How Do You Talk to Children About Death?

 In Blog

Death is a delicate subject, especially when it comes to explaining it to the very young. Ideally, we shouldn’t wait until someone close to us has died before discussing the subject with our children. However, we don’t always have that option.

If you’re grieving yourself and need to support your children in this process, the challenge can be even greater.

Here are 5 tips to help you broach the subjects of death and bereavement with your children.


Express yourself clearly and simply

You may be tempted to minimize or embellish reality to protect your children. Although that idea starts with the best of intentions, it’s best to explain the facts as they are.

Don’t hesitate to say that someone is “dead” or “dying”. While this may seem harsh, it’s necessary for your children to understand the situation and begin their grieving process.

When used with honesty and kindness, the right words can help your children get through this ordeal. You’ll also have the opportunity to explain that death is a natural part of life.


Adjust your message according to age

Before the age of 3, children don’t understand the notion of permanence. Death therefore seems to them to only be a temporary separation. However, the emotions experienced by those around them can affect them. So the best way to support children is to try to maintain their routine as much as possible and, above all, to reassure them.

From 3 to 5 years of age, it’s very important to have a clear discussion with children to make sure they understand that the deceased will not come back, but especially, that they are not responsible for the death of their loved one. Avoid using expressions like “she’s gone on a trip” or “she’s sleeping”, which could generate a fear of falling asleep or traveling.

Between the ages of 6 and 12, children usually understand that the deceased will not return. However, it’s important to have a discussion with them so they understand that death can happen at any age. This is an opportunity to reassure them about their own mortality and answer any questions they may have.


Don’t be afraid to show your emotions

You might think that expressing your emotions in front of your children makes you look “weak”, but it’s quite the opposite. By letting your emotions show, even the less pleasant ones, you’re helping your children deal with their own emotions in a healthy way.

Grief comes with a lot of difficult feelings, and hiding them won’t make things any easier. On the contrary: by understanding your own emotions, you can help your children come to terms with what they’re feeling.


Help your child through the grieving process

Just like adults, children need guidance in their grieving process.

Funerals, celebrations of life, burials or the scattering of ashes are funeral rituals. These rituals enable us to move forward in the grieving process. So it’s a good idea to let children attend and even participate.


Draw on outside resources

There are many resources available to help you talk about death with your child. Here are 6 books that can help you broach the subject in a gentle way:



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