Is this "typical" or "normal" for a 4 year old...

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by shutterbunny, Apr 2, 2007.

  1. shutterbunny

    shutterbunny New Member

    Good morning,

    I'm pretty new here but have already receieved some great help and support from everyone...thank you.

    My question this morning stems from an ongoing "conversation" my son keeps trying to initiate. We don't want to "lie" to him or be condescending in our answers, but we're wondering if this is "normal curiosity" or if it is something that has the spark of something that could be dangerous or harmful to him.

    He's 4, he's been a handful (putting it mildly) since birth and is on depakote and recently we've added abilify to the equation. The neuropsychologist diagnosis'd him with unspecified mood disorder but is leaning toward early onset bipolar...for the last month, he's been asking about death and dying. He's told his preschool teachers that "he doesn't want to die" he tells us that several times a week, he asks when, why, how, etc. Then, I made the mistake of commenting about something I saw on the gates of a cemetery. I am an amatuer photographer working at my own start up business, I'd like to make this my full time job...my dream job. Anyway, I saw something very interesting and commented to my husband as we drove by that I wished I'd had my camera because the raptor perched on the gates would have mad for quite a powerful image. That started a new barrage of questions about what is a cemetery, are there skeletons there, who was there, why were they there, etc. Now, this weekend, he has started insisting that he wants to go to the cemetery and when we say no, he says he wants to go and read "ONE stone, just one stone mommy, I promise"...when my husband asked why, he replied, "I want to see who was on this earth before us." What do you say to that? And, is this normal curiosity about a morbid subject, or is this something that I should be talking about immediately to the neuropsychologist?

    How would you guys answer these things? What would/should be said to a 4 year old about death? He's been hospitalized, he understands people get sick, but we've lost no family members, friends or neighbors in his lifetime. His fish did go belly up a few weeks ago, but this actually preceded the fish thing, and he didn't really seem at all sad about his fish...I'm at a loss.

    Thanks everyone, I appreciate it.
     
  2. Dara

    Dara New Member

    I think that some curiosity about death is normal. I would talk to either your pediatrician or neuropsychologist just to make sure that this is not something to worry about. They also might be able to give you good ideas on how to answer his questions. I would also talk to his teachers to see if someone in his class maybe said something to spark this topic. Try to find out if any other children in his class are talking about this at home as well.
    What kind of questions is he asking?
    Dara
     
  3. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    That's a tough one. None of my kids (I have five...lol) ever had a death obsession, but I'm not sure it isn't normal. If it becomes so overwhelming that he has nightmares and meltdowns over it, then I think you should check it out. People with bipolar often think gory thoughts. If you haven't read it, I recommend buying "The Bipolar Child" by Dimitri and Janis Papalos. It answers almost everything and is a great read.
     
