Discussing Death with Young Children

cemetary, deathSpring break just started for JeJaNi_MaMa's kids, and she just found out that a classmate of her son's was killed in a car accident with her family on Friday. Just a terrible, terrible tragedy.


Understandably JeJani wants to know how to break the news to her children, 7 and 5. It's a tough call. I recently lost a dear friend and I was so shocked and devastated at the news all I could do was lock myself in the bathroom and cry my eyes out. When my 5 year-old heard me crying he asked his dad what was wrong with me. My husband, unbeknownst to me, told him that my friend "passed away." Later, I was really angry--not because of the terminology my husband used--but because I would have much preferred a "story" this time. My 5-year-old son didn't know my friend, so in this circumstance, I would have never chosen to burden him with the heaviness of pondering death.

That said, he found out and the death questions came. So we talked on his level about the circle of life. There is a time to be born and a time to die. His favorite movie is the Lion King and it just so happens that that is the overarching theme. So we talked about how love never dies and how Simba's father Mufasa (who dies in the film) still watches over him. "There's nothing wrong with death, it is natural," I said. "Sometimes it makes us really sad, because we miss the people we love. But that's when we have to remember the love in our hearts."

I don't know if there is a right or wrong way to talk to children about death. I just know things happen when you least expect it, and tender-hearted children need some explanation to help them process death too.

Have you ever had to talk to your young children about death? How did you do it?

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