My son worries that I will die

"My 5 1/2-year-old son is very worried that my husband or I will die soon. I have told him that I plan to be around until he is grown up with children of his own, but he has trouble comprehending how long that is. I have also explained to him that we have a plan in place to ensure that he will be loved and cared for in the event that one or both of us dies unexpectedly. What else can I do to ease his fears?"

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Robert Schwebel

Clinical psychologist Robert Schwebel, PhD, has been in private practice for almost 30 years, counseling children, couples and... Read more

Children often have fears about their parents' death. They love their parents and recognize their dependency on them. In a sense, this fear is a reflection of a child gaining intellectual maturity: Your son is beginning to realize that life is limited, and that death is irreversible.

I recommend that parents take the firm position that they will live a long and healthy life -- without the maybes. Parent should say to their child clearly and unequivocally that they take good care of themselves and plan to be around a long time. While there are exceptions to this rule, statistically this is true, and children need our firm reassurance.

Of course parents can't make all of their children's fears go away. That's the nature of life. But what you don't want to do is prolong the discussions about fears, such as those your son is experiencing, because of your own anxiety.

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