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What to tell an 8 year old about death.

My son was more scared and cried harder than I have ever seen last night. When he finally calmed down enough he said that he was afraid of death. I didn't know what to tell him. I refuse to lie. The only thing I could think to say was that being dead was like the time before you were born. Unfortunately that didn't help console him much. Any suggestions? Theistic responses are NOT welcome, thanks.

This is a bit intellectual for an 8 year old:

http://marklindner.info/writings/Epicurus.htm

But it captures the point. Being dead isn't scary (unless you listen to those hawking Heaven & Hell).

I think you can maybe adapt the thinking for your situation. I think much of the fear of death is based on the fear of the unknown. It's natural for kids about that age to wonder about what happens when they die, or perhaps when you die. Take it as opportunity to talk about death and get him to express his fears. Some of them are real and valid. It's ok to say that you share them. Others might have better answers. For example, he might feel uncomfortable about having his body buried, given that he might not understand that his body will not feel pain after death.

I've always thought that kids growing up on farms have an advantage in this area in that they see death more frequently and I think they have a better understanding as a result. Do you have pets, perhaps one that has died? If not, consider getting a goldfish. They keel over at a pretty rapid rate... You can maybe use the (eventually) dead fish as a conversation point. Talk about how it's similar and different to how it was when it was alive. What happens to the body over time. What happened to the alive fish. (He's in our memories....)

Finally, I've heard this book recommended a lot, but I haven't read it:

http://www.parentingbeyondbelief.com/

Good luck!

Chris, you may also want to read the following discussion regarding life and death:

http://www.atheist-community.org/boards/read_message.php?t=3358

Make sure that your son doesn't become depressed over the finiteness of his life.

Assuming your son does not have a terminal illness or may die sooner than what's normally accepted.

I usually say that you will likely live beyond 100 years! A 100years is a LONG time. Even as your son's immediate parent you may not even be half that already yourself.

With the modern advances in cancer research and people eating much healthier foods, plus with physical sport and generally living a good healthy normal life, your son could easily live past 100 as long as he takes care of himself.

In the 'old days'. It was cool to smoke (sadly I still smoke, but seriously contemplating giving it up this time!) NO one jogged or ran in the mornings, I mean, why would you? And food usually consisted of hamburgers and stacks of butter on sandwiches and biscuits. Eating your 'greens' was frowned upon by most children.

These days, children thrive on yoghurt. They probably don't eat butter at all, and possibly never have. Meat is not the number one (feed your man meat) meal. Most responsible parents usually prepare all types of different healthy meals each day of the week! And which child isn't into some type of sport (at 8) these days?

Yes, children today are set up for a long and healthy life. 100 years to any child (and even adults at 50) is a LONG time. In a hundred years there will likely be even more advances. Who knows, he could live to 150 or more! Your son could be a great great great great great grandfather before his time is up, and his wife may not even be born yet!

What to tell your son? Don't work matey, you're 8. I'd like to know what its like living on Mars or having trips to the moon. In a hundred years they may even have a cure for death. ie You've seen those heads in Futurama? Well they're 1000 years old, yes its a cartoon, but who knows what the future will bring.

Edit//

Don't *worry (Be happy). :)

I would suggest asking questions about what exactly he is scared of. If he is scared of not being here in 100 years, then tell him it's a very long way away and we all live with the promise of death. Once you accept that there will be a time when you are no longer living, you can enjoy the life you have.

I would tell your son that he has the remarkable fortune of living on our particular planet at a time when healthcare is advanced and will continue to improve over his life, when technology is booming in terms of computing, robotics, nanotechnology, and we know more about our universe and our world than ever! What's more, he wasn't born into a starving family in North Korea, or an extremist Muslim family somewhere in Iran.

If you take life for granted, death can be scary, but if you imagine you might never have had the chance to exist, it's not so bad.

Hope this helped.

Poor little guy, I hope he is dealing with the issue of death better now.

My suggestion would be to compare it to sleep, tell him that death is like sleeping and try to ask him about how nice it feels when you're just about to fall asleep and generally how nice and relaxing it is to sleep. Death and dreamless sleep is practically the same thing isn't it? Lack of consciousness.

Hope things work out. He does sound like a bright little fellow. :)

Quote: "Death and dreamless sleep is practically the same thing isn't it?"

Well kind of. Except people tend to drift off to sleep (most say peacefully) But when you die its excruciating pain so much so that it kills you. Generally if you're in hospital at the time the doctors will dope you up real good so you don't feel it. Its true that you could die peacefully in your sleep (deep sleep obviously) but I suspect you may be dreaming you're in pain or something.

The mind and body is very good at self preservation. ie You'll wake from a deep sleep to save your life! So the answer to your question (at the time of falling to sleep or dieing) then not the same thing)

Since your question may refer to once dead. No, there won't be anymore nightmares after your dead.

I bet we all can't wait hey? And some say they don't want to go to a hospital when they know they are dieing >>> VERY brave.

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