It's quite common to hear parents relate how their little ones asked one of the Big Question : How are babies made ? Cue giggles and stories of embarrassing discussions.
Not so common to hear about the other Big Question : Will I die ? And yet one doesn't go without the other, Life and Death, the two profound mysteries... In my experience the question about Death also comes earlier, around 5 as far as my own children are concerned.
Of course it's a difficult question, especially as children tend to refer to themselves when they approach it. So, a Big, Difficult question, relatively and singularly lacking in momentum when it comes to it. . Asked on the way to school, over breakfast cereals, or when you're changing the baby's nappy!
I know that some parents choose to tell an outright lie or to ignore the question. Personally I try to be as truthful as possible. I think that when children ask the question it's because they have enough knowledge to sense that there is something there worth knowing and that they're not fooled by lies or silence. I even believe that lying can just make them more scared ; if they have no elements of truth they can render themselves to the wildest imaginings...
It's this very morning that my nearly 5 year old came up with the Big Question about Death. We talked about it being part of life, flowers that wither and die and are followed by new flowers. People who grow old and die and are followed by new people. I wanted to tell him the truth but not overload him with information either so, I confess, I said that most people die very old. I am lucky to have a grand-mother who lived to her 99th birthday and then died peacefully in her sleep, so I told him about her.
I also told him that in our family we believe in God and we believe that, when people die, they go to live with God and Jesus.
I know that one day he will ask about his brothers and why they died before they were even born. DD2 mentioned them when we were talking about living with Jesus but he chose to ignore it. When he's ready and ask, we'll cross that bridge.
It's interesting to talk about these things with children, they've got such a different vision of it than us. What worried DS the most was to leave his house and toy cars...!