As I got dressed to go a gathering at the house of a friend and neighbor who had died the previous week, my phone buzzed, alerting me to an important news notification. The headline read “Black Panther actor, Chadwick Boseman dead at 43”. My mouth dropped!
While I fully understand that we’re all human, and not meant to stay on this earth, we often don’t consider the mortality of those who have an impact on us outside of our personal circles
Chadwick Boseman playing Black Panther showed black kids across the world that they have representation on the big screen. It showed kids that someone who looks like them could be a hero and help save the world. Do you know how impactful that is for a child to see?! Representation truly matters!
My first thought after coming to the realization that this star was now dead, was whether I should tell my kids or not. I parent with the mindset that my kids don’t need to know all details that don’t pertain to them, but I also don’t hide the truth from them. I can’t expect them to be forthright and transparent with me if I’m hiding things from them. I understand that death is a touchy, and often taboo subject for many families, but it’s impossible for me to shield my kids from it, so I choose to address it with my children on a level they can comprehend.
I told my 14 year old first. I let her know the man who played Black Panther died of Colon Cancer. Of course, she needed verification and took to Twitter. Wait, should I be offended about that? Lol. Anyway, I also told her since I was on my way out, don’t share the news with her brothers just yet. I would have to explain it to them differently and I wanted to be there in case there were any questions.
The next morning I sat with my 11 and 4 year old to explain what happened. My 11 year old took it surprisingly well. My 4 year old had questions. I welcomed the questions. I was able to explain to him that the man behind the super hero is who died. Just as Black Panther was passed down to T’Challa after his dad passed away, it will now be passed down to the next successor. I let him know in the comics, Shuri took up the mantle as Black Panther. Hollywood may do things differently.
However, I reminded him that just because someone’s body passes on, the good they did for others, and the legacy they left behind will continue to live on. Superheroes are alive every day, and pass away every day. They leave lives changed, and the world a better place because of it. He understood and said it would be cool if Shuri did become the next Black Panther. I totally agree!
During a conversation with some moms about whether or not to tell their children, the majority of the moms in the conversation chose not to tell their children and questioned why I told mine. They felt children had enough sadness and “reality” to deal with that this was simply unnecessary. I think children are resilient and while they don’t need to carry the weight of the world, I can’t shield them from the reality of death, but I’d rather teach them how to process and grieve in a healthy way so they know how to do it next time they have an experience where they lose someone they care about.
Where do you stand with what you share with your kids? Is telling them about death too much? Does it depend who it is? How do you break the news?