Monday, February 16, 2009

The Talk

OK, not that talk, but one of those talks that makes parents nervous. Or at least it did for me.

I was sitting at the dining room table Saturday evening, going through the days mail and chatting with Veronica as she was making dinner. The big headline of a weekly newspaper I subscribe to was "The Army is Killing Itself: More soldiers committed suicide last month than died in combat. Is op tempo breaking the Army?"

Darling boy sees this and asks "What's suicide, dad?"

Crap....

He's 8 yrs old and is not totally naive to the concept of death. When my grandmother passed away 2 years ago we explained what happened (hell, the woman was 99 1/2 yrs old, if anyone has ever died of plain old age, it was her!) and he came to the wake and funeral with me.

But how do you explain someone killing themselves to a child?

I turn to Veronica, point to the headline, and tell her that he's asking about this story. "Do you think he's ready to hear about that?" Because you know I wasn't delving into this topic without Veronica having my back!

DB is pretty good about accepting it when we say "That's grown up stuff" or "Ask us again in a few years" when we feel that he is too young for his inquiries. So I could have taken the easy way out. But not this time.

I told him that some people, because they are in so much physical or emotional pain that they think that they would rather be dead than go on living as they are. And I emphasized that this is a very sad situation, sadder than he could imagine.

While he understands that we are at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, he hadn't fully wrapped his brain around the idea that the enemy wants to kill us and sometimes succeeds, so I had to talk about that as well. On a positive note, now I have something to start with when I explain Memorial Day to him.

Short, simple, and to the point. He understood, and was sad for a few minutes, but was okay after that.

Anyone else ever have to deal with the questions of suicide and/or war? If so, how did you handle it? I'm satisfied with how I responded, but I'm curious about other experiences.

6 comments:

Blogging Mama Andrea said...

You're the second person talking about explaining suicide to their kids today. A Norwegian friend also discussed this with her ten year old. Thankfully at 7 and 2 my kids have yet to ask these types of questions. We haven't even really covered death yet. I know it's coming though as relatives are aging and ill.
I guess I would just explain that some people feel they have no choice but there is always a choice to talk with someone. I would just stress that if they ever felt so badly about their life and themselves, they could talk with me.
We do not let our kids around the news and really don't watch it anyway because it's all UK news but I know my son hears things at school. As he's a very curious child so the day is coming when he will ask. And I don't have any idea what I'll end up saying!

BedsideTalesMan said...

That is a tough one. Though our kids range in age from 4 to 17, the the elder 4 had their great gandma (whom they were all very close to) die this past year and they all handled it exceptionally well. They asked questions and took in the answers. I don't know how we'll discuss suicide with them. They have not asked...and I hope that when they do ask...we'll be ready with answers that they can swallow.

Great post

Mariah said...

Suicide is a tough subject. My uncle committed suicide and it's a touchy subject. I've actually had to discuss it with my kids briefly because they know about my uncle. It hasn't come up recently though.

TheChicGeek said...

It sounds like you did well. I think we just have to be honest and open with our kids. Life and death are part of being human. When our kids know they can come to us to hear the truth they feel secure, loved and respected.
Good job, Dad :)

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