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Karyn Jones
Karyn Jones, Mental Health Professional
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1716
Experience:  Diploma of Counselling and Transactional Analysis Counselling, Lifeline counselling, Pastoral Care.
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My 5 yr old is a little ahead of things normally. He reads

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Hi! My 5 yr old is a little ahead of things normally. He reads at a second grade level and tends to ask questions and touch on subject matter way above what most 5 year olds think about. All of a sudden he is terrified of death. He gets himself very worked up about dying and not being able to be with his family. Randomly during the day he says things like "mom, if there is heaven and you get to have whatever you wish there, I'm going to wish I come back to you as a baby and that nothing bad ever will happen again". We haven't had anyone die recently, we can't think of anything that triggered this and we are at our wits end trying to deal with it. He was sobbing tonight at bed time because he couldn't stop thinking about death. He kept saying "I wasn't scared before, now I can't make scary thoughts go away". We finally distracted him and he fell asleep, but it's becoming more difficult. He rationalizes around whatever we try and tell him to calm him down. Help!
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Karyn Jones replied 6 years ago.
Hello my name is ***** ***** you for bringing your concerns to Just Answer...regards ***** ***** little ones fear of death..not an easy time for all concerned &.very stressful to say the least.
yet it is helpful to know that infants have three basic innate fears: of sudden motion, of loud or abrupt noises, and of sudden approach..and toddlers and preschoolers gradually outgrow these as they learn to interpret their environment and to develop a sense of trust. But as they grow older they will experience other kinds of fears...So we as parents need to understand that fear is usually outgrown.
Between ages 4 and 5 children are often unpredictable in their behavior, but 5 is not a real fear-filled age. At this age, children's fears become more concrete or real. They fear such things as bodily harm, falling, dogs, dark, death, and mom or dad not returning home.
So for a child around age 5, death becomes more personal: death is someone who carries others off. When he/she understands death isn't just sleeping, he will ask, "Will I die?" At that time the child has a sense of vulnerability.

A parent needs to answer honestly and directly, assurr-ing him that he need not be overly concerned. Use your moral and religious beliefs. Do not generalize that old people just die. Ask your son what he is feeling inside and let him know he did not cause the death. A pet's death is often a child's first loss experience. Set the tone for honesty and allow him to express his feelings...emotions.

Encourage questions, and don't be embarrassed by his candid comments. Express what you are feeling in simple terms they will understand. Avoid euphemisms and statements such as, "Grandpa is in a deep sleep," or "was laid to rest." This is confusing to children. Be honest. "Grandpa died because his heart stopped beating." "Susie died because the seat belt was not used and her body was badly hurt in the car accident."

If you are of a church going family there's a "milagros" which is a board on which people post their prayers and the prayers are then remembered at each mass...(or there could be a prayer box at the church entrance) take your little boy along one Sunday soon..and get him to post a note that says "Please don't let Mommy/daddy.. die." ...
as this will help him greatly..
The other little thing to remember at this age, is that children often have elaborate fantasies when they are angry in which people they are mad at die....then they feel guilty and remorseful for having thought it.
So you might like to talk to him ( if this is the case ) about how we can all sometimes be angry at those we love, and people in general, and think bad things about them ..because of it, but that his thoughts can't harm that someone and that they wouldn't REALLY wish such awful things to actually happen to them.

I do hope that this has been helpful to you and if it has then please 'accept' my response as it also helps us to keep this valuable service going for you and others in the future..Take good care now..and I wish you & your family well.
Expert:  Karyn Jones replied 6 years ago.
Hello hope you received my response safely...