How to Talk to Young Children about the Concept of Death

Death tends to surprise us even though it is a fact of life. Tough questions can leave you wondering how to talk to your young children about the concept of death and dying. Have you recently lost a family pet? Is a family member is terminally ill and you’ve been spending time caring for them? Your children might just bring up the topic on their own. It doesn’t matter what triggered the question. It is important to be honest and keep these important things in mind when talking with your children.

Children’s understanding of death and dying

Most young children already have some concept of death, even if they haven’t been around it before. They get hints of it from television, movies and seeing dead animals and insects in their backyards or on their playgrounds. This understanding is limited. It can be very difficult for young children to comprehend that death is permanent. When discussing death with young children, be clear and stick with the facts. Children will understand if you talk about the physical aspect. Explain honestly to them that the body stopped working when someone dies. Young children can understand best if you keep things straight forward and clear.

Children need clear language

As adults, we often use different language around death. We speak in other terms like passed away, resting in peace or eternal slumber. These types of phrases can be confusing to small children, and can lead to anxiety or misunderstanding. We don’t want children to fear going to sleep or taking a rest. Clear language is key.

Have short talks frequently

When talking to children about death, it best to do it in short talks. Have simple conversations addressing their questions and providing them time to reflect. These short talks allow your children to reflect and develop new questions. Your children should take the lead, but make sure you are letting the questions come naturally. Although it may be difficult to answer questions while grieving, these short talks will help your children in their grieving process and ultimately yours as well.

When a death occurs in the family

When a family member dies, share the news with your children. They will notice if you are sad or grieving. If you share your loss, they will participate in the grieving process and will want to attend the funeral or burial services. This allows them to have their own opportunity to say goodbye.

Beechwood is always here to help and will always provide the information you need to make the right decisions for you, your families and, most importantly, your loved one.