Life and Death Questions from Kids

Why do certain people have to die? And by the way, Mom, where do I come from?

Kids are born curious and they ask their parents a lot of difficult questions about life, says Good Morning America's parenting contributor Ann Pleshette Murphy.

So how do parents answer them without scaring their children or leaving them confused? Murphy offers four different approaches on dealing with kids' inquisitiveness from four different spiritual leaders.

Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, thinks questions are a real opportunity for parents. "In Yiddish, we have a wonderful expression — 'you don't die from questions,' because it's really an opportunity for growth, and I think the best thing is to allow and to encourage children who ask questions," Buchwald says.

Unitarian Universalist minister Rosemary Bray McNatt says it's important for kids to know that they can ask their parents anything. "I think you should return their openness with your own, and sometimes the answer for you is 'I don't know.' And you should be able to say that," McNatt says.

Murphy says that starting around age 5, kids begin to ask about death — and it's the toughest question to answer.

"One of the things that happens when a death happens is kids feel out of control," says Murphy. "They feel that the people who are there to protect them really couldn't protect them."

Gerald Fitzsimmons, a Catholic priest, says it's important to try to answer kids' questions, but parents need to also let them experience those feelings of powerlessness, because it is part of being a human.

McNatt says that when your child is confronted with death, one of the first questions parents hear is — "Are you going to die now?"

"I try to be really honest with the children I talk to, both within my parish, and also to my own children — that all of us are going to die, but that I expect to live a very long time, because the truth is, none of us really knows," McNatt says.

Acharya Judy Lief, a Buddhist teacher, says it's important to let kids experience sadness, too. But McNatt says it is very hard for parents to actually do that.

"It's very hard to look at them in this state, and very hard to walk with them. I try always to support parents in saying it's OK for your children not to be happy 24 hours a day," McNatt says.

Buchwald says it's all right to let kids find out that we should all be grateful and that every breath they take is a gift.

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