Very interested in your thoughts on when and how to introduce the concept of death/mortality to toddlers (if at all).
I have a very bright and spirited 2 year old DD (turning 3 in March) and I have always loosely gone with the honesty is the best policy, keeping things age appropriate of course.
In the past couple of weeks I have had two occasions where for the first time in her more recent life I had to choose whether to introduce the concept of death or avoid it, and both times I have chosen to avoid it.
The first occasion was when we went to check on her baby chickens only to discover a fox had taken them all (leaving two dead in the run) overnight. Thankfully I saw the carnage before she did and had a chance to hurriedly redirect her, but she found it very confusing that we were off to check the chickens and then all of a sudden we were off to check the vegetable garden! I actually started to gently explain what had happened, but then couldn't bring myself to crush her like that and instead told her the chickens had escaped into the bush. I am pretty sure she knows something is suss about my story, but with time and reinforcement she seems to have accepted it.
The second occasion was last weekend on what would have been my mother's birthday. My mum passed away when I was only two so DD's knowledge of her is limited to a photo in her room. I have told DD who the photo is of when DD was much younger, but we haven't really spoken about mum lately. Being mum's birthday I naturally would normally go and visit her grave but that would have involved taking DD. I just felt totally unprepared to explain the cemetery, death etc so I just didn't go.
I don't know if my ability to make a judgement call on when and how to explain to DD is coloured somewhat by the fact that death has always been part of my life from as young as I can remember (ie. I have no memories of my mum, so death/dying was part of my reality from a very young age), and my mum's passing has obviously had a major impact on my life (although I have known no different)
Anyways, after that novel, I guess I am just wondering what age you think it is appropriate to burst their bubble so to speak, and how would you go about doing it?
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08-12-2015 20:32 #1
When and how to introduce concept of death
The Following User Says Thank You to zalimama For This Useful Post:
09-12-2015 00:22 #2
I would have started with the chickens...I think she's at right age to start introducing the concept, but I'm a honesty is the best policy type of person, in an age appropriate wah of course. Actually, my DD was introduced to the concept when we came across a dead bird that had been hit by a car when out on a walk at about age 2.5. We squatted down and looked at it quite closely and I told her what had happened. I don't think her bubble was burst..just another little matter of fact thing that kids take in every day. I am actually a big believer in "normalising" death. It is unfortunately a natural part of the life cycle.
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09-12-2015 05:34 #3Senior Member
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- Jul 2010
I had been shielding my son from dead animals because I just didn't want him to feel sad about it. Until he found a dead bird and I said it was just sleeping and he is too cleaver and told me it wasn't moving and must be dead! So he knew all along.
Now yesterday he saw a dead ant and said the ant is dead and I looked at it and said oh no it's not. Then he said why is it not moving then? So then I caved and said oh yeh maybe it is.. And just moved on.so I think they cotton on more than we realise and it hasn't harmed him..
But explaining a deceased person would be hard.. I remember when I was in year 1 my mum explained it to me then I had 2 days off school because I was so scared I would die one day haha so I have definitely avoided that until he needs to know
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09-12-2015 08:33 #4
I'm interested in some responses. My dd is 3.5yrs and I've just lost my nanna this week (lost my other nanna 7mths ago also) I don't want her to lose that innocence just yet but know she is going to ask questions.
09-12-2015 08:55 #5
We introduced death quite early on, we wanted to make it a normal but unfortunate thing.
I lost my mother when I was 20 and DS knows this. He often talks about her, he knows she got very sick and passed away. He says she lives in the stars now which I like.
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09-12-2015 09:05 #6
My son is 4 in March and I've never avoided the death conversation. He was very clued on to what we were trying to say.
Like at my mum's she has pictures of my grandma around the house. She passed away 8 years ago and he was always asking who it was. He still does. We aren't religious but we would say, that is great grandma and she's in heaven. He would ask why he has never seen great grandma and we would say she passed away a long time ago and he would blurt out 'oh is she dead?' Well he isn't wrong.
He will point out dead animals too. Oh look mum it's a dead bird! He will squish an ant and 'its dead now'. So he understands what death is but obviously it's an innocent child's thought and I don't think he understands completely that when you are dead, you are never going to be around anymore. I think in that case I will talk about it when he is older and can understand a bit better.
I hope that wasn't too much of a ramble!
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09-12-2015 09:07 #7Senior Member
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In the past year I've lost both of my grandmothers. My daughter was about 2.5 and my son nearly 4 when I first had to explain the concept to them. Basically I just told that nan was sick & the medicine couldn't make her better & had she gone to heaven & now she was a little angel in the stars. The same when my grandma passed. I told them that they wouldn't get to see them again & it's okay to feel sad about that. Now if they're outside when the first of the stars come out they'll say to me, "look mummy, there's nan & grandma".
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09-12-2015 10:08 #8
I've never not told the kids about death, and both went to their great grandmothers funeral. DD would have been about 1, DS 4. We just told them that Granny was old and when you get really old, you die and go to heaven.
We've also lost 2 pets and several chickens and TBH, neither of them have been that upset about it. I don't think they really understand the concept. With the pets, they were they when they got put to sleep, and I told them what was happening, that they didn't feel any more pain and they were also in heaven. They gave them a pat and a kiss and we buried them. Same with the chickens. We live on a farm, so it's a part of life. Things are born and things die.
We also talk about DH's mum who passed many years ago. I know how that has affected him, so I'm sorry for your loss. We show the kids pictures and talk about the funny things she did and if I cook one of her recipes, or one of the great grandmothers, I tell them so that bit of history lives on. The great grannies especially were fabulous cooks, so I want the kids to know and like their recipes.
The only funeral I didn't take DS to was my grandma's. He was about 9mo and I knew I'd be a mess and would need DH looking after me not him. I probably wouldn't have taken them to DH's grandma's, but we didn't have any babysitting options as obviously all his family were there and mine live too far away and aren't involved anyway. They were good, and it was a nice service (cremation luckily. Burial would have been too heavy for them I think) so I think it was good have them there for the family as it was a bright spot on a sad day.
Think about what you want to say now so the next time you're prepared. I think it's better for kids first experience of death to be a pet or animal so they are more equipped to deal with the death of a family member, and I'm very sorry your first experience was your Mum
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09-12-2015 10:14 #9
I guess for us, death is something our kids have always been aware of. Watching TV, family circumstances, losing pets. Its something we have never hidden or glossed over. Our kids know its just part of life. We helped them find ways to take comfort in it- picking a star and that became the persons/animals star so they always have that "connection". Our kids (particularly the older 2) speak of death very matter of factly. I guess part of that also com's from the fact we speak of my Nanna who passed when I was 13, and dh's mum who passed 2 years ago, with such fondness and recall wonderful memories that our kids know even though a person may have died, those who are left can still treasure their memories- just because someone dies doesn't mean they are forgotten. So I guess they have also learned that as sad as it is, there can be happiness too.
I was very sheltered from death, even when my nan passed my family tried to shield me from it all as much as possible. While I appreciate they were doing what they thought was right, I wasn't prepared for the strength of emotions or grief that came with it. I didn't know how to cope. I became terrified of death because it became almost a taboo topic in our family. Even deaths of pets were hidden from me, even as a teenager. It gave me the impression death was something to fear. Which it isn't. Its part if life. And we want our kids to know that, to accept that and to find their own ways of self care when they are faced with it.
Hope that all made sense.
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09-12-2015 12:27 #10
Thank you for all your responses. They have been incredibly helpful in terms of having a plan of attack next time the subject comes up, and thank you for helping me gather some perspective on how little ones deal with the subject. Feeling better prepared already!!!
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