Talking to a Preschooler About Death
Submitted by hopeless
My father—who my son has met a total of three times in his four years of life—is dying. And I've decided I need to tell my kid about it. I think.
I'm sure there are many people who wouldn't choose to tell their son about his grandfather's terminal illness, especially considering that they're not exactly close. I'm also sure there are many people who would be able to keep their emotions to themselves and would be careful about what they say on the phone when their kid is within earshot. People who would discuss travel plans and financial issues when the kids are in school. I am not one of those people.
And yet, my son is a preschooler. Does he really need the burden of this information? It may take a while for my dad to die; he has a slow-moving cancer. Is it selfish of me to dump this on my kid, or is it important for him to start learning about these things? I mean, not to be a horrible person or anything, but this death isn't going to hit him very hard. Maybe it's better for him to "learn" about death and grief and family upheaval with the passing of someone he's not close to. Because if it was my mother who was dying—my mother, who is my son's favorite person in the universe—it would be devastating. This could sort of be like a starter death, no? (OK, that was awful, wasn't it?)
Also, I'm going to be dealing with a lot of emotions as this goes along, a lot of mixed feelings. He may pick up on my sadness. Wouldn't it be better for him to understand why the sadness is there, rather than just feeling scared about mommy crying for no known reason? Or is that just me being selfish and trying to justify my actions?