't feel comfortable talking about heaven or souls etc.

Basically, DH has finally got his head round the fact that his grandmother is DH's Mummy and now he wants to know why he can't see my mum. Both my parents are dead, as is DH's father (but I guess as he doesn't have any grandfathers it hasn't occurred to him to ask about them yet). Additionally one of our goldfish was floating in the fish tank the other day and I told DS that it might not get better and die. He got a bit upset but whilst I ws dithering about how to handle it all and use it as a brilliant learning opportunity DH took it out now and DS hasn't asked again.

I know you should only answer children's immediate questions and I've got as far as saying sometimes people and animals get very ill and they can't get better so they die but I'm dreading him asking me whay dying is or what happens next. Especially because of my mum. It was bad enough being orphaned at 20 but I don't want DS to start worrying about what will happen when DH and I die.

How have you handled this one?

Twelvelegs Sun 26-Oct-08 07:55:44

My dcs wwent to Montessori and they dealt with many life and real issues very well. Essentially I have no religious beliefs either and so I talked about the many beliefs others held. Whether people turned into stars, sat on clouds, went to heaven, born again.....
He will worry about when you die and his own mortality but it can't be helped really.

thehouseofmirth Sun 26-Oct-08 08:04:16

Ooh that's a good idea, that way he can kind of pick something that appeals to him without it seeming too uncertain or final.

Twelvelegs Sun 26-Oct-08 08:06:00

My ds was very confused about the stars idea as he pointed out stars don't have hands!!!!

acoady Sun 26-Oct-08 08:13:39

My dd was 4 when my aunt died of cancer. We cried together and she understood things really easily. She decided that my aunt was in heaven (I'm not religious) and I didn't argue with that.

Onlyjoking Sun 26-Oct-08 08:39:04

I think you are right you have to answer the questions when they ask them, give him time to go away and think about it and be prepared to answer lots more questions.
We are not relegious I had to prepare our 3 kids for the death of their dad from cancer, I guess because we were all together 24/7 they saw him slowly changing so we did things bit by bit, they were told that dad would die and they had some time to process it, he died in June, I still have questions from the kids they are still trying to make sense of it all.
There are a few books aimed at children, but none that I found helpful for our 3.

forgethim1 Sun 26-Oct-08 08:51:58

Perhaps these people could help?

My friend chose a Miffy book to explain it to her little girl. It was called Dear Grandma Bunny IIRC. My friend said it really helped her little girl to see the situation through the eyes of one of her favourite characters and the text and ideas were very simple.

thehouseofmirth Sun 26-Oct-08 08:52:07

Onlyjoking I sorry to hear about your loss. It must have been and, I imagine still is, very hard. How old are your children?

thehouseofmirth Sun 26-Oct-08 08:57:27

Thanks forgethim1 I'll have look at that link. DS's never known my mum and it happened a long time ago so it's not like I'm helping DS deal with his feelings of bereavment for someone he knew and loved. It's a bit more abstract than that and I'm confused as I don't know whether it's easier or harder to deal with because of that.

Onlyjoking Sun 26-Oct-08 09:04:47

I think it is a bit different with our kids as they have autism so they see things/ understand thing very differently. Our twin girls are 14 and ds is 11.
Keep using the right words don't say they have passed away/ gone to a better place.
Someone said to Ds sorry you lost your dad, he spent a while looking for his lost dad, for me lost implies a level of carelessness and that it could somehow have been prevented.
There is a mog book that might be ok for your DS.

NellyTheElephant Sun 26-Oct-08 16:07:36

I think that aged 3 is a classic time for children to start being aware of and asking about death. My father died when I was pg with DD1 so she never met him. Not long after she turned 3 she started asking about him. My brother's daughter who is a couple of months younger did exactly the same thing (with no prompting from us - we were v surprised when we discussed it with each other).

I kept it very simple. I am not really religious, but I found it easiest to say to DD1 that her granfather knew she was coming but sadly got very ill and died before she was born and went to heaven. She just seemd to accept it. She talks about it a lot though. She also took the concept further herself - e.g. not long after that discussion we were out walking and saw a dead squirrel and she stopped to look at it and said 'Mummy, has he gone to squirrel heaven', to which I replied yes and she nodded and walked on. I think my favourite book which touches on the subject of death is called 'No Matter What' by Debi Gliori. It's a lovely lovely book and not ABOUT death, but mentions it, which again DD picked up on well and mentioned in relation to my father.

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