3 Year old trying to understand concept of death

Kelsi - posted on 05/12/2011 ( 1 mom has responded )

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My daughter has been curious about the concept of death. The other day in the backyard she discovered a grasshopper that was dead. She picked it up and was carrying it around asking me all kinds of questions. ei: "is he dead? can you fix him? is he going to be better tomorrow? What's going to happen to him?"

I answered the best I could with. "He had a great life of hopping and flying but now he is dead and his body does not work anymore. He cannot fly, hop, think, see, his body doesn't work. His life is all done. When people or animals die it can be sad but we can always remember the fun times we had with them and be happy when we think about them. His body will break down and go back to the earth and there will be more grasshoppers." circle of life stuff, etc.

My husband was horrified that I didn't offer up the idea of Heaven. He felt that it was too sad not to offer the happy comforting fairytale that is Heaven. He's never had any strong religious opinions, he just wanted to protect his baby girl from sadness, which I understand but do not agree with. And he felt I was pushing MY opinons on her. (I fully intend on exposing her to all sorts of religions/concepts of afterlife, just when she was a bit older. I didn't tell her there was NO heaven just omitted it from the discussion all together.) I also felt the grasshopper was a great introductory because although she did have feelings of sadness, it was much better than having a close family member pass and try to explain it then for the first time. She was sad for a few moments but has since been completely content with what we discussed. I think the thought of no Heaven is only devastating when it is something you were brought up believing your whole life.

How do you handle this topic with very young children.

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Jennifer - posted on 07/26/2011

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My son is 3 and his pet crab died a few months ago. He asked me, "What is dead?" I told him that it means the brain and body doesn't work any more and they're gone. He was cool with that. I explained that everything dies someday but it's okay because it's a natural part of life.

Yolanda - posted on 05/12/2011

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I think you handled it perfectly. The subject of death is hard to explain no matter what the age the first time. My boys were 9 and 4 when my Grandmother passed. She was very close to my boys. Jonathan the 9 year old understood what was going on because he was older, but Jeremy was a different story. We told him that Nana had a long wonderful life and that it was time for her body to rest in a way that she would not be coming back from. We did tell him that she went to Heaven to be with the family members that had gone before her. But even with that Jeremy kept asking when Nana was going to wake up. As long as the child is able to understand the information then you have done the best you can.

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