How An Agnostic Can Explain Death To A Child

An essay by me on a difficult subject for Green Spot Blue.  Here is the introduction to the article:

My son is three going on four and he is starting to notice death.  It’s a part of life and hard to avoid even in children’s entertainment, unless you decide to always keep them covered by the security blanket that is Thomas the Tank Engine, Curious George, and Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse.

My son, for example, is obsessed with Batman; I try to keep him focused on the more fun (less ultraviolent) series Batman: The Brave and Bold (and might I add, mind-numbingly stupidly canceled by Cartoon Network earlier this year). Now, while this version of Batman has actual fun and friends, death still sneaks into the show from time to time.  There was an episode about how his parents died and in one episode a hero sacrificed himself to save the world (Even I kept expecting the hero to get up, but when the funeral started, it was more stunningly obvious they were going in that direction with the story).

I was watching the episode with my son when Batman’s friend died. My son asked me what happened and at that time I just said he had gone away; looking back it was a weak answer and I am surprised he was okay with it (Typically he is a very inquisitive boy).  Yet, later I began to feel more and more guilty with my answer, wondering if I had given a pathetic reply.  Of course I argued to myself that we were watching Batman, was it really the time to get into this life changing conversation?  Of course, it might have been easier to deal with the concept then, as compared to the inevitable moment when it happens to someone he knows, or might even love.

Whatever the case, that moment has passed, and I have struggled for some time trying to discover the best approach for introducing my child to the idea that life will have an end. When my wife and I decided to be parents, I argued to take a sincere approach.  I don’t know what happens after life. We agreed to deal with the questions as they come up and be honest in our perspectives.  Because, frankly, in all truthfulness none of us really do know what happens. It’s all beautiful conjecture.

To read the rest of my article (and my answer to this problem), please visit the article on Green Spot Blue here.

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