When a Child is Talking about Death
My six year old is constantly talking about death and how he’ll die soon and it worries me. He doesn’t seem afraid of death; he says he’s going to heaven. I’m concerned, though. What do I do?
I would sit down with him and try to figure out what’s on his mind.
You never know what’s going on in those heads of theirs. Someone once told me that somehow he hadn’t gotten the picture that he’d lose his baby molars a few years after this front baby teeth, so when they started getting loose, he thought he was going to lose all his teeth and be toothless for the rest of his life. He didn’t tell his parents about his fears, either. Poor kid.
It’s best to find a time to talk alone. Driving in the car together at night is an easy time for kids to talk about things they’re embarrassed about. Perhaps you could run an evening errand with him?
“Hey, buddy, is there anything you want to tell me? Is there anything you are worrying about? It’s okay. If there is anything wrong, I’ll help you get through it.”
Then listen. Take whatever he says seriously. Often kids will raise a trial balloon – share something minor to see how you’ll react before they share what’s really on their minds. Respond kindly and with concern. Don’t freak out, but don’t blow it off, either, even if it seems silly.
What if he doesn’t talk? If he’s not spontaneously sharing, then you need to ask more questions. You’ve got to be sure, though, that it doesn’t sound like an interrogation.
“Well, honey, I was just concerned. You’ve been talking a lot about death recently and how you’re going to die soon. I was wondering made you think that? Are you feeling all right?”
Sometimes a minor health symptom (like the teeth) can make them think something is seriously wrong.
“Has someone been ugly to you? Has someone threatened you – or threatened someone you love? Mommy and Daddy can take care of you. We can take care of the rest of us, too, but we need you to tell us what’s going on.”
Kids can be frighteningly heroic. We’ve heard of kids who’ve endured awful abuse because they thought they had to in order to protect threatened family members. May sure no one is threatening them.
“I’m glad no one has been mean to you! I’m still wondering why you are thinking about this so much, though. Most people live to be in their seventies or eighties. You said you thought you might die soon, but really, that’s almost certainly not going to happen. Did you hear or see something that made you think you might die?”
It’s normal for kids that age to suddenly realize there is an unseen spiritual world out there with God and Satan and angels and demons in it. Some are pretty frightened by that. It’s a great time to reassure them that God is sovereign and that God is not just powerful, He is omnipotent – He is the most powerful being of all. That means we don’t have to be afraid of evil. God is stronger than any evil and He is love.
If there’s been a recent death in the family, among his friend’s families, or even the loss of a pet, it may just be that he’s really noticing death for the first time and needs to talk through it with you.
Share with him the best comfort of all, that God loved us so much, even while we were sinners, to send His Son to die in our place. When we repent of our sins and trust in Jesus, we’re forgiven and we have eternal life. That’s good news indeed.
“Son, if you are trusting Jesus as your Savior, you’ll go to heaven when you die. You need to remember, though, that we love you! We don’t want you to go to heaven for years and years and years.
This is would be more serious if it were a teen or preteen. Although it is very unlikely in a six year old, if you are reading this and your child is a teen or preteen, you need to ask yourself if this is a suicide threat. If you get any sense at all that it is or if your child is on a medication that can cause suicidal thoughts like some anti-depressants, you need to get help. Suicide talk is an emergency. It’s a cry for help. Get him help. Don’t leave him unsupervised. Talk to your doctor. Whatever you do, don’t ignore it.
With a little guy, though, you’ve just got to figure out what’s on his mind and help him to work through it. That’s what parents are for. May the Lord give you wisdom to know how to help him out.
Hal & Melanie