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what to do when your child doesn't want to grow up, explaining death to children

I Don’t Want To Grow Up, Mommy

by Deborah Cruz

When your child doesn’t want to grow up, a million thoughts run through your mind. Does my kid have Peter Pan syndrome? Why would she not want to grow up when there are so many things to look forward to? She.is.at.the.beginning.

Her journey has just begun. Every single great thing is ahead of her. Falling in love for the first time. College and all the exploring and growing that comes with it.

Lying blissfully in the arms of her beloved. Her career. Travel and seeing the big wide world with fresh eyes. Freedom to find out who she is. Loving the skin she’s in.

The world is hers to conquer.

I’m in the middle. I’ve done some things but my journey has so many more experiences to explore. The world is mine and I’m ecstatic.

I’m sad she’s growing up but it would be selfish of me to want her to fit in the crook of my neck and to be able to stroke her hair as she falls asleep in my arms forever; though I would, if I could but I want her to live out loud and experience everything. I love her so much that I’ll let go because that’s what good moms do. Right?

But what do you do when your child doesn’t want to grow up?

It’s hard for me to even think about her and her sister not living under my feet. It’s weird to imagine a day when I don’t wake up to one or both of them cuddled into me in the morning. But I know it’s coming, whether I agree with it or not.

But back to my baby, why does she want to stay little? Her answer knocked the wind out of me and all I could do was hug her and let her cry.

She said, “Mama, I don’t want to grow up because that’ll mean you’re getting older and then you’ll die. I don’t want you to die.”

Her logic is accurate. It’s the circle of life, we are born, we live and then we die. But I told her I have no plans of going anywhere anytime soon. I told her that my plan is to live long enough for her and her sister to be so old that they’re getting dementia and they forget who I am. I’ll

I’ll go quietly into that good night then. Until then, I’ve got to make good on my promise to my sweet baby.

What will you say when your child doesn’t want to grow up and has such sound logic to reason it with?

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Ali Rost 2017/05/30 - 7:20 pm

When my kids were little I had the opposite problem .. they seemed to want to be a million years ahead of where they were. I think I’d tell kids in this situation that there are so many awesome things about growing up! You can travel the world, go to college, get married (or not), live on your own. It’s such a big world out there to go explore x

Deborah Cruz 2017/06/04 - 2:03 pm

It’s mostly my youngest. She has had a couple pets die in the past few years, I miscarried and she has a Great grandmother and great Aunt who are both almost 90 so she is acutely aware of death. I do focus on the positive but she still sometimes gets down about aging. We talk it through but it breaks my heart.

Dee 2017/05/30 - 7:35 pm

Wow! This would be a very had conversation for me to have, but I have talked to my kids about the cycle of life and through our faith we would be together always.

Deborah Cruz 2017/06/04 - 2:05 pm

Yes, my girls go to Catholic school and they believe in an afterlife. It doesn’t seem to matter to her when it comes to me. She wants me here with her, she says God can wait. I can’t argue with her. We’ve explained the concept many times and she does believe in it. She just doesn’t accept it as an alternative to here with her. The heart wants what the heart wants and its hard to tell it other wise, especially when its beating in the chest of a 9/10-year-old.

Roch 2017/05/31 - 1:43 am

Death is all but natural. My dad used to also tell us about life stages. Everyone goes through each of the stage and it’s a happy feeling to be able to live in the world with your loved ones in each phase or chapter of life.

Deborah Cruz 2017/06/04 - 2:06 pm

That is much easier to reason with an adult than with a child who wants her mommy. It’s just something she will have to learn to accept when the time comes. Hoping it’s much later.

My Teen Guide 2017/05/31 - 5:41 am

Those words are so touching. Your daughter loves you so much she fears losing you to old age. I did not experience that with my kids. They wanted to grow up quick so they can be gainfully employed. They all said the same thing. “When grow up and get a job, Mama, I will spend my first paycheck and take you shopping.” Still good, right? 🙂

Deborah Cruz 2017/06/04 - 2:08 pm

That is sweet. The little one promises that she will buy me a house NEXT to hers. But she assures me that when I get “really old” her sister and be in charge if the situation ever warrants that I need help with the facilities. I told her I’ve changed your diaper and wiped your butt for years, you wouldn’t do it for me? To which she responded, Ok, if I have to 😉

lisa 2017/05/31 - 11:05 am

WOW, my children were the same way and even now they worry about themselves getting older and that day when I leave this world. Your daughter loves you so much and it’s so beautiful knowing how much our kids really love us. I have taught my children to understand that life changes, as we say circle of life and to know the lord so when that day come they will better understand and I hope feel some comfort of knowing our life and journey has ended. But one day we will all meet again!

Deborah Cruz 2017/06/04 - 2:09 pm

It’s very sweet but I worry for her. Not because she won’t be able to handle it when I die, hopefully, she will be an adult. But I just hate that it stresses her out so much now.

