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Advice to a 5 yr old


Distinguished Member
Hi guys

appreciate that I could have put this in the parenting thread but as GC gets more traffic I wanted to put it here, if it needs moving then that fine.

I was after advice really on an issue that has been ongoing for almost 2 weeks with my 5 and half yr old. Over the last two weeks every night without fail just as he's laying down to sleep he starts crying and then when I ask him what the matter is he tells me hes worried about dying and worries about us (his parents) dying and leaving him on his own :(

He asks questions around death and what happens when you die etc... says he feels upset when thinking about death and doesnt want to be left all alone. I think what prompted it was that a few weeks ago I got upset as me and the missus were talking about my Dad who passed away in 1998 and we were talking about him having never seen us married or seen his grandchildren etc... I got a little upset and my son walked in and asked why I was crying, I was holding a photo of my Dad at the time and he sat on lap and started asking why his grandad wasnt alive anymore and that if I missed him why couldn't I just call him (bless!).

i tried to be as honest as I thought I could be without giving him information overload, now we are a religious family but i didnt want to explain everything in just one way and besides i think hes too young to understand religious concepts so I've stayed away from those explanations for now.

I've told this that this is how the world works, things that live eventually die including people, animals, plants etc.. but he still asks on a daily basis and it upsets me that he is getting upset! My wife is worried as she thinks he is too young to be thinking about these things.

Any advice/info much appreciated :)




Distinguished Member
Is this not why heaven was invented?

On a serious note though it is heartbreaking to think that a 5 year old is worrying himself about such matters to the point he is crying himself to sleep. My only (perhaps bad) advise would be to promise him that you aren't going to die till you are very old indeed. Yes, this might be a promise you cant keep and have no control over but anything to put your child's mind at rest at such a young age is fine by me.

Solomon Grundy

Distinguished Member
Google "thanatophobia in children". It is really common. There's a great Telegraph article about it which suggests moving "worry time" away from bedtime and making a structured thing of it, setting aside 10 minutes every day for them to ask questions. They should then get bored of asking the same questions and move on after a few weeks.

Edit: by "move on" I don't mean....well, you know.
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Deleted member 498601

Hi Saf, without trying to sound too glib about what is a serious subject; I think that films like 'The Lion King' do a good job of presenting the 'Circle of Life' to the younger audience. Okay, granted, your boy might come away wondering about his Uncle's relationship with you! (assuming you have a brother of course).

Kids ask the most serious of questions, that us as parents find really hard to deal with, as we think their young minds shouldn't have to worry about such problems. Could you explain the 'Circle of Life' to him yourself? I'm sure most parents can relate to their child when they accidentally step on a snail...

Another reason I think we (as parents) struggle with this subject is that we deem it as being far too 'grown up' for young minds to deal with. My little girl was 4 when my dad died. She seemed to just sort of shrug it off, but then years later (when she was 7), she seemed to have some sort of 'mini-breakdown', crying and asking loads of questions about my dad - a real upsetting time :(

Last year, we finally told her the truth about dad (he committed suicide), after she kept probing and we kept lying to her. We thought we were doing the right thing and protecting her, but once we explained that he had depression and what happened, she seemed much more satisifed that she had the answers she was after - for years, we explained that he was 'poorly in his heart' or other such child-friendly phrasing, but we knew that she was brighter than we gave her credit for.

I'd tell you it's just a phase, and that your son will get over it (and he will, I'm certain), but when your child's upset, I agree, it is heart-breaking.

Hope he (and you) are okay mate, you'll get throught it.


Distinguished Member
I once had my son of about the same age look over my shoulder whilst I was watching a YT video of a Christmas tree caught alight in a mock up living room showing how quickly Fire can spread.

We had weeks of questions and Christmas was a bit of a nightmare putting the tree up.

Kids fixate on certain things and it completely consumes them.

All you can do is reassure them and before long they will have forgotten and hopefully be fixating on something less worrying.


Distinguished Member
The parenting thread actually gets this asked every so often :)


Distinguished Member
My son started asking questions about death at similar age. Now he is 6 and wants to know why he doesn't have a brother to play with and how do people make babies :)


Well-known Member
Had this from my 5 year old on and off during the last 12 months. Went through a few weeks where it was all the time. I've explained that some people believe in heaven (including my wife) and other people just think that we remember people, and that he can make his own mind up.

However my son's main hang up was who would look after him if both me and my wife died. Would he be left all on his own. I fobbed him off for a couple of weeks telling him I'd be here for a long, long time, and that he shouldn't worry as it wouldn't happen. but it didn't really work to be honest.

