by Lori Dwyer on May 10, 2013 · 9 comments

My children appear to have some kind of obsession with death lately.

It’s not so much an obsession with their father dying, or having died, as with the whole concept in general.

I’m not sure if it’s entirely normal, or ‘normal’ for children who’ve had to deal with death so close up at such a young age. I’m not sure if it’s healthy for them to discuss it so much. I don’t encourage it, but nor do I discourage it or shut them down when the topic comes up. I find myself watching keenly in order to see if I actually do hear the words ‘dying’ and ‘death’ as often as I think I do, or if I’m just overtly sensitive and tuned to the sound of it.

The characters in my daughters dollhouse- a mixture of porcelain nic-nacs, Barbie dolls and Maccas toys- are constantly dying, their whole families perishing in terrible hot air balloon accidents. The make-believe games that the Chop and her play often end in death, and my son makes dramatic declarations about what would happen, exactly, should he step into the gas heater (“Goodbye, family…” he roleplays, a mimic of seriousness attempting to squirm itself into a smirk on his face).

Part of the reason for this phenomena has to lay in the testostor-isation of my boy-child, the newly found roughness that’s come with Big School and Skylanders, Ben 10 and being five. And if I compare one child with the other, the Bump at this age to the way the Chop was two years ago, then her questions and discussions around death seem comparative with his. She still asks questions, about Heaven and death and Daddy. My son rarely questions anything anymore, and acts as some form of instigator of truth and their reality as he sees it. Generally it’s kind and gentle corrections, filling in the potential gaps in her knowledge with what he already knows. Only occasionally does it take a more fervent, aggressive tone (smacking his sister in the head because she dared to argue the topic of whether or not people can come back from the dead- the Chop obviously on the side of the negative- was a particular low point in sibling instruction).

As I do with most everything I’m not quite sure about, I’m leaving this one to run it’s course. I’d rather they talk about this stuff than didn’t. I’d much rather them mention it when they feel they need, than not be able to mention it at all.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrea G May 12, 2013 at 5:52 am

I think it’s quite natural to act those scenarios out for all kids at that age. Regardless of whether or not they have had it in their lives. I think it’s akin to pretending to floor is hot lava. I think you’re kids are typical, is what I’m trying to say.


Vanessa May 11, 2013 at 4:30 pm

I think it’s probably good to talk about – and I think you’d know if it was too much, something would feel wrong.
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Miss Pink May 10, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Some of the conversations I have with my children are quite strange, but I do try to satisfy their curiosities, and to not discourage them asking questions about anything.
I love listening in to some of the things they share with one another. It’s nice to see how they perceive the world, even if it isn’t exactly how I do.

I don’t think that Chop is too far off par for how all little boys are at his age. Maybe he just has a deeper understanding of what it all means, but Bluey plays, and played the same way as he is.


Charmaine Campbell May 10, 2013 at 9:00 pm

It’s hard to tell what’s “normal” really. My kids talk about death a lot too. In the last few years we’ve had my 3 grandparents die, an uncle, our dog and our cat. Plus my husband has cancer. But when we had to have our cat euthanised, the kids came too and after it was done, my 5 year old daughter said she thought the vet was going to stab the cat to death. Better to let them talk about it I guess than form their own stuff in their minds that you never hear about.


Sam-o May 10, 2013 at 9:00 pm

My MIL died when my older son was 3. He was amazing. After hearing about it we jumped in the car to drop my husband off at his parents house (where she died). He was quiet the whole way there, about 40 minutes, then the second his dad was out of the car he started asking the most intricate and well thought out questions. Later at the pre funeral viewing, he consoled his Aunts with “it’s just her body, she’s already gone to heaven” something we hadn’t actually told him. He is completely pragmatic about life and death to this day. At times it seems obsessive and morbid, but I think it’s all part of his processing just what life is and means.


Crunchie May 10, 2013 at 3:19 pm

My daughter hasn’t really dealt with death first hand, bar that of the family cat which she took in her stride but thanks to a keen interest in super heroes, Ben 10, vampires and the like, she too has developed an obsession with death. I let her go for the most part, only reining it in if the story lines to her make believe games get a bit too morbid or ridiculous “and then the dragon blew fire on him and then the dragon ate him and then the dragon chewed him up to mush…”
I don’t see the harm to be honest.


Kelley May 10, 2013 at 10:27 am

It sounds a bit much to me. I know you don’t encourage it but perhaps there should be times when you do discourage it? They are very young and I think games that constantly end in death need to be redirected.


Samantha May 10, 2013 at 9:32 am

When I first learned how to read, I used to read the obituaries. I read anything in the paper about death, especially murders. I would look up terms l didn’t understand in the dictionary. To this day, I still remember looking up the word ‘garotte’. My parents just let it go and shook their head at their ‘weird child’. They still talk about this now, but I turned out ok. It’s still a subject that fascinates me but I don’t think it did me any harm. I’m sure an open discussion whenever they feel the need is just how you should be handling this! xx


Whoa Molly May 10, 2013 at 8:52 am

“I’m leaving this one to run it’s course. I’d rather they talk about this stuff than didn’t. I’d much rather them mention it when they feel they need, than not be able to mention it at all.”

Exactly. I think that this relates not only to death, but to everything. It will only serve to make them more open later on, and more comfortable with talking about their feelings and touchy subjects.

Parenting: I think you are doing it right. :)
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