My 7-year-old autistic grandson wanted to know if his mom could bring back his great-grandmother from Heaven. How should I respond?
He doesn’t want to go to Heaven because then he would not be able to see his family, and his family would not be able to see him. I’m not sure how to answer his questions. I have researched books and articles, but they just don’t seem to have the answer for kids.
Kids have so many questions that are hard to answer, don’t they?
First of all, I want to say that your grandson’s question is very typical of a 7-year-old and there is nothing about it that indicates that he has autism. How you respond to him, however, needs to take his autism diagnosis into consideration.
Children at the age of 7 are still thinking in very concrete ways, so answers that require a more abstract reply are very difficult for most of them to understand. Therefore, we need to recognize that often they need validation and comfort more than answers and that their harder questions are likely to be answered as they grow and mature.
Children of all ages and adults with autism also often have great difficulty understanding abstract concepts, so you will need to respond to your grandson using concrete language that he can understand, now and throughout his life, if this is one way that autism shows itself in him.
So, taking all of this information into consideration, here is what I suggest.
First, tell him that you are happy to hear that he would like to have his great-grandmother come back from Heaven. Ask him what he remembers about her and what he likes about her. If you say something like, “You must love her very much”, that might be too abstract of a concept for him. Then tell him that it makes you happy to hear that he wants to be able to see his family and for his family to see him. Assure him that you are happy to see him and spend time with him as well.
Thank him for his question and tell him you do not have an answer to his question, but you will ask God the question. Tell him that you ask God many questions when you pray. (I assume you do, as most of us do) Then pray for wisdom and that God would give you the ability to answer this and other questions in ways that he can understand.
Validating his feelings and giving him your concrete solution for his question (prayer and asking God) may be all he needs for now. However, if he continues to ask the question, tell him you are waiting for an answer. Depending on how he develops, you may be able to have a fuller discussion about this question in the future.
Remember that as adults, we often go too far trying to answer questions when children just need simple answers.