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How have you dealt with explaining death to a pre-school child?

My son and I encountered a dead Opossum in the street a week ago and it opened up a door I was hoping to avoid for a short while. I have wanted to be very "matter of fact" and "it's part of life" in regards to death...and but I also didn't want to discuss TOO much, as he is young. I tried to only answer what he asked and not feed any unnecessary information to him.
How have other families dealt with this in a young child?
(My son is 3, so he did have interest in asking about it and saw that I tried to keep him from getting too close or looking at the body too much).

Answer Question

Asked by boomamma at 12:37 PM on May. 16, 2011 in Preschoolers (3-4)

Level 16 (2,496 Credits)
Answers (6)
  • There are some great books about death, etc in the childrens section at the library.

    Answer by MrsLeftlane at 12:38 PM on May. 16, 2011

  • We simply told our kids the truth. Death is simply when the body stops working. The dead don't feel, think, hear or anything else. It's just over.

    Answer by SabrinaMBowen at 12:39 PM on May. 16, 2011

  • yes. not with animals, but with family members or his friends' family members. there's a right and a wrong way to explain death, depending on the individual child. its never wrong to explain it-there's no reason to NOT explain it, as death is as natural as birth.

    all said and done, the only question my then-4yo asked was, ''how long will soNso be sad?''..i told him i didn't know, honestly. but that it was ok to cry or be sad because you missed someone who was no longer around. he said, ''i will miss you when you get old and die, momma.'' :))

    Answer by dullscissors at 12:42 PM on May. 16, 2011

  • We have had a few family members die from old age, cancer, and heart attacks during my kid's toddler years. We also had a funeral to go to for a friend's baby's SIDS death. SO, it has come up ALOT.

    We basically say that sometimes the body gets too old and worn out to work right. And, sometimes people get too sick for the doctor to fix them. So, then, they go to heaven to live with God. (I know .. .the God part definately doesn't fit well with every family). This seems to have been pretty understandable for my little ones. And, the God part helps because, then,. they can picture their loved one with someone who loves them . . .not away and lonely.

    There is no easy way to discuss it, but it is a part of life. I figure that being honest at an early age might take some of the shock out of these types of events when they happen again.


    Answer by ImaginationMama at 12:44 PM on May. 16, 2011

  • I did say that the "body stopped working but that he animal's spirit will go onto something else". I feel it important to infuse the physical death with the circle of there is less room for negative association. He had almost NO negative feelings or weirdness about it. I think that's something adults put into it most of the time...

    Comment by boomamma (original poster) at 12:47 PM on May. 16, 2011

  • Agreed with imaginationmama..when my grandpa died we tried to explain to our then 2 1/2 year old and told her that "Pa had been sick for a long time and that he was now in heaven with god."..and she was ok with that. Never had any questions, doesn't ask about him..even when we were at my grandparents house after the fact. Any time we were there to visit them and he wasn't in his chair, she would always go look for him. So, I think she understood what was going on.

    Answer by mom_to_kenzie at 5:43 PM on May. 17, 2011

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