Home > Emotional Issues > Talking to Children About Death

Talking to Children About Death

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 10 Jan 2013 | 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
  • Foamy
    Re: Questionnaire: Do You Need Bereavement Counselling?
    My husband died last year,I was already suffering from depression so when this happened,the bottom…
    24 September 2017
  • Polarbear
    Re: How Grief Affects Your Relationships
    Hi. I have a difficult one. My partner and I have been together about 5 years. 3 years ago his brother was diagnosed…
    24 September 2017
  • Mimi
    Re: What if There is No Will?
    My dad died in January, I found out that he had another family and me and my sister had two more younger sisters, I'm The eldest of…
    24 September 2017
  • Bil22876
    Re: What if There is No Will?
    What if the only next of kin murdered his family members . Would the murderer's family (say children) get the inheritance
    23 September 2017
  • Hayleybirkitt
    Re: Purchasing a Burial Plot
    My dad and his sister, there mum my nan is buried in a cemetery in Enfield, she died when he was 7 and the rights to her grave went to…
    22 September 2017
  • FacingBereavement
    Re: Catholic Funeral
    DippyGirl - Your Question:I have to organise a RC funeral for a cousin I have been advised that the service must take place in the church nearest…
    22 September 2017
  • FacingBereavement
    Re: What if There is No Will?
    Marie - Your Question:My Uncle sadly passed away without leaving a will. Does this mean his estate will be split equally between his 4…
    22 September 2017
  • Marie
    Re: What if There is No Will?
    My Uncle sadly passed away without leaving a will. Does this mean his estate will be split equally between his 4 surviving siblings…
    21 September 2017
  • DippyGirl
    Re: Catholic Funeral
    I have to organise a RC funeral for a cousin I have been advised that the service must take place in the church nearest to her care home ( she…
    20 September 2017
  • FacingBereavement
    Re: Purchasing a Burial Plot
    Nobby - Your Question:Myself and wife purchased a burial plot in 2005 obviously for our burials,since then we have had a change of mind…
    20 September 2017
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the FacingBereavement website. Please read our Disclaimer.