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How can I convince dd that death is real - and should I?

(21 Posts)
emkana Fri 10-Jun-05 19:08:20

Dd1 (just four) found a dead baby bird in the garden today. I asked her what she wanted to do with it and she said we should pick it up (which we did with a leaf) and put it somewhere where its mummy could see it later to come and give medicine and help the dead baby bird feel better. I saw this as an opportunity to talk about death, and so I tried to explain to her gently that sometimes animals (and people) don't wake up again because they're too ill or too old. She listened and said yes but then kept saying that the mummy would come and help and give medicine etc. I gave up after a while, because I didn't want to upset her. Was that the right thing to do? I think she doesn't believe in death because of Snow White - she thinks death is just very deep sleep and with the right means (kiss, medicine) you can wake up again. Or is the concept just too big and scary for her to grasp at the moment? Should I bring it up again or leave it for now?

aloha Fri 10-Jun-05 19:12:51

I would leave it. shes v young and even much older kids can't understand the finality of death, it is partly a developmental thing. let her have her illusions!

aloha Fri 10-Jun-05 19:13:32

it's not snow white's fault - it is normal.

Twiglett Fri 10-Jun-05 19:13:49

i'd leave it

but I would also show her lion king

emkana Fri 10-Jun-05 19:15:35

Do you know, so far I've avoided watching films like Bambi, Dumbo, the Lion King etc. with her because they make me so emotional and I'm worried that I'll cry and upset her that way.
I am such a wuss!

Twiglett Fri 10-Jun-05 19:16:41

no-one dies in dumbo though

lima Fri 10-Jun-05 19:16:43

we've always referred to death in a matter of fact way to our kids (now 6 and 3) in the context of the fact that my father died before they were born, so they only have one grandad, but they've seen pictures of my father and know who he was.

Not sure how much tehy really understand though

WigWamBam Fri 10-Jun-05 19:17:53

You could try a book like Goodbye Mog by Judith Kerr instead, if a film would be too much. It's about the death of a pet cat, and is dealt with in a sensitive but straightforward way.

Gobbledigook Fri 10-Jun-05 19:18:58

My eldest ds is 4 and I've not really talked about it with him - it's just not come up for any reason. I don't know if he knows what it means but I've never heard him say 'dead' or 'killed' or anything like that.

Sounds like you should just leave it - if it means you'd have to really explain how someone would never come back and she'd never see them again, it could really frighten her. I'd leave it till it comes up again or she asks.

nell12 Fri 10-Jun-05 19:22:31

My mum died when ds was 4. He was very close to her and knew she was poorly. We told him she had gone up to live on a cloud which was enough for him then. Not much help, I know, but that is how we discussed death with a child of the same age.

WigWamBam Fri 10-Jun-05 19:25:59

My dd was three when the subject came up (the death of my mother's dog), and she accepted what we told her without question. She's 4 now and knows that sometimes animals and people get very old and very sick, and their bodies can't keep going any more. She knows that people can't come back after they die, and that eventually everyone will die (but not for a long, long, long while yet).

Had my mum's dog not have died, we probably wouldn't even have spoken to her about it yet (she's just 4 now). I think it would be best just to leave it at what you've said for now and explain it again at a later time.

flobbleflobble Fri 10-Jun-05 19:27:30

I think it is a lot easier to talk about death if you are religious - then you can talk about the body dying but the soul living on, dead people living with the angels...

We talk to dd age 5 about death quite a lot, and she has understood for some time that it is final - since my dad's cat died 2 years ago.

I think you are right not to labour a point with your dd though. The subject will come up again, and you can put her right gently without hammering it home.

WigWamBam Fri 10-Jun-05 19:33:18

Perhaps it's because I'm not religious, but it felt less easy for me to talk about angels and living on clouds and so on, because children are very literal, and if I had told my dd that people who die go somewhere else, she would want to know why she couldn't go and visit them and when they were going to be coming back. For me it didn't feel as if it communicated the finality of death enough.

flobbleflobble Fri 10-Jun-05 19:40:12

Yeah, it is a lot easier if you don't believe that death is final

WideWebWitch Fri 10-Jun-05 19:42:21

I'd leave it too. I don't think they get the idea of death as permanent for quite some while yet.

WigWamBam Fri 10-Jun-05 19:43:09

I don't necessarily believe that death is final, I just found at this stage it was easier to tell my dd what we did, and not confuse her with concepts that are even harder to understand than death is. As I said, she's very literal, and it just felt to us that keeping things simple and not adding that extra dimension was the best thing for our dd at that age.

roisin Fri 10-Jun-05 19:49:58

I think I'd leave it. We were always matter of fact about death with the boys, and they always questioned us about it. Ds1 certainly understood the concept at 3, and he has really struggled with it, and gone through periods where he is VERY upset for a day or so with thoughts about death.

He is nearly 8 now, and very recently had a week when he couldn't sleep because he was very distressed by the thought that
"there was a time before I was born when I didn't exist"
"and one day I will die and will therefore my mind will no longer exist"...!

So what I'm saying is you never know how they'll react, and if she's not pushing you with questions I'd leave it for now.

WideWebWitch Fri 10-Jun-05 19:54:04

Also, I remember VERY clearly grasping death for the first time, I must have been under 9 and my dad was babysitting (they were divorced, he really was babysitting, didn't live with us!) and I realised he was going to die one day and went downstairs and told him he was going to die one day and cried and cried and cried. He said it wouldn't be for a long time and he'd watch me from heaven. He was right on the first but not sure about the second!

emkana Fri 10-Jun-05 20:12:30

Thanks for all your answers.

I will leave it until the subject arises again, which I hope it won't for a long time.

singersgirl Fri 10-Jun-05 21:22:24

We had a similar experience with a baby bird with DS2 (3y9m)a couple of weeks ago. He asked if I could take it to the hospital and make it better, and I said no, because it was dead and could not be made better. He said, "But if it was just ill we could take it to the bird hospital". Didn't say anymore, but yesterday when his melodramatic nearly 7 yr old brother said (in response to my withdrawing some privilege for misbehaviour) "I will kill myself", DS2's eyes filled with tears and he said "I do not want you to kill yourself. I will miss you and will not be able to cuddle you anymore." And then tonight he said out of the blue, again with tears in his eyes: "I don't want to leave you ever, Mummy. I don't want you to die because I will miss you".
And I thought back to that b**y bird....They have to encounter the concept of death at some time, but, as with the whole sex/reproduction business, I just try to give as much info as they ask for and no more. DS1 has been through some difficult questionings about death too, particularly when a grandfather died. I found it helpful to say, "Some people believe that the spirit lives on". He was somewhat cheered by this and concluded that if we were all part of the air, even when we were dead we could touch each other as spirits.

GeorginaA Fri 10-Jun-05 21:46:57

roisin: "there was a time before I was born when I didn't exist" - I clearly remember the point in my childhood when I thought that exact same thought. And if I close my eyes and feel inside myself I can even experience the exact same odd feeling (which I can't describe at all - just a sense of odd dislocation from my body now and complete disbelief that this "self" didn't exist before). And you know what... I reckon I couldn't be far off 8 when I thought it. Is it some sort of developmental brain stage when you become more aware of time/mortality?

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