Our expert says:
Some kids do seem awfully wise awfully young ( but then, at times, my cat can be similar ) --- and I wonder whether they are unique in these glimmers of wisdom, or whether perhaps more kids have such insights, but he may be unusual in sharing it with you.
It's a bit like the ancient Greek philosopher who insisted that monkeys and apes COULD speak, but its just that they don't have anything they want to say to us .
Now the questions you quote are indeed challenging. Obviously he is reacting in part to what he has heard a school or in church about Heaven and Hell. But he has also recognized, and some take much longer to notice this, that it is possible to take one's own life.
You don't mention his age. Kids concept of death varies and developes interestingly. Early on they see life as being about movement, and death about no longer moving. So smoke seems alive, and I'm not so sure about Oupa. Then they get more of an idea of the reality of death --- but it takes longer to recognize it as permanent. So they may understand that someone has died, but still feel puzzled about why they are not coming back. I mention this factor, because obviously thoughts about suicide will be affected by what you think death itself is, as well as it's consequences.
Most parents are aware of the issue of Talking About Sex, and may dread Having The Conversation ; but forget that Death is the other biggie, and events such as you describe are an ideal opportunity to start that other important conversation. And as always, its best to start by expressing interest in what the child thinks aout Death, what it is and how it happens.
Some people insist that children cannot commit suicide nor understand the concept, and I think that is dangerously wrong. Yes, fortunayely, it's not a common pre-occupation of childhood, but child suicde does occur, and one should take all cmments about it seriosuly and respectfully, and explore what thinking lies behind such remarks.
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