Death and pulling the wings off flies(9 Posts)
This is a bit tangled, but I think all related enough to merit just the one thread.
1. My 3-year-old is asking about her Granny J. Dh's mother died when dh was in his teens. She is not being fobbed off with vague "Granny J is not here". I want to give her an appropriate explanation. What is appropriate for a just turned 3-yr-old? (We are not religious).
2. Same 3-year-old has taken to killing ants for fun. I realise that some people reading this thread won't see this as a problem, but I am horrified. I have been calm and explained that we are kind to living things. I have tried to equate the ant with our dog (ie we are kind to our dog and in the same way we are kind to all things). She doesn't really go for my explanations, and I have even stooped to telling her that Mrs Ant and all the baby Ants would be waiting at home for the poor ant, like we are waiting at home for our daddy. I know. Crap. But she's not bothered. In fact when I told her how sad it was to kill an ant, she asked "what would happen if I killed a parrot?" She doesn't really understand what killed and death mean, and I don't know how much I want her to understand. I do want her to ALWAYS be kind to all living things though.
She doesn't see why she's not allowed to hurt the ants when they sometimes hurt her (they do bite sometimes).
3. A cat came in to our garden and killed a beautiful little Warbler. Cat then proceeded to toss dead bird around. Dd was fascinated and delighted in equal measure. Again, I was a bit calm and sober and said it was a bit sad that the warbler was dead, but that no, the cat wasn't naughty to kill the bird because that's what cats do. Now she wants to know why the cat is allowed to kill a bird but she's not allowed to kill an ant.
It's all tangling up and I need to decide an approach to all of it, one that sits comfortably with me, and stick to it. I wasn't expecting to deal with any of this just yet.
Well I would say that granny is dead and is in heaven having a big party with all her friends!!. I am not really religious but it is comforting to small children (and big ones too!)
I would tell her not to kill birds because she is a human and not a cat! that much is simple to deal with!!
Thanks Kitty. I don't really want to talk about heaven as we are not Christians.
The cat / little girl distinction is a good one though, and will make sense to her.
I am not a christian either. I don't have an issue with it though. I think if it comforts a child then it's fine. You could of course substitute any word you like for heaven.
Tell her that if she kills something, she'll have to eat it.
I would tell her that granny is dead and that whenn people get very old they die. Just answer her questions honestly but simply.
Don't talk about going to sleep or how death is like sleep as that can cause later anxiety. She is unlikely to be upset about her granny as she didn't know her and in a way it's a good opportunity to explain this to her in a way that is simple and not frightening. I definately wouldn't talk about heaven if you dont believe it as this is I think rather a more traumatic thing to have to realise you're parents were making up than father christmas is!
Re the other things- just because she shows disregard now doesn't mean she always will - my ds now a generally kind 12 year old heard someone talking about bug spray and became obsessed with the 'bug killing gun'! I would just keep saying calmly it's not nice hurt animals. And re the cat, again just stay close to the truth- sadly cats don't know that it's not nice to kill. Just like so much behaaviour at this age- she won't 'get it' straight away and may well continue being interested in her own power- squashing ants. It's really normal but if you'r consistent in your explanations she will gradually internalise and understand them.
also have you got the book 'no matter what' by debbie gliori (I think) it's lovely and may be helpful.
I used to kill ants for fun when I was three. I used to drown them in washing up liquid and I used to enjoy it.
Never fear- I became a vegetarian and animal rights campaigner in later life.
I think that kids enjoy the feeling of power they get when they have a say in life and death. It dosn't mean that your son is a psycho. Just keep voicing your disapproval.
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