Discussing and Normalizing Death, Adoption and Difficult Topics with Kids

At a recent camp pickup, the staff told me they had a sad moment. T told her he had a dream that his Daddy and Papa died.

He told her that “he got very sad because he’ll be all alone.”

T also recently told me that he had a dream where he saw me in a frozen lake and saw my face, presumably dead.

When I sit with him at bedtime and ask him to close his eyes, he’d say that he doesn’t want to close his eyes because he’ll have a dream.

He’s brought up more than once the ice dream.

On one hand, I am sad that T had these dreams.

On the other hand, I think it’s incredible that T is able to share his feelings and articulate his thoughts.

I find this to be a mature quality for kids his age, special needs or otherwise.

As a parent, it is important for me to teach T that life is not sunshine and joy all the time. I don’t want to shy away from, ignore or repress difficult topics and unpleasant feelings.

Giving T the skills and the vocabulary to process not-so-pleasant emotions and thoughts is all part of helping him build resiliency.

So we talked about his dream and I assured him the hubby and I will be here for him.

It’s important to normalize hard topics with T in an age appropriate way.

The hubby and I are T’s safe space. I have no doubt that this is how he feels.

We want him to continue to know that he can always share his feelings with us in a safe and non judgmental way.

Similarly, with the pandemic, we talk openly and truthfully about the virus. We keep it factual and concise, keeping the audience in mind.

It’s incredible to me how insightful kids can be and how T often gets things more than I give him credit for.

It’s one of the positives of parenting him and I realize this is a privilege and not the same for all kids. So I’m thankful for that.

During our recent roadtrip, I asked T to come out of the car, to stretch his legs and to go inside a store. He wasn’t feeling in the mood, so he yelled, “I can’t, there’s disease out there!”

I had quite the chuckle from that reaction.

Perhaps one of the most profound conversations T, the hubby and I have had recently is about adoption.

A cartoon filtered family photo – the only face shot I will share of T on this blog. 🙂

Since T was three, I started telling “The T Story” as part of our bedtime story routine.

It is a very simplified and short version of how T came into our lives.

I never used the word adoption but more about how T came to our family at age one from a different family.

Then one day, T asked me to explain a bit more and so I said he’s adopted.

He now understands he was with one family – whom we still keep in touch with – and that we adopted him.

There’s still a lot about his life that he doesn’t know about, like his birth mother and his invisible disability.

And these are all things we will talk about with T as he gets older and in age appropriate ways.

I don’t think these conversations will be easy, but they will be necessary.

Truth always prevails in the end and so we decide to live life in truth and reality – and trust and hope these conversations will be positive.

Contrary to what Jack Nicholson seems to think, I think T can handle the truth!

One of the most heartwarming but also hilarious moments during our recent roadtrip was during a hike at The Cup and Saucer Trail at Manitoulin Island.

We passed by a family with a young girl and a dog. T asked to pet the dog, as he does whenever we pass by a dog.

The girl, around his age, told T that the dog was adopted.

T blurts out immediately in response, “I’m adopted too!”

16 thoughts on “Discussing and Normalizing Death, Adoption and Difficult Topics with Kids

    1. Thank you, Geri. It certainly keeps us on our toes as parents. He’s been talking and asking a lot recently about death too. And all we can do is to respond as honestly as we can. 🙂 Thanks for visiting!

  1. The ending to this post was really heartwarming, it made me smile 🙂 It’s so wonderful that you are both speaking to T about all of these topics, early on. Does he have a pet, by any chance? That’s where I started to learn about death (my kitten died) which helped me understand my grandmother’s death a year or so later.

    Anyway, wonderful post 🙂 I hope you all have an awesome week!

    1. Thank you for your nice comment! We have two cats whom are just starting to warm up to T. Thankfully he’s never had to deal with a pet’s death yet or a human for that matter. Our two previous cats died before T came into our lives and that was so devastating I have to say!

      Pets teach us so so much about life.

      Thanks for your comment. 😊

    1. Probably something he watched on a tv show or read or heard about from daycare. It’s good for him to talk it through.

  2. Two very awkward subjects, by the sound of it, dealt with very well. Obviously ongoing into the future. But you are right Ab, honestly is the only kind option!

    We have had Tara upset with Granny’s death and her obsession with ‘Will Kangy and Kit koala go to heaven’ (her 2 bestie soft toys). Tara is our most empathetic one! We try to be as open as possible. Even with surrogacy, we’ve never been anything but open! They each know where they were born and the name of their surrogate. Also that a baby needs an egg, some fertiliser and a tummy!

    Good luck with everything Ab. You are doing a great job…

    1. Thank you, Andi! It must be very interesting and also challenging with five kids because I can only imagine the sharing and discussing of things and nothing is ever a secret! 🙂

      It’s great that Tara is very empathetic. It is a wonderful quality. And it’s great that your kids know the basic concept of how babies are born.

      I can only imagine the birds and the bees conversation with T one day. Hahah.

  3. I bet you won’t have any problem talking to T about anything as he gets older because you have been so honest with him all along. I really admire how you handle T, he is one lucky little bot!

  4. I agree – I think being honest and open in an age-appropriate way is the best way. I know that some feel the need to protect their loved ones from the truth, especially when it is hard, but I think that makes the truth just the harder to reveal the longer you hold it. That is really cool T is able to vocalize his feelings and concerns. D has done the same with me after a dream he had about losing me. It made me realize how valuable I am to him and what a significant loss it would be to him. And it sounds like T hears you – that last blurt made me chuckle!

    1. Thanks Robyn! I remember having this death dreams when I was younger too – actually, I still do from time to time – and it’s just a normal part of life. I like how you’ve put it – Declan realizing your value to him. That’s a wonderful way to put it! 🙂

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