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Tell Me About It: 5-year-old wants to know about dying

Q: My 5-year-old has been asking a lot of questions about dying, such as what happens when you die, do you see God, how old are you when you die — which eventually results in a question about whether a young person can die. Is this normal for the age? I never experienced this with my older child.


A: In my experience it's normal, but any time you're trying to figure out what the range of normal behavior is for a child, it's better to ask someone "on the ground" versus someone in the ether like me, because that person would have the benefit of context and follow-up questions in answering you. Choose someone who knows you and your child, who is a veteran at dealing with matters of child development — teacher, pediatrician, clergy person, a particularly astute parent — and whose judgment you trust.

The 10-buck answer (or free answer, via your local library) is Lifetimes by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen. It's a matter-of-fact but gentle way to explain death to a child.

The way I see it is that death is an ordinary, natural yet often sad part of life. I did tell my kids that everything that lives does eventually die, that people die, that most people live lives of more than 70 years, but some die sooner, even children, though that's very rare. I told them that some people believe you see God and some don't, and that no one who is alive can be sure — we can only believe.

I also see these larger questions as completely sensible, and answering them truthfully as appropriate, for any child who is trying to process the wider world.

Tell Me About It: 5-year-old wants to know about dying

01/05/14 [Last modified: Thursday, January 2, 2014 4:55pm]
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