  4. shutterbunny

    shutterbunny New Member

    Dara,

    thanks for your response...he basically will start most of the conversations with "I don't want to die." This can come out of nowhere or it may be initiated by something like explaining to him that he'll be going to a new school next year or daycare arrangements are changing during the week of spring break. This makes me think that sometimes it is a reaction to his difficulty with change. But I was told by the bus monitor (he takes a bus to preschool) that he told his afternoon driver that he was "old and needed to die." He also wants to know if we (his parents) will die and when, and when will he die, and why will he die and then back to the I don't want to die conversation. Once I made the HUGE mistake of drawing attention to a cemetery, he's asking who is in the cemetery, are there skeletons there, what happens to the people in there, will he be there when he dies, what do the stones say, why are the stones there, why do people visit a cemetery...etc...the barrage of questions is almost endless, and I do think that part of that is my fault because he's very interested in taking pictures (and he's pretty good and has a very interesting style even at 4) with me and when he heard me comment about wishing I had my camera (it was a rainy day and there was a large vulture perched on the iron gates...it was a very Poe kind of moment and I just commented out of habit as I often do when I see something that sparks my interest as far as a nice/interesting image). Anyway, I think that he heard mommy say she wanted to take pictures there and that's where it started as far as the cemetery. But I don't know where the "I want to see who was on the earth before us" comment stemmed from. He has been curious about dinosaurs for a long time and he understands that they are extinct (loves to use that word) and he understands what extinct means. He has often asked what caused their extinction and of course we reply that we're not really sure--he will then tell us it is because the world got sick and so the dinosaurs all died...he's quite the activist when it comes to littering and recycling, and no, he didn't see "An Inconvenient Truth" :smile: The one thing that I DO believe might have contributed to all of this is a Scooby Doo video he received for Christmas...it has mummies, and this has defnitely caused nightmares, and perhaps that's where all of this comes from. When I suggested we not watch that video anymore, he said "good mommy, it scares me." So there was no argument over having it taken away (he wanted to call his uncle and tell him why he got rid of the present, but we told him no, we'd let his uncle know to buy more upbeat presents in the future). As for school, I'm actually getting calls because he tells such gory stories to the kids about "killing" robots and mummies by "cutting their heads off" (this is NOT in the Scooby Doo video) and that some of the kids are having problems because of the tales they hear him telling. On the flip side of that, one of the kids who is supposedly so traumatized by my son's stories is the same child who wanted my son to watch Pirates of the Caribbean II...which I felt was completely inappropraite for a 4 year old...so if he's watching that, I'm not sure how much he might be fueling the scary story fire. (by the way, my son did NOT watch that movie, I caught it before it started and though there was QUITE the fight over not being allowed to watch it, we were very firm with NO, NO, NO on that front!)

    The teachers say his "I don't want to die" usually comes after he's had a meltdown or after a long conversation about all of the things that are changing in his life...new school next year, new bus driver due to change in schedule, new doctors, new students in class, etc...they generally end the conversation with me about this by saying, he has so much on his mind.

    I am not sure if that clarifies anything, but that's pretty much how the drill goes at home and daycare and school.
     
  5. shutterbunny

    shutterbunny New Member

    <div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: MidwestMom</div><div class="ubbcode-body">That's a tough one. None of my kids (I have five...lol) ever had a death obsession, but I'm not sure it isn't normal. If it becomes so overwhelming that he has nightmares and meltdowns over it, then I think you should check it out. People with bipolar often think gory thoughts. If you haven't read it, I recommend buying "The Bipolar Child" by Dimitri and Janis Papalos. It answers almost everything and is a great read. </div></div>

    Midwest Mom,

    thanks for your response...well with 5 kids, you've probably seen almost all of it--I JUST got "The Bipolar Child" on Friday. I started reading it on Saturday, but we had company coming and cleaning to do, so it got put to the side. I got only as far as the introduction and the part where he talks about what parents say they noticed from birth about their BiPolar (BP) kids, and also what some of the kids reported. I must say that while I was feeling somewhat "validated" by what parents were saying (refusing to sleep, precocious behavior, no self soothing capabilities, etc...) I was also somewhat saddened by the realization that this is my child. It's somewhat heartbreaking to know this is his life...but hey, better that we start dealing with it now rather than later.

    Anyway, thanks so much for your reply. I appreciate it.
     
  6. totoro

    totoro Mom? What's a GFG?

    I was going to say read the book as well... we try to pull any violent movies as well. But our difficult child is basically unable to watch them and we don't have cable either... so when she started perseverating on death last year it was scary as well...

    I think the thing that helped a bit for me to understand a lot was in the Bipolar Child they explain about the Night Terrors and how they can indeed come out when the children are awake... so even if you keep everything from your kid regarding death or anything morbid, it is still somewhere in them to just naturally think this way and it come out in there night terrors and then they relive it once they are awake... It resurfaces so to speak...

    My difficult child has been obsessed with tying things up, the Mommy and Daddy dying, the mean people, the people hurting her, her being abandoned, things always getting hurt and bleeding a lot!!! since she was little. We never put these thoughts into her head... she never had playdates... she never watched those kinds of things, but she did have horiffic night terrors... and a weird imagination.

