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When/how to talk to young child about death (1 Viewer)

matttyl

Footballguy
Son will be 4 this July.  This past year we put down our two oldest dogs (15 and 17, which is ancient for the breed), leaving us with one (the one in my avatar picture).  One of those dogs my wife had had since a puppy, and it was very hard on her.  My son thought that Luke (the dog) had just run away or was missing - and he and the "Paw Patrol" (his favorite show) would go and find him.  He hasn't brought it up for the past few months, but this past weekend we got a new puppy.  Also a border collie like the two dogs we put down last year.  I guess this has resurrected (bad word to use here) his thoughts about the two dogs we put down.  "We need to find them!"  Upsets my wife a bit - not because he doesn't understand, but because of her attachment to one of those dogs.

So when and how do you go about trying to explain death to a young child?  I don't want to use the "old" word too much in an explanation as his grandmother is a widow already at age 70 (grandpa passed before he was born) and I don't want to get him thinking that she could die, too. 

In attempting an explanation this weekend, we told him that whenever he misses Luke or Beau, to give this new puppy a hug or a pet, as she's going to be his doggie now.  Just not really sure how to explain it in a way that he might understand, but not to really upset him. 

 

ChiefD

Footballguy
We did this early with all three of our kids. When we had to put our dogs down when they were about your son's age, we just explained that they got sick and were hurting and that they died and went to doggie heaven.

So that led to a discussion about doggie heaven, which we explained as a place where dogs go and they don't hurt anymore and can play with other dogs that had passed away. 

As they got older, they have had grandparents pass away, so they have been to funerals and seen the casket and all of that stuff. We just have never shied away from it - it is part of life and eventually everyone dies. 

 

belljr

Footballguy
My daughter is still traumatized from her grandmothers funeral.  I think she was 9 or 10 - open casket - and she cried the entire time. It was rough

 

matttyl

Footballguy
Yeah, I think we used the doggie heaven bit, but I guess he's not quite grasping what that is.  Maybe to him it's a place, like the dog park in town, and if we go there, we'll find them waiting for us. 

 

MAC_32

Footballguy
I think it totally depends on the kid.  Our oldest actually sought us about it when he was 4.  He's always been way more mature than his years about everything, so this wasn't surprising nor a difficult conversation.  We never had the conversation with our middle child before it was necessary as one of his great uncles died right after he turned 5.  He's been consistently behind our oldest on the maturity card, so we still think it was the right decision.  That was a rough night though.  Big brother certainly helped with that one.  Youngest is 3, so we probably won't think about that talk anytime soon, but sometime next year?  Yeah, probably.  Kids are resilient.  And if you don't talk to them about it then they'll just find out about it from the internet.

 
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Kanil

Footballguy
Our dog died at when my son was 4 also.  We explained what death was and that she wouldn't be coming back.  He took it in stride and played legos.  It made the conversation when my grandmother died (so his great grandma) much easier as he was already familiar with death.

 

Payne

Footballguy
Depends on kids. My father-in-law died when my girls were 6 and 3. My dad died when they were 8 and 5. 

They handled it very well both times. They asked questions and the family was there to answer. 

I don't think my youngest (when she was 3) really understood at the time. But my wife wanted her there and it turned out just fine.  

 

Big League Chew

Footballguy
actually took my lab to the emergency vet last night. he had trouble breathing and his back legs are giving out. apparently there's some type of paralysis on his esophagus and will eventually lead to pneumonia. When do you know is the right time to call it?

 

matttyl

Footballguy
actually took my lab to the emergency vet last night. he had trouble breathing and his back legs are giving out. apparently there's some type of paralysis on his esophagus and will eventually lead to pneumonia. When do you know is the right time to call it?
If legs are giving out, that did it for us with Luke.  We think he had some stroke like event, we gave him about 24 hours to recover (as he had from a similar event about a year prior).  When when they simply can't get up....it's time.

 

TobiasFunke

Footballguy
Thanks for starting this discussion. My kids are preschool to first grade age and we struggle with this a lot.  Our dog is 11 and a large purebreed, so he's not long for this earth.  And they still have all four grandparents + one great-grandparent who nearly passed away last week, and that experience (my wife being teary-eyed for a weekend) messed with them a bit. They ask a lot of tough questions, and I've been really curious how other people handle this.

When they broadly ask questions about being scared of dying and not wanting the dog or whoever to die, I usually go with some version of "I know this is hard to understand, but when you get older you'll see that death is actually kinda good because it makes everything much better- it makes ice cream taste good and hugs feel good and games fun" which isn't profound but at least it gets them thinking about ice cream, hugs and games. But then they hit me with the "what will happen to FunkeDog's body when he dies?" and I got nothing.

 

Judge Smails

Footballguy
Hmmmm. Depends. Honestly, no judgment. It’s an easier discussion for those with faith.  Still, don’t have it until you need to. An event.  Grandma, Grandpa, loved pet, etc. 

 

Ketamine Dreams

Footballguy
actually took my lab to the emergency vet last night. he had trouble breathing and his back legs are giving out. apparently there's some type of paralysis on his esophagus and will eventually lead to pneumonia. When do you know is the right time to call it?
I think the answer to: Are you prolonging life or prolonging death?, will tell you. It’s tough. We knew it was time with our Lab a few years ago. It really sucked, but I knew. 

 

ZenoRazon

Footballguy
Much easier to do if you believe in God.

You...Spot is in a much better place now dear ,  he is in Heaven.

Which can be said for everyone which does ease the moaners minds.

We only live so long and God decides when He needs us, when He does He calls us.

If a kid asks,

 

[scooter]

Footballguy
When I was 5 and my brother was 3, our dog (a German Shepherd) bit a neighbor kid. The neighbor's parents agreed not to press charges as long as we got rid of the dog.

So, my parents gave the dog to some friends. Then they told us that the dog "went to live on a farm" (yes, they actually used that line). I had heard that line before (on a TV show or something) and I knew that it was a code word for "euthanized", so I just resigned myself to the fact that my beloved dog was dead.

However, my brother had a REALLY tough time with it. He kept pestering my parents -- "When can we go visit Sam? Can we go to the farm where Sam lives?", etc. This went on FOR WEEKS. I guess one day he went over to the neighbor's house to ask them if they would drive him to the farm where Sam lives, because our parents wouldn't take him. Well, this really hit a soft spot with the neighbor dad, so he talked it over with my parents and they all agreed to bring the dog back.

I can still remember the moment Sam came back and burst through the front door and TACKLED my brother and I as we screamed with excitement. It was without a doubt one of the best moments of my life.

Anyway, sorry to derail the thread. I guess what I'm saying is that 3 is too young to understand but by 5 they have a pretty good idea of what death means.

 

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