Tips for Explaining Death to Children

By: Greg Hurd
Tuesday, July 4, 2017

It’s not easy to explain the concept of death to children and many parents dread the thought of doing so. Most assume that children will eventually learn on their own without parental advice. Many parents are confronted with this unpleasant task when there’s a death in the family and they need to explain it to their child. Here are some tips that can help:

1. Always be Honest

It’s tempting to gloss over the concept of death but that can hamper the child’s understanding of the concept and cause problems down the line. Take time to explain what happened carefully and encourage questions. Try to be as honest and open as you can be without scaring your children.

2. Utilize Easy Opportunities to Familiarize Children with the Concept of Death

Children are exposed to death in various forms and that can be a good opportunity to familiarize them with the concept. For example, the death of a pet, a tree, a flower, etc, can be a good way to explain the concept to your child. They’re likely not emotionally connected to these entities and will have an easier time understanding the concept.

3. Stick to Basic Terms for Children Under 5 or 6

Children under 5 or 6 don’t understand vague and philosophical concepts so it’s a good idea to stick with the basics and focus on the practical aspects of death. Parents can tell the child that the deceased person has stopped speaking; breathing, eating, and the child will no longer be able to see them.

4. Avoid Vague Terms

Avoid giving the child the illusion that death is temporary as that will only hurt them in the long run. Don’t describe death as “going to sleep” or “going away”, etc, as that can hamper the child’s understanding of the concept.

5. Books that help explain Death to a Child

  • What's Heaven - by Maria Shriver - Website
  • LIFETIMES: THE BEAUTIFUL WAY TO EXPLAIN DEATH TO CHILDREN - Website
  • HELP ME SAY GOODBYE: ACTIVITIES FOR HELPING KIDS COPE WHEN A SPECIAL PERSON DIES - Website
  • More books available through this blog

If you want to know more about funeral services and other details, don’t hesitate to call us at Weber-Hurd Funeral Home. We’ll be happy to help. 

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