    I really think you can only do such much and it is going to come out on it own, obviously you don't want to add to it... we try to change the story and make them "nicer"... but she always goes back to the depressing morbid ones!!!

    Last fall she did start saying she wanted to die and that was on a whole other level and that was also when she started having auditory hallucinations worsen, and her violence and rages increased, she would go on for over an hour screaming "please Mommy just kill me, I want to die, just let me die"
    Her doctor's said don't worry about it!!! While I don't think she really wanted to die, I do think she needed help!!! Which is when I really had to fight for some help here. That was also when I got out the video camara turned off the beeps etc, and used the remote to turn it on, so I was able to put it up and turn it on when she didn't know. I was able to record some of those moments... She also felt she needed to kill us during that time... this was all pre-medications. Now that we have her medicated the talk of her dieing has all but stopped, one or 2 times... she is still very morbid and all of that.
    I was just thinking about this topic this morning because we started with her toy puppy having his arm ripped off and the blood pouring everywhere.... (this was playing nice) I had to fix it... and put him to bed. No biggie... HA HA

    Anyway good luck and when and if I figure it out I will let you know... But the book is great!!!
    I just picked up "Bipolar Kids" and started reading it... I forget the Aurthor, but so far it is great also. Also "Parenting a Bipolar Child" By Faedda.
     
  7. shutterbunny

    shutterbunny New Member

    <div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: totoro</div><div class="ubbcode-body">I was going to say read the book as well... we try to pull any violent movies as well. But our difficult child is basically unable to watch them and we don't have cable either... so when she started perseverating on death last year it was scary as well...

    I think the thing that helped a bit for me to understand a lot was in the Bipolar Child they explain about the Night Terrors and how they can indeed come out when the children are awake... so even if you keep everything from your kid regarding death or anything morbid, it is still somewhere in them to just naturally think this way and it come out in there night terrors and then they relive it once they are awake... It resurfaces so to speak...

    My difficult child has been obsessed with tying things up, the Mommy and Daddy dying, the mean people, the people hurting her, her being abandoned, things always getting hurt and bleeding a lot!!! since she was little. We never put these thoughts into her head... she never had playdates... she never watched those kinds of things, but she did have horiffic night terrors... and a weird imagination.

    I really think you can only do such much and it is going to come out on it own, obviously you don't want to add to it... we try to change the story and make them "nicer"... but she always goes back to the depressing morbid ones!!!

    Last fall she did start saying she wanted to die and that was on a whole other level and that was also when she started having auditory hallucinations worsen, and her violence and rages increased, she would go on for over an hour screaming "please Mommy just kill me, I want to die, just let me die"
    Her doctor's said don't worry about it!!! While I don't think she really wanted to die, I do think she needed help!!! Which is when I really had to fight for some help here. That was also when I got out the video camara turned off the beeps etc, and used the remote to turn it on, so I was able to put it up and turn it on when she didn't know. I was able to record some of those moments... She also felt she needed to kill us during that time... this was all pre-medications. Now that we have her medicated the talk of her dieing has all but stopped, one or 2 times... she is still very morbid and all of that.
    I was just thinking about this topic this morning because we started with her toy puppy having his arm ripped off and the blood pouring everywhere.... (this was playing nice) I had to fix it... and put him to bed. No biggie... HA HA

    Anyway good luck and when and if I figure it out I will let you know... But the book is great!!!
    I just picked up "Bipolar Kids" and started reading it... I forget the Aurthor, but so far it is great also. Also "Parenting a Bipolar Child" By Faedda. </div></div>

