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  1. #1
    Senior Member Turtledove's Avatar
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    Default Explaining Death to a Child

    Recently, I find it fascinating exactly how children do not understand the concept of death. One particular child asked why the man in a coffin was sleeping while others were unsure as to why people were upset. I assume that cultures like in Mexico actually teach the children about death being a part of life. Could anyone explain this (besides they are still new to the world,) or has anyone ever explained death to a child? Are there other cultures who teach young children about death?
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    jump sleuthiness's Avatar
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    This tendency doesn't fall away as a child grows up.

    Just morphs into other, more acceptable forms of self-delusion.

    Drumroll, please.

    thinking of you

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    Member DisneyFanGirl's Avatar
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    I grew up in a Christian home. My parents would tell me that death isn't always a bad thing. Sometimes death is a wonderful thing because people who die will be in heaven waiting for us. It wasn't much of a comfort because it still hurts that these people are gone but if you believe in heaven, I think that's the best way to explain it to kids. They'll really latch on to the idea of something better at the end of their lives...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Turtledove View Post
    Recently, I find it fascinating exactly how children do not understand the concept of death. One particular child asked why the man in a coffin was sleeping while others were unsure as to why people were upset. I assume that cultures like in Mexico actually teach the children about death being a part of life. Could anyone explain this (besides they are still new to the world,) or has anyone ever explained death to a child? Are there other cultures who teach young children about death?
    worked on my 5yo (gradually since he was 3) - pointing out and explaining roadkills. it was scary enough to get stuck in his head at the age of 3 and not want to be "dead like the skunk" (and the ultimate starting point for learning road safety), but it also brought on an ungoing process where with new animels he'd come up with solutions - usually related to what he knows is healthy - such as "its ok he can have water" or "he needs to eat his carrots" or the gaming-inspired "its ok he can start over", and each time we'd tell him that "he can't drink/eat because he's dead, he won't get up ever"... and he seemed to be understanding it a little bit better each time, reaching his own conclusion that death can't be fixed just a little bit faster.

    i think its a good preperation to understand the concept - when human death hits he'll be able to focus on the loss without having to find out about the concept of mortality on the exact same day.

    and yes i know some people might not feel comfortable with pointing out such a bloody visual depiction to a child like splated dead animals on the road - fearing that they'd scar him for life - but before you judge, the way i see it anything that does such a wonderful job in teaching him to stay alive, and even other kids (he'll stop his friends crossing or running onto the road without looking - makes me proud each time), anything like that puts any emotional scar into perspective.

  5. #5
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    We had a dog once. Overly energetic. Very enthusiastic about everything. I imagine that to those he wasn't friendly with, he came off as quite fearsome.

    One day, he didn't come home. It wasn't too hard to put two and two together and later I was told that he had been hit by a car.

    In the same time period, the lady owner of the house we were renting died in a car crash. Our family was decently close to the family and they had children around our age. The owner, his wife and one other person (who I can't quite remember) were in a pick-up as it crashed into a wall. Only the owner survived (reportedly by jumping out of the vehicle before it hit the wall). The owner of the house wanted his wife buried on his property, the property we were currently renting. We had a ceremony in our back yard where all those closest to her stood around her grave and wept. The preacher/priest spoke over her body speaking in another language, though I imagine the rhetoric used wasn't atypical.

    I remember her youngest daughter coming up to me before the ceremony (or maybe after) and asking me if I knew who was buried in our backyard. I just smiled.

    It took me a couple weeks before I was able to go to her grave site by myself.

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    Senior Member ceecee's Avatar
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    I never used phrases like - they're asleep, they went away or they are in heaven. As comforting as that may be at the time, it's fiction and for a child under about 8, can be extraordinarily bad because they take things literally. My grandmother died when my boys were 4 and 8. I told them that she was old (she was), that she had been sick (true) and that her body simply stopped working because of those two things. It was ok to be sad or cry or miss her but dying was part of life. Funerals were for living people to say goodbye to people that they love and to be with others that felt the same way and everyone handles that differently. There were a couple of violent, young deaths they had to deal with as teenagers and I think this probably showed them the finality and maybe was a beneficial thing for them to experience. It taught them that life is fragile and when you put yourself in situations such as these (motorcycle and car fatalities both the operators faults) death can be the end result. I just feel honesty is the best thing but also stressing that grief isn't bad and expressing it is healthy.
    I like to rock n' roll all night and *part* of every day. I usually have errands... I can only rock from like 1-3.

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    Away with the fairies Southern Kross's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ceecee View Post
    I never used phrases like - they're asleep, they went away or they are in heaven. As comforting as that may be at the time, it's fiction and for a child under about 8, can be extraordinarily bad because they take things literally. My grandmother died when my boys were 4 and 8. I told them that she was old (she was), that she had been sick (true) and that her body simply stopped working because of those two things. It was ok to be sad or cry or miss her but dying was part of life. Funerals were for living people to say goodbye to people that they love and to be with others that felt the same way and everyone handles that differently. There were a couple of violent, young deaths they had to deal with as teenagers and I think this probably showed them the finality and maybe was a beneficial thing for them to experience. It taught them that life is fragile and when you put yourself in situations such as these (motorcycle and car fatalities both the operators faults) death can be the end result. I just feel honesty is the best thing but also stressing that grief isn't bad and expressing it is healthy.
    Yes, I think this is the best approach.

    Those euphemisms can be dangerous. Kids want clarity not confusion; even with a harsh truth.
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    they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind.

    - Emily Bronte

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    Post Human Post Qlip's Avatar
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    I guess I don't understand what to explain, it is what it is. I've never had to explain death to my kids, except maybe let them know it's natural and part of living. They've had enough experience in their lives with it, they haven't been shielded. They've been to several funerals. They've experienced the death of animals and pets. They know where meat comes from. With experience, I don't think a kid knows anything less about death than an adult.

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    Senior Member Turtledove's Avatar
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    So, the majority so far basically says they explain "the circle of life" through pets or animals. Thought the same thing except I would've explained it through goldfish--something smaller and less traumatizing. But yeah, I guess kids develop differently the concept, but they do need clarity to an extent.
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    Member DisneyFanGirl's Avatar
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    I think Sesame Street did a really good job explaining death in a way children understand.

    http://www.videohippy.com/video/4931...-You-Mr-Hooper

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