My almost-seven-year-old son was taking a bath with his sister. Bath nights at our house can drag for up to an hour, and I was getting tired of nagging to get out of the tub. I decided to lay down outside my kids’ view next to the tub on the bathroom floor. After a minute or so, I heard the three-year-old ask, “Where’s Dad?” And my son peeks over the tub wall, “Dad’s dead.”
This “dead play” seems to be peaking, as a first grader, whether he eats a food he doesn’t like and exagerates, “I’m dying!” Or pretending to play cops and robbers, “You’re dead.” I’m not sure exactly when it started, but there have been times where it doesn’t seem to let up, and I have firmly asked him to stop. Please, stop saying you’re dead.
Yes, it’s my own human uncomprention of death that scares me to react like this, but I find myself getting uncomfortable when he keeps saying dead, dead, dead, I’m dead or what have you in front of his three-year-old sister. That and he’s playing so loud I can’t hear myself think, so please just be quiet.
But if I take off my grow-up glasses for a moment and see this play through the eyes of a child, maybe there is nothing to get worked up about? In fact, pretend death helps kids play according to this article about the findings of a Dr Brent Mawson, from The University of Auckland. He found that death came up in about a quarter of play sessions among three and four year olds.
This type of “death play” would often be a convenient way to change characters, scenarios or roles of the play being acted out.
So he’s curious. He watches cartoons. He’s heard adults talk about death. And school-aged kids begin to understand death as a final event but may not understand it happens to all living things.
Ask the nearest adult to your right now and ask them what their comprehension of death is? It’s the one thing that we are all going to have to face, yet none of us know for certain what’s going to happen after death.
As a Christian, I choose to believe in the saving grace of Jesus. This helps me let go and almost completely eliminate my fear of death. “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14-15 New International Version)
For the Buddhists death is not the end of life, it is merely the end of the body we inhabit in this life, but our spirit will still remain and seek out through the need of attachment, attachment to a new body and new life.
Muslims believe in an imortal afterlife and the life we are living is essentially a trial for what type of afterlife you’ll receive.
Hindus have reincarnation based on karma.
Believe what you wish. The bottom line may be when your kids play dead or pretend to shoot themsleves dead or eat brocolli that makes them pretend to die, it’s okay. They’re normal. And so is their facination and play.