    Tortoro,
    thanks again for your reply, I will check out the books you mentioned...I read every sensory integration disorder book in print, I guess it is time to move on as his diagnosis has changed. Yes, same with my son, very vivid sort of morbid imagination...nightmares/night terrors and so on. I don't know how far his nightmares go (the book mentions BiPolar (BP) kids have dreams that don't "stop" where a non-BiPolar (BP) child's dream would normally stop, but I'm trying to find sensitive ways to get that information out of him). We also bought "Anger Mountain" and a book called..."Brandon and his Bipolar Bear" (think that's it) both of which we read yesterday and both were well received by by difficult child. I did call the neuropsychologist, we'll see if he returns the call (he's always been good with this!) and what he says. I think the thing that shocked me most was the "were on the earth before us" comment. This just seemed a little beyond his years and he said it so seriously and with complete conviction, not with any morbid overtone, but simply that he wanted to know who came before us. Except for telling the bus driver that he was old and needed to die I don't think he's ever turned it around to wanting anyone else to die...when he plays "the superhero" or "the good guy" or "the police man" he will say he's going to "kill the bad guys" but I'm not sure that this is out of the ordinary, extreme maybe, but like you said, they kind of just "go there."

    Thanks again, I do appreciate your thoughts on the matter...I'll return the favor if I figure it out before you do.
     
  8. totoro

    totoro Mom? What's a GFG?

    Our difficult child loved the Brandon book as well... we stopped asking her about her dreams, because she couldn't remember them half the time and she would get confused by them trying to recount them because they were so horrible. Sometimes she will run out in the am and try to tell us about one, but she loses them pretty fast.

    I just know they are bad because I can hear her screaming at night and sometimes it does't stop, and she yells for help and to stop etc.

    So sad and heartbreaking. I go in and soothe her but it just goes on as soon I leave her room...
     
  9. shutterbunny

    shutterbunny New Member

    Yes,

    this sounds much like my son. husband used to say, look he's angry even in his sleep. Because difficult child had a huge grand mal seizure a year ago (we almost lost him, stuff MY nightmares are still made of) I keep the baby monitor on at all times (perhaps when he's in highschool I'll turn it off :hammer: ) and we hear him screaming several times throughout the night...generally it is "NO NO NOOOO" or "Mommy, Daddy, no, stop" and then crying. It is very hard to listen to and if you wake him, half the time he doesn't know that he's been dreaming, other times if you wake him he needs so much reassurance and he'll refuse to go back to sleep...the nights are still tough at 4. It used to be he'd refuse to sleep (even at 2 months old, he refused to sleep), now he'll go to bed early but his nights are restless. The dreams he has remembered are generally about mummies or witches or robots...always chasing him.

    He does have imaginary friends. He has his "raccoons" and his "skeletons." I believe he chose skeletons as a way to "scare" off the bad guys in his sleep, but that's just my theory and I could be wrong.

    I'm sure you are right and asking him about them may only make him dwell on them more, so perhaps I'll rethink that.

    Thanks,
     
  10. starcloaked

    starcloaked New Member

    Lurker here, but my just-turned-five-year-old difficult child is very much the same. I'm so careful about what I expose him to, but he picks up on EVERYTHING. I'm amazed at what people with typical kids can expose them to--with DS, from the age of about 2.5, he would hear 5 seconds of NPR and I'd get a million questions. "Where's China? They said there was an earthquake there. They said people were killed? How did they get killed? What did the earthquake do?" On and on from the time it takes me to move my hand from the car ignition to turning off the radio.

    We're in the process of waiting for a neuropsychologist evaluation and don't have a clear diagnosis beyond anxiety. Abilify will probably be the first medication we try if we go that route (I'm more willing to go there than spouse is).

    Star--Full-time educational researcher (higher ed)
    Spouse--SAH parent and half-time tax accounting software developer
    difficult child--DS5, generalized anxiety disorder, full IEP services, still working on diagnosis, Fish oil is only medication. Psychiatrist, therapist, and waiting for neuropsychologist evaluation.
    easy child-DD5 (difficult child's twin sister) in a different preschool; will be back together for kindergarten.
     
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