4 y.o. asking about death

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-22-2006
4 y.o. asking about death
Sun, 08-10-2008 - 10:32am
Recently, my newly turned 4 y.o. has been asking if people or things are going to die and she's been making comments about random stuffed animal toys being dead or almost dead. I know the questions are about to start re: death and dying. Any advice on choice of words when doing this? I don't want to put fear in her but I don't want to deny or ignore it either........Advice very much appreciated!!! Thank you in advance !!!!
iVillage Member
Registered: 08-03-2008
Mon, 08-11-2008 - 3:19pm

I would use "gone to heaven" personally.

As for the stuffed animals, explain that they are not real so they can not go to heaven.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-19-2003
Mon, 08-11-2008 - 7:58pm

We have always just been matter-of-fact about it being a part of the cycle of life. Everything living will eventually die and move on to the next stage. We let their questions lead us. We will also ask them questions to clarify what they are asking. We'll turn it back on them and ask them what they think the answer is. Once Philip was asking what happens to us when we die and what he really wanted to know was if people left behind forget about you when you die. Those are two different things.

I can tell some things we have told our kids. We talk about how everyone you love is a part of you. You carry that part of them whenever they are not with you; it doesn't matter what happens to them. Just like they carry a part of you with them. We've talked about how some people believe you go to heaven when you die but others don't. We live in an area that is very diverse in religions as well as ethnicity so we often have to field questions about N saying this is what happens to you when you die, while R said this. We've used plants and bugs to show how things grow, live, die and go on to start the cycle over again (fallen trees becoming the bed for new plants in the forests).

Was there anything recent that happened that made her think about it? Death of a pet she knows? A tv show she watched? Someone in your family or a friends family? Some plants? If you know what triggered her interest and her questions it will help you have a better idea of how to approach her questions and even what she is saying. People talk about cars dying, so even something like that could have got her asking about death and dying. In that situation it just means the car doesn't work any more which could easily have translated to her stuffed animals dying if they got worn out and broken.

I would avoid telling her that only old people die, or people get sick and die because she could easily get confused and become convinced that some one she knows who catches a cold will die. Also I wouldn't use words like gone to sleep, or left us (a friend told me she spent years wondering why her grandfather left and if he'd ever come back. She felt like an idiot when she was a teen and finally got up the nerve to talk to her grandmother about it).

I really hoped that helped you some and didn't confuse you. Its a hard subject to talk about. Not quite as hard as the sex or where do babies come from questions but still hard.

dawn200608.jpg picture by cariadlawn

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-22-2006
Tue, 08-12-2008 - 8:47am
Thank you so much. Very good advice - don't know of a trigger, but am paying closer attention. I think it may have even been on the playground playing "pirates" with boys or finding bugs that are dead. Not sure. I appreciate you taking your time to help me out. Thanks :)
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-26-2008
Wed, 09-03-2008 - 3:37pm
My daughter did the same.