How to reassure my 4 year old son obsessed with death?
I live with my two oldest children (10 and 12 years old), whom their father no longer wants to see, as well as with my new partner and our 4 year old son. He asked me where he was before he was born and what would happen if his father and I died. I answered him, but since then he has had panic attacks and he only talks about death. Charline, Nice
You held, Charline, to answer your little boy, and it was very important for him because he was able to feel listened to and taken seriously. But it seems to me that the register in which you answered him is not the right one. He asked you indeed "where [he was] when [he] did not exist". And you told him that he existed in his father's heart and in yours since you wanted a child. It's a nice answer, but it's symbolic. But a child of 4 years can hardly access such a register especially if - as it is undoubtedly the case - it does not know how "one makes" the children.
Your son could only take your answer to the first degree and understand ... that before he existed he already existed, "for real", and that he lived in your heart. What was for him unrepresentable and, therefore, terrifying. And he could only continue to reason from these data. If we exist before we actually exist, nothing says that we can not exist yet when we no longer exist ... So he asked you if, once we were dead, we could go down again belly to be reborn, etc.
I believe, Charline, that your son has settled in a world where, as in nightmares, everything can go in all directions and anything can happen. We must bring it back to reality. Explain to him the conception of the children, the pregnancy, the childbirth ... Before existing, one does not exist and, when one ceased to live, one does not reborn. And it would also be necessary, I believe, to explain to him the situation of his brothers, who find themselves without a father. It's probably very scary for him. And this is probably not unrelated to the questions he asks about your death and that of his father.