In the end we sat down, as mentioned above, and talked it through logically. We explained that it was highly, highly unlikely as it was so rare, and that it was far, far more likely he'd be looking after me when I was old and grey. However, in the tragic event, that it did happen we made a list of all the people that loved him and that would be able to look after him. (Grandparents, uncles, aunties etc) We talked about this very briefly once or twice more and since then he's not mentioned it since.

The interesting thing was that it actually made me and my wife have a proper conversation about it ourselves, as we had never really given it any proper thought. No will etc.


Distinguished Member
Thanks for your advice everyone , I really appreciate it. Reassuring to know its not only us who feel this way and that other children of a similar age go through the same thing.

We've told him that usually its older people who are sick that die first and that we'll be old and wrinkly before that happens which, i acknowledge, can be far from the truth, its just about finding the words to explain things to him. I like the idea about listing people who love him and also about moving these conversations to earlier in the day so that it doesnt interrupt his sleep time.

Will have a chat with the missus about this as well and she often pulls in a different direction (shock/horror i know haha!)

cheers all



Distinguished Member
We're not religious so we've approached this from the angle of living on in people's memories. It seems to be working well so far, and within the context of birth / life / death that all life on the planet goes through. We've discussed religious ideas for life after death as well, "some people believe ....".

There's the odd bit of residual anxiety about being left behind or parents dying but we reassure them that we're not going anywhere soon. Useful to have books like "The Paper Dolls" or some Disney films as well to introduce them to the concept of death gently without a beloved family pet suddenly karking it. I don't think it's unreasonable for young children to get upset about death though (just not all the time!), my daughter recently got into floods of tears when a character in one of her books died.


Distinguished Member
yes I think introducing them to these concepts gently is a good idea, I like @Doug the D idea of the Lion King!! Simbaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!! :)


Well-known Member
My 5 year old son also mentions this at bedtime and gets sad, I just explain to him its not something that he needs to worry about and then try to change the subject. It was happening everyday for weeks but it all of a sudden stopped.


Distinguished Member
i tried to be as honest as I thought I could be without giving him information overload, now we are a religious family but i didnt want to explain everything in just one way and besides i think hes too young to understand religious concepts so I've stayed away from those explanations for now.

You would be surprised at how they can pick up religious concepts!

I know there are a lot of people that are fairly against religion here, personally I am not religious at all but my wife is catholic, our daughter goes to a catholic school and they both attend church on sundays.

My daughter was unfortunate they she grew up with a few deaths in her years, during my wifes maternity she was back and forth to hospital as my father in law had terminal cancer, he died soon after her christening. My nan died a couple of years ago and my daughter (now 5) enjoyed going to see her and still speaks of her.

We've told my daughter that they have both died and are with the angels now, that thought seems to comfort her and she still mentions Pops (father in law) and nanny win as being with the angels. She quite enjoys helping my wife tend to the flowers on my father in laws grave too. It's one of the few areas in which I think the religious side and how they talk about the afterlife has helped her as she doesn't think of them in just completely gone forever, she still mentions them from time to time in her prayers.

We explained that both of them were very old and that there is a long way to go before that comes to us and she's seemingly accepted that


Active Member
I went through this phase as a kid, and for some reason remember it vividly. For me the 'trigger' was listening to the radio in bed and adverts for life insurance would spark that thought process, I don't recall ever speaking about it with my parents and in the end I think in the end I just got over it.

That being said my 3 year old asked her mum where her Grandad was (my dad died 2 years ago), Her mother told her he was in heaven watching over her, and that he is the brightest star in the sky. She spent the evening looking out the window for him. I dread the day she grows up and asks why there are no pictures of them together etc.


Well-known Member
My 6 year old has the same issue (have 5 boys) and each one went through this stage. My 5 year old keeps asking when I will be 100 as he thinks that's when I will die. Oh and I am not allowed to say the word die or dead in front of him. It does pass and I really wouldn't worry too much about it as all mine grew out of it.


Distinguished Member
Don't know if it helps anyone but a friend of mine has recently had successful treatment through BUPA for his daughter who was suddenly having trouble sleeping. The cause turned out to be 'worrying' - they had had a recent death in the family of someone in their late 30s and it had triggered a big mortality fear.

Anyway the solution that worked for them was to have a specific 'worry talk' time each day. If at any point in the day the child thought of anything worrying they had to remember it/write it down, and discuss it with parents at 'worry time'. Over time the 'worry time' window got shorter as they brought less, then eventually realised they didn't need to worry about these things and the whole thing, sleep problem included, stopped.
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