Death belongs to life. Stop lying to the kids

Death belongs to life. Stop lying to the kids
Death belongs to life. Stop lying to the kids

Death has always been an integral part of life. People deal with it regardless of age, material security, nation, culture. They thought about it in prehistoric times, we think about it today and we will think about it in the future. It is accompanied by various rituals, sometimes shrouded in mystery, with strong emotions of the bereaved, raw, natural and violent, slow and fast.

For some peoples, or people of some faiths, it is only a transition to another phase of being. For others, death is the end of everything. Someone is reconciled with her, another is afraid of death. Whatever attitude we take towards death, one thing is clear – it leaves no one behind.

How death became taboo

For spiritually based nations, for indigenous people living in close contact with nature, for all of them death is usually something natural, they see it often, they talk about it, they think about it, they do not avoid this topic. But in modern Western society, death has gradually fallen to the fringes of social concern as something not to be talked about. We have pushed death out of our lives and sometimes act as if it doesn’t exist. And what’s worse – we pass this pattern of behavior on to our children. They thus grow up in a kind of protective bubble, which we try to protect them from the strong emotions that death, especially of a loved one, can evoke.

Children thus grow up in an environment where death is not actually talked about, it is not present, and if, God forbid, they get into its presence, they will be completely thrown because they will not know what to do with their feelings. How they are supposed to deal with the basic aspect of life. What should they actually feel, how should they react to it? In order not to have to face this problem, some parents do everything to ensure that their children do not get into such a situation at all.

I need a fish and it has to look exactly like this. Today she was squealing and before Filípek comes home from school, I have to get a new one so that he doesn’t notice that the other one is gone.

No, this is not the demand of one oversensitive mother. This is a fairly common request heard by aquarium and pet store staff. Often also breeders directly, either on exchanges or after publishing advertisements with their breeding. And it’s not just a request for fish, but also birds, rodents, rabbits, you name it. I have already recorded it on a cat or a dog.

In the case of smaller animals, such as fish or parakeets, canaries… parents often manage to find an identical or very similar-looking animal after visiting several “pet shops”. Often younger than the originally bred individual, so it can be smaller, smaller, still not so much colored, just slightly different.

When you point out to a parent that the animal looks a little different and that their child must notice the difference (not to mention the different nature), the parent immediately rushes out with some more or less logical sounding explanation to give their child. For example, a smaller fish “lost weight because it didn’t eat much”, a hamster is lighter because “it is older” or simply explained how “the sun shines on it”. The rabbit doesn’t want to be cuddled as much because he “isn’t in the mood”, the parrot forgot the tricks he learned because he “can’t remember everything all the time”. No, these are not made-up stories, these are real requests and reactions from parents. Does this sound normal to you?

Let’s protect them, but don’t screw them up

It is okay for parents to try to protect their children. But we adults have a “stupid” tendency to underestimate children’s ability to understand the world around them. Even small children are able to understand many things, often even better than us adults. And if we give it to them in a suitable form appropriate to their age, then nothing stands in the way of understanding. Children can also naturally find a way to cope with the death and loss of a loved one, in this case a pet. Even if you know your child will cry deeply and grieve, let them. They have the right to feel the sadness of the loss and to cope with the loss on their own (or with your help). It is also healthy for their mental development. As opposed to finding out (and sooner or later they really will) that you lied to them and their sweetheart is long gone. In fact, he doesn’t even have a grave where a flower or a favorite treat could be placed for him on his last journey…


Do you think parents should keep it a secret from their children that their pet has gone over the rainbow bridge?

Yes, especially small children would not understand.

No, it can be communicated appropriately to anyone at any age.

None of the above opinions agree with mine.

A total of 19 readers voted.

The article is in Czech

Tags: Death belongs life Stop lying kids


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