Why do people die? Where do they go?

mnberksAwkward Questions Children Ask Part SevenGood Toy Guide Logo_MED

Dr Amanda Gummer, Play & Parenting Psychologist and founder of Fundamentally Children has been helping Mumsnetters with how to answer those awkward questions that children ask.

So today’s question is:

Why do people die? Where do they go?

tshirt sat at tableAmanda says…..

Your answer to this will be heavily influenced by the age of the child, the circumstances surrounding the timing of question, their personal experiences and your own beliefs.  If a child is suffering from grief, it is important to provide reassurance in the answer.  Ultimately, honesty in many cases is the best policy.  Younger children tend to take things literally so explaining that the family has ‘lost’ someone or he/she has ‘gone to sleep’ could lead to problems such as sleepness nights as the child will be afraid to fall asleep for fear of not waking.  As children get older you can explain in more detail but using clear, simple and accurate details is recommended.

If it is just one of those questions, you can encourage children to be more philosophical and think about concepts such as the circle of life, overcrowding of the world and even issues such as quality v quantity of life with older children.  Religious explanations aside, a child will benefit from hearing an adult acknowledge their own uncertainty.  Encourage questions from your child but be honest if you are unsure of how to answer them.  There’s no right or wrong answers.  It is fine to say that no one really knows but lots of people have ideas that they believe and that it is ok to believe whatever you want to.

Young children don’t have a mature concept of the permanence and irreversibility of death so they need an explanation that they can relate to. The butterfly analogy works well – a caterpillar on the ground goes into a cocoon not having any idea that it’s about to grow wings and emerge from its sleep as a beautiful butterfly.  This explanation can help take away the fear of dying that many children experience at some point.

A note from the Mumsnet Berkshire Local Editor: I hope I am not asked this question any time soon. The only thing I can really add to Amanda’s answer is to learn about the signs of grief in children if they have lost a loved one (be that a family member, friend or pet). For example, a change in behaviour (this could be many weeks or months after the initial bereavement), fascination with death, anxiety over certain things i.e. going to sleep, being ill etc. Please feel free to add your comments or email thoughts to berkshire@mumsnetlocal.com

Read more awkward questions here:

Read Part One: Who is lying?

Read Part Two: Why do grown ups argue?

Read Part Three:  What does the tooth fairy do with the teeth they collect?

Read Part Four: How do I explain that we can’t afford what their friends can afford?

Read Part Five: How does a baby get in Mummy’s tummy?

Read Part Six: My Friends say I am ugly. Is it true?

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How do I explain that we can’t afford to go on holiday like all their other friends? And dance classes, and expensive day trips?

mnberksAwkward Questions Children Ask Part Four

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Dr Amanda Gummer, Play & Parenting Psychologist and founder of Fundamentally Children has been helping Mumsnetters with how to answer those awkward questions that children ask.

How do I explain that we can’t afford to go on holiday like all their other friends? And dance classes, and expensive day trips?

tshirt sat at tableAmanda says……

Most things in life cost money and it’s important for children to understand its value and to know that everyone has differing amounts.  This can be really difficult concept for young children who think that meals or days out are free.

Why not ask them to save some pocket money towards a day trip out, this will really help them to relate to how much things cost and make them understand that if they spend all their money on this trip they will miss out on other things such as sweets/magazines. If parents are going out to work, you can also explain that mummy and daddy work really hard to earn the money to pay for nice things and try to explain the process.

Some people have lots of money and can do whatever they like; lots of days out, holidays and dance classes. However the majority of people earn less and have to budget or pick and choose what they do as they can’t afford to do everything.

Explain to your child that having lots of money can buy you nice things but it doesn’t mean you will be happier, there are plenty of lovely things you can do that are free, such as visiting your closest beach for the day, having picnics in the park and these can be equally as special.  Try not to mention the cost of activities – a child won’t normally know the cost of a DVD and pizza night at home versus a cinema trip, they will take their lead from you.  Don’t feel pressured to supply endless treats as often a child will want to stay at home and play lego even more than going out for a day – it’s often the pressure we put on ourselves as parents that is an issue.

If there are certain things they really want to do, for example, dance classes why not get them to ask for these to be Christmas or birthday presents.

A note from the Mumsnet Berkshire Editor: Money is such a hard concept for children to understand. What’s most important is making the use of free activities where possible and also just making sure you actually have time as a family. Depending on the age of the child, most just want to have someone/their parents to play with them and to spend time with them.  Don’t forget you can use things such as Tesco Clubcard vouchers to pay for days out if you save them up. Plan things like Christmas in advance, consider second hand toys (you can get some bargain toys in great condition). When it comes to activities such as dance classes, work with your child to see how much they really want to do the activity. i.e. prove that they will stick at it and not just want to stop two classes in. You could ask them to help you for x no. of weeks with a house hold chore and if they do it regularly with no fuss they are showing they can commit and perhaps it is a worthwhile investment. Shop around for classes and don’t be afraid to ask for discount or to do pay as you go.

Read Part One: Who is lying?

Read Part Two: Why do grown ups argue?

Read Part Three: What does the tooth fairy do with the teeth they collect?