Lily 2017/09/21 - 10:10 pm

My 8 year old said the same thing to me, that he does not want to grow up because he does not want me to get old and die plus adults are boring, no imagination or creativity. He actually cried, nothing I would say comforted him. Explained the stages of life, that’s how God created and how each stage is beautiful in its own way. He still didn’t understand it. It breaks my heart to see him like that! Any other tips would be appreciated!

Deborah Cruz 2017/09/26 - 11:16 am

Just keep doing what you’re doing and give him all the cuddles, hugs and reassurance he needs.

Sarah 2020/12/06 - 9:57 pm

Thank you for writing about this Deborah and for others’ like Jen discussing their children’s fears of their parents dying along with their own wish not to grow up. It’s reassuring just to read that for most, there isn’t answers, although I’m looking into counselling and praying for him, especially about generational trauma as someone said. I feel frustrated now that mine is 12 and showing lack of responsibility in school, around the house: hard to have patience when he is able to do so much more. Loving him while trying not to enable babyness while not shaming him takes much patience and wisdom, help me God. Thanks again for helping me to feel connected to others in this!

liz Cleland 2017/05/31 - 7:09 pm

Coming to the realization that when you grow up your parents do as well can be so hard. I know my son has already started at age 7 making comments like this. I just have to keep reminding him all the positives he has to look forward too!

Deborah Cruz 2017/06/04 - 2:10 pm

She has been like this since she was 4. that’s when we lost our first dog. It was also the year I miscarried, so it was a lot in a short amount of time and I think it really left an effect.

Nancy L. 2017/05/31 - 8:47 pm

Awww…Your daughter is such a sweetheart and wise beyond her years. My daughter has always been an observer and a thinker, too. She’s now in college and if she calls home and we don’t answer our phone or text messages, she gets upset. “What if something happened to you?” she’ll say. Then we get lectured on why we should have our phone with us at all times. … Role reversal… lol

Deborah Cruz 2017/06/04 - 2:11 pm

That’s sweet and I would not be a bit surprised if my Gabs did the very same thing. If she comes in the room to wake me up and I don’t wake up immediately, she gets freaked out.

anjali 2017/06/03 - 7:13 am

Beautiful words….

Celeste 2017/06/11 - 11:55 am

My kids are the opposite they are already planning what college they want to go to and they are only 8 and 9. I am telling them to slow down and enjoy being kids.

Katherine 2017/06/11 - 1:21 pm

My kids are still very young, but my eldest has plans to get his own house, attached to ours, for everyday visits. We’d also come over to make him breakfast and go to the park. Sounds good to me.

Amber 2017/09/26 - 1:59 am

My daughter is 17 and an only child. She is saying she doesn’t want to grow up because I will get old and die and she never wants to be without me. We have had a cat and her grandma pass in the last two years and she suffered a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal. But she is fine now. I just don’t know what to say or so to make her feel better. Our dog whom we have had since she was 6, is old and will probably die soon. This will set her back even further. I just don’t know what to do. Any suggestions?

Deborah Cruz 2017/09/26 - 11:08 am

To be honest, it is so hard. I talk to my child a lot. We’ve taken her to family funerals and explained that death is just part of life. We told her that usually when people/pets die it is of old age or sickness. No one likes to see someone they love suffer so we have to think of it as letting them go so that they no longer suffer but can be in peace. Now, all that being said, it is much easier said than done. We’re not perfect. All we can do is teach our children and be there for them when they hurt. One suggestion that you might consider, and one we considered, is visiting a therapist, someone she can talk through her feelings with that can validate her feelings yet at the same time assuage that overwhelming fear of death. Sometimes it is easier when it’s someone the person is not directly known to. Hope that helps. Good luck to you and your daughter. So sorry about the losses. Be well.

