Home > Emotional Issues > Talking to Children About Death

Talking to Children About Death

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 28 Jul 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Funeral burial children And Death

Talking to children about death can be uncomfortable and very often parents don’t think about talking to their children about this subject until a close relative, friend or even pet dies. This may be because parents do not want to speak about the subject themselves, or because they are attempting to spare their children the pain and grief that accompanies a loss. Unfortunately, waiting until the exact moment of grief means that parents are not in the best frame of mind to discuss death, and children only have confusion and frustration to compound their natural emotions regarding their loss. Instead, speaking with children about death as a natural part of life long before they are ever faced with it may spare everyone a further ordeal when a loved one does die.

Age Appropriate Information

As with most things, discussions about life and death should always be age appropriate for the child involved. This means using vocabulary that the child understands, examples to which the child can relate, and resources that the child will find interesting. For example, children who like to help in the garden may respond well to a discussion of plants or flowers that live and die. Children who enjoy animals may understand better if the example is based on a goldfish that stopped swimming. Books and certain children’s television shows may well tackle the subject of death and provide an opportunity for parents and children to discuss the topic. Very often these discussions will be short as children have a naturally limited attention span. This is fine. The important thing is that a short discussion takes place, and further discussions continue when the next opportunity presents itself.

Questions and Answers

Children are curious creatures and it is only smart to assume that their curiosity will extend to the topic of death. Parents should be prepared for some questions and try to answer them honestly. For example, a child may wonder if it is lonely to be dead or if they will ever see their friends again if they die. Such questions should not upset parents. If children talk about their own deaths it is usually because they are attempting to understand the topic in relation to themselves, not because they are expecting to die soon. In fact, many children may discuss this topic without truly understanding the concept of death. Serious questions should be met with serious answers, and this holds true for any question that the child has asked seriously (whether or not it seems amusing to an adult).

Children and Funerals

When a death does occur, many parents are uncertain of if they should bring their child to the funeral. Parents should remember that funerals are events at which many individuals find closure and have a chance to say goodbye to the deceased. If the child is at an age where they may take advantage of these opportunities then they should be included. However, parents should be ready for questions at the funeral and/or burial. For example, when watching a coffin lowered a child may ask if it is cold in the ground, or if it is really necessary to leave the deceased alone. Parents should answer these questions honestly, though they may want to do so in private as other attendees may feel that they have the right to answer the question as well. If children are too young to sit through a funeral, it may be better to leave them at home with a babysitter.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
my wifes mum is dying of cancer,i find it hard to say the right thing,she,s shutting me out and is quickly angry,its hard not to bite back,but i do,she was my mum too,more so than my own,the kids areupset,i have to be the strong one,but who,s going to look after me when im not feeling too strong myself,im not sorry for my self but i dont feel im very good at coping with multiple sadness,what to say?
roving journeyman - 23-Jan-12 @ 12:41 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Edy
    Re: The Rights to Obtain a Headstone?
    My brother paased away 2 years ago and his live in girlfriend handled the funeral. She never paid for the funeral or the…
    14 November 2019
  • Suzi
    Re: Questionnaire: Do You Need Bereavement Counselling?
    My father has only recently passed away. I did get the chance to see him before, but for the last 3…
    9 November 2019
  • Joe Joe
    Re: Dealing With Inheritance Tax
    Hello I am concerned about my uncle who is 91 years old. I need help finding out if my sister who does not live with him and I…
    28 October 2019
  • Gav
    Re: Coping with Multiple Deaths
    Hi, I think I need help, since one of my best friends commited suicide 3 years ago, I have lost a further 11 friends and family…
    27 October 2019
  • Mack
    Re: Purchasing a Burial Plot
    My wife bought a cemetery plot,she went to the cemetery last week,and another person had been buried in the plot...is this illegal
    22 October 2019
  • Confused
    Re: Inheriting Property
    My mother who is still alive put my sisters nane on her house. She has said she is giving her the house because my sister has never left the…
    21 October 2019
  • MPS
    Re: Bereavement Payment
    I cremated my son who was 37 I am 58 and I am on sick and my work company dose not pay sick pay can I apply for breavement pay
    21 October 2019
  • Miller
    Re: What if There is No Will?
    My father as died leaving me his house and all belongings, thers only me his daughter im an only child, my dad did not make a will so…
    16 October 2019
  • broken
    Re: Coping with Multiple Deaths
    At the start of this year, my gran and highly handicapped aunt had a house on the same street as my mum and dads flat. When I come…
    14 October 2019
  • Maggie
    Re: How Grief Affects Your Relationships
    Hello My brother passed away very suddenly on the 17th of August ,to date he has yet to be laid to rest .I feel i cannot…
    14 October 2019