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How do you talk to your child about death?

Recently we had a very old pet die and my son was devestated. He kept saying the pet would come back sometime and that she could go to the vet and get better. I gently tried to explain she was gone forever and it was because she was so old and that this happens to everyone. That was back in Jan. Then last week he says that he doesn't think he(he's 5) or his baby sister will live very long that they will die soon! I asked him why he thought this and it was because they both had colds a week ago. He thought they would die because of being sick. This broke my heart. I make it worse every time I try to explain. I don't want to lie to him, especially if a family member dies, I don't want him thinking they will return. What to say? We are a Christian family and believe in life in Heaven, but I'm not sure my son would understand that.

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Asked by SweetLoveofMine at 2:49 AM on Jul. 22, 2010 in School-Age Kids (5-8)

Level 29 (40,610 Credits)
Answers (3)
  • I can't say from experience because my oldest is two, but it's something I've considered as well. We took her to a funeral three months ago and stopped by the open casket. I forget exactly what I told her, but I let her know that her great-great uncle went to be with God while his body was sleeping for a very long time.

    If he's thinking that minor things will get him sick, it sounds like an easier approach might be to talk about how resilient the body is and how we heal from our injuries and illnesses. This should help with the bigger issue at hand and give you some time to figure out the details on discussing death.

    Answer by tyheamma at 3:08 AM on Jul. 22, 2010

  • Honest open communication is the best way to handle it. ALL living things have an expected life span. A plant (especially in my home) might only live for a year. A hamster lives for about 3-4. A dog or a cat live for about 8-20. Loss is part of life. Allowing your child to experiences losses early in life and giving them the open honest communication will give them the background knowledge they need to handle the larger losses that they will experience later in their life. ALWAYS be honest even at 5 a child can understand what is going on if given the knowledge that connects to what they already know. Have patience as they try to fit in all the other experiences they see (illnesses ect) into their new knowledge and explain the differences between them.

    Answer by LorisBaby at 9:50 AM on Jul. 22, 2010

  • I believe being honest with kids about death is the best way. You say you are a Christian family. Look up the verses about there is an appointed time for death and only God knows it. Keep telling him the truth. Every child is different and each one deals with death differently. He just needs to process it and learn it in his time. However, being honest is the best approach, IMO.

    Answer by luvmyguyandgirl at 4:21 PM on Jul. 22, 2010

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