Lauren 2018/10/16 - 11:12 am

Hey I am lauren I am 23 i never wanted to grow up at all the same way as your child I have said to my mom mom I don,t want to grow up at all it is strange to haer your child say I Don,t want to grow up at all your child was happier when your child was a Younger Kid well I am 23 I feel like that I Don,t want to grow up at all I am afirad of growing up the reason I didn,t want to grow up at all like your child doesn,t want to grow at all cause when you grow up some things change of life and reality someone like your child isn,t use to change of the sound of your child voice changeing of growing up same way as me that the sound of my voice changed me growing up I feel like that I Don,t want to grow up at all I was wondering if there was any suggestions ideas what I can do for me to feel and become as a younger Teen be as a Kid Agian blogging doing blogs probably would have been has a Suggestions for your child to feel that way and be that way the reason your child doesn,t want to grow up at all is cause that Teen your child she Doesn,t want to be older be mature at all or die at all fear of growing up is something that is naturally of that that Teen your child when she was a Younger Teen as a Kid she liked Disney something Disney like she wanted to be as a Younger Teen like Teen like things her as a Teen who,s younger she was from the start that Teen your child she is a Teen she just missed the part of her childhood she was part of that her watching like old Disney channel shows on Disney channel on TV she watched when she was a Younger Teen around that Time she missed that part of her childhood that that’s sad to her she just Doesn,t want to grow up at all cause her growing up she end up missing the part of her childhood she was part of when she was a younger Teen your daughter she feels like she Doesn,t want to grow up at all cause if she grows up she be sad that she isn,t as a younger Teen at all I am looking for someone to chat and Talk who feels like not growing up at all who Doesn,t want to grow up at all who feels Afraid of growing up same way as me that my mom she is like puzzled when she heard me say that I Don,t want to grow up at all you as mom your daughter Teen I know your puzzled hearing your daughter a Teen a child say to you mom I Don,t want to grow up at all your not alone of helping your daughter a Teen your child who feels that she Doesn,t want to grow up at all just feel be as a younger Teen be as a Kid Agian that help your daughter to feel and be as a younger Teen be as a Kid Agian since she Doesn,t want to grow up at all of coming up with ways for her to feel and become as a Younger Teen be as a Kid Agian she wants to feel and just be what she wanted to be that fun family vacations being over makes a Teen like her feel and cry of that being over plan for anther fun family vacation going to anther fun place on vacation for your daughter a teen your child she can feel and become as a Younger Teen be as a Kid Agian since she Doesn,t want to grow up at all never lose hope and faith in jesus lord savior Christ in him of that happen help your daughter a Teen your child to feel and become as a Younger Teen be as a Younger Teen she as a Kid Agian since she Doesn,t want to grow up at all never give up on hope and faith in jesus in him of that

Edlyn 2018/10/21 - 9:21 pm

Hello, I was googling and came up to your article since after church today, my son told me that he doesnt want to grow up. He has th exact same reason as your child. My son was crying since he wants us to “stay this way”. He has always been emotional but I am not sure if I need to talk to his pedia about this or is this jist a phase? He reminded me again later today. I just explained and re assured him of my love and presence but still… Did your child overcome this fear?

Jen 2019/03/29 - 4:17 pm

I am currently going through this with my 4 ur old son. He refuses to poop on the potty because he thinks holding on to diapers will keep him from growing up. He only wants junk food for the same reason. His thinking is the same as your child’s…if he grows up then we will die. I am so sad that he is carrying this heavy burden. I do not know how to get him past this. My heart hurts

Deborah Cruz 2019/04/03 - 4:45 pm


I can tell you that from experience, they will grow past it. The only thing I can recommend is that you keep reassuring him that you are there for him and point out all of the new and exciting things that you can look forward to doing together as he gets older. Hugs, mama.

Guest 2020/04/29 - 7:17 pm

my son also started saying that he wants to stay a baby and that he doesnt want to grow up since he was 3, I think, he will be 4 next month. so the same problem,being an alternative healing practitioner I see it differently, I see it epigenetically or it can be related to generational trauma.my husband’s mom died when he was 13, I think he never recovered from this loss (he is denying it although) ’cause recently he told me that he never watched the video and couldnt watch the video with his mom from his 13th birthday 1 month prior to her death (sorry English is not my native tongue) up until now, he is now 38. I myself can say didnt have a childhood, cause I had 6 siblings to take care after, being the oldest, so my parents both were infantile and I had to parent my parents and it was very painful mostly. So I cant really remember my childhood being happy or joyful, it was always responisiblity after responsibility, I was like a mom to my siblings, even later I had to pay for their colleges, buy them clothes, food, cause my parents didnt care much. So i think as our children are ‘continuations’ of us, they have this cellular memory (biological) so they know how painful it is to be an adult , from my side too much responsibility, burden of life and from my husband’s side loss of mom. So hopefully when he will be 10-12 I will send him to alternative trauma therapy to heal his generational or other prenatal traumas

Jess 2020/08/01 - 8:26 pm

I am 14 and I don’t want to grow up either. Part of me is excited to do things like being a parent but at the same time I don’t want to. It is already becoming more apparent to me that my mum is ageing and she is often very tired and has to sleep/rest in the afternoon. I have said many times that I don’t want to grow up and wish Peter Pan was real and I could go to Neverland or that we stayed younger for longer. I don’t think I have ever said it directly, but I am very conscious of the fact that my parents will die when I get older but I couldn’t live without them. I actually cannot imagine living without them literally. I have said to my mum I don’t want her to die and it makes me want to cry. It’s also very difficult to comprehend and accept death for me let alone a kid younger than me. I can cry and think about people dying but it doesn’t really resonate with me. For example my grandad has chronic liver disease and my parents and nan think he will die soon which I understand the science behind but my brain can’t actually accept it and the permanence of it as well. Like I know it as a fact but I can’t believe it, my brain sort of brushes it off as the other people must be wrong because they couldn’t possibly die. (Even though they can).

Sehena 2021/03/24 - 9:58 am

When I was a child I certainly didn’t want to grow up because I was afraid of leaving my mother. Considering she and my father were divorced and he didn’t come around at all, she was the only parent I knew. To me, back then, she was my whole world and the thought of leaving her terrified me. I never really voiced these thoughts to her though, because I felt like it was weird.


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