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5 yr old girl who, when very upset, says she wants to die
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5 yr old girl who, when very upset, says she wants to die

We have a 5 year old girl who generally is very happy, healthy, etc.  She has lots of friends and her kindergarten teacher assures us that she is "doing great."  Yesterday, when leaving a party (sooner than she wished to leave) she threw a tantrum that ended with her asking her mom "please kill me."   This is not the first time she has made comments like that.  We also have a five month old girl and, around the time of and shortly after her birth, during a few tantrums the 5 year old would say things like "I just want to die."  This was rare (maybe 5 times total). We chalked the earlier comments up to the new baby, did what we could to reassure her that we loved her and she doesn't appear jealous of her sister today.  Yesterday's comment was the first time in months that she made a comment like that.  We try very hard not to react at all to these types of statements.  We don't want to overreact -- and we definitely don't want her to know that this is a great way to push our buttons -- but these comments scare us badly.  We know that she talks to her friends about death; for example, long after yesterday's tantrum was over and she was playing, she asked us if after we were dead we wanted to be buried or be turned to ashes -- the 8 year old next door had apparently been explaining that these were the options after death.  Our 5 yr. old told us quite happily that she wanted to be turned to ashes so she could be sprinkled over the ocean to be with "the sea creatures that I love so much."  Should we be worried?  If so, what should we do?
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No, there is no need to worry. Your instincts in pretty much ignoring the comments are correct. To be frank, I would not react at all verbally to such statements. They are simply a manifestation of your daughter's momentary upset; they are not indicative of suicidality, morbid fascination, depression, etc.
4 Comments
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Hiya, I'm not a parent but I am a someone who experienced this as a child. I believe your child has been learning about death and it has been a topic of choice, or interest.

When I was little I used to talk about killing people and/or someone killing me. It was caused not by my parents (As other adults blamed them as not raising me good) but by a friend of mine at school. He was 2 years older and used to talk about death alot. His parents died, if I remember correctly and he talked about how "cool" it was to die like them.

I don't remember everything but I do remember saying I want someone to kill me and stuff. I have to admit that it was not dealt with by my parents and I do have an interest in other people's deaths, or ways to die. If I were you I would be a little worried and try not to give her the wrong message. If she says she wants to die you could try telling her that death isn't the sort of thing that she will enjoy. Generally I get the idea she feels upset and she knows that death is unpleasent so she wants to die. It's normal, but not so normal at the same time I think.

If she talks abuot death and that she wants to die perhaps you should give her a little timeout and tell her not to talk about it because it's "wrong" to want to die. It's wrong to kill yourself later in life, or at such a young age so perhaps learning that it's wrong at a young age is a good thing later on in life. I think of all sorts of death wishes I would like to perform today but they are just thoughts but I believe that's because of my childhood at learning "Death is cool" as the other kid explained to me. It's not cool at all :/
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Avatar_n_tn
My daughter attended a daycare where one of the other little girls' mother died.

People tend to be very circumspect in what they tell children about death. Grandma went to heaven to live with angels and jesus and isn't in pain anymore and is watching over us sounds like a great thing to a kid. Who wouldn't want that if they didn't fully understand that involves an end of consciousness and was a one way ticket?

I had always thought I'd been very clear with my daughter about death. When my husbands' grandfather died I explained what was going on and why everyone was so sad in what I thought (rather self-congratulatorily) was a very clear and concise manner. She understood that death was permanent, irrevokable, and distressing to others. But then that other little girl's mother died and for weeks Eowyn was moody and withdrawn. I figured it was because she realized that she was not immune... that she'd realized that even mommies are mortal. I was wrong.

It took her two weeks to formulate the statement that let me know what was up: If you and daddy BOTH die, Pierce (her 3yo brother) and I will have no one to love us or care for us! The poor little booger had spent 2 weeks trying to figure out a way to support herself and her brother in the event of our deaths. I immediately let her know what "the plan" was in case of our deaths... and she has been trying to kill us ever since.

Either way, tell your kid "I don't WANT you to die! I would miss you very much and cry a whole lot if you died." when she expresses an interest in it. This subtly lets her in on the fact that most adults find these subjects distressing and yet only expresses love for her. If she asks if you want burial or cremation tell her what you'd like... and that you think her idea of sprinkling ashes on the ocean is beautiful and you hope you never ever have to do it...
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Avatar_n_tn
Or your kid may end up like me :) And I don't think anyone wants that! PS. I don't like people in real life if anyone annoys me I'll think of ways to kill them. I've had psychiatric help in the past because of that kid "Talking about death" to me and saying it was a good thing. My parents didn't know most of the time I was talking to him about death lol.

Kif is right, whatever you do let em know that death is the ultimate bad thing that happens. Although telling a child about angels and heaven are also a bad thing. I have seen it happen to other children where they were told that when they die they go to heaven and live happy forever but both are now dead (Suicide) because they wanted to go to a better place. If they get depressed in life they then have the perfect excuse to quit life. Life is hard, so get them to understand anything is better then death. At a young age it is hard to tell them all about death  but be careful with the angel thing because if not corrected later on in life and they have a difficult time child could get insecure.
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