Children And Death: How To Explain It

Children have to learn about death, but how do you tell your children about death? How do you Explain? This aritcle will give you some hints and tips to make it more easier.

For each and every one of us death comes too sudden. It is hard enough for us to except the fact of death, but how are we supposed to tell our children, and explain to them about death?

Some have heard that honesty is best, but is this a case for honesty?

This article will help you ease your mind, and learn how to talk to your child about death. How death and dying are discussed in the younger years of a child's life may well determine how well the child is able to handle grief and sorrow in the future. If properly handled in family discussions, this can be a growth-producing and relationship-bonding experience for the child and the parent. When a loved one does die, consider these ideas for discussing death with the child.

Tell the child as soon as possible that the person they love has died. It is usually better that the child be told of the death by someone close.

The child should be given an honest explanation of the death and the events that lead to it. Statements like "Grandfather has gone to sleep," or "He was so sick," are not good explanations because children sleep and get sick. It is better to indicate that a certain organ was not functioning properly and as a result the loved one died.

You might want to indicate that when we get old this often happens. It is important to share with the child how the person died so the child does not develop magical thinking that could include them being the cause of death.

Keep in mind during your discussions about death that children are not born with a fear of death. Any fears they have or later develop are things they have learned since birth. Be careful not to instill any fears about the death and dying process.

Tell the child that it is normal to feel sad and wish that the loved person had not died. Share with the child that you, too, have those same feelings.

As soon as possible, a responsible adult should explain their beliefs about death and what has happened to the loved one. A religious explanation is often very helpful for a child. It is wise for parents to think this out beforehand so they know what they will tell their child about death. The child should be invited to ask questions and be given a chance to share concerns and fears. There will likely need to be multiple discussions.

Children who are old enough to talk and understand feelings along with being able to sit still for the length of a funeral should be included in the service and other rituals associated with it. Professional funeral directors will often visit with children about death and give them the opportunity to ask questions as well as see the deceased loved one in the casket. They will explain what a dead person looks like and how their body feels. This is often very helpful to remove some of the fears of death.



Help the child remember the deceased person by establishing memories that are pleasant and uplifting. It is appropriate to help them collect memento and stimulate recollections of the loved one who has died. Discussions need to be held in the days and months ahead to instill in the mind of the child the good attributes of the person who died. Do not tell a child not to cry, to be brave, or "be a man." It's OK to cry.

Should children attend the funeral? Definitely "yes" for children older than seven. Younger children may not gain any therapy by attending. Do not force any child to attend a funeral. On the other hand, do not shut a child out of the funeral experience. Children need, at the time of death, not theology but an affirmation of the priority of life over death.

Children should not be entirely protected from participation in the grief of the adult. Give children the opportunity to talk about death at home. The child between 3 and 5 may deny death as a regular and final process. He sees it as sleep or a parent going somewhere only to return. Between 5 and 9 children appear to be able to accept the idea that a person has died but may not accept it as something that must happen to everyone and particularily to themselves. Around the age of 9, the child recognizes death as an inevitable experience that will happen to him.

A child's questions must be answered without too much emotion. Do not give too complicated a reply. Oftentimes a child asks questions in search for security. Hold the child close and say, "All of us hope to go on living for a longer time than you can even think of."

Be honest with children. Do not tell them a fairy tale such as, "Grandmother is now up in the sky with a pair of shining wings so that she can fly away."

Begin to tell a child about a death slowly. Perhaps you might talk about how long flowers last. Unhealthy explanations of death: "Mother has gone on a long journey." (Well, when is she coming back?) "God took Daddy away because He wants and loves the good in heaven." (Well, I don't like God, then) "Daddy is now in heaven." (I thought they put him in the ground) "Grandma died because she was sick." (I've got a cold. Am I gonna die, too?) "To die is to sleep." (I'm scared to shut my eyes)

Children's reactions to death: Denial. Bodily distress. Hostile reactions to the deceased. Guilt. Hostile reactions to others. Play for affection from others. Mannerisms of the deceased. Idealization of deceased. He was perfect. Anxiety. Panic.

If your child goes to the funeral explain the details of the process beforehand. Tell him people are buried in places called cemetaries with stones placed on each grave and tell the names of people who rest there. Say that flowers are left for remembrance.

Review pleasant memories of the deceased with the child.

Keep the child active during the process.

Demonstrate love and attention to the child.

© High Speed Ventures 2011