How to explain death to your toddler?

How to explain death to your toddler?

It can be difficult to explain the death of a relative or loved one to a small child. Here's some tips on dealing with the topic. 

 How to explain death to your toddler 1

My sister-in-law is in the final stages of a battle with cancer. She has been a loving aunt and until fairly recently helped with childcare. My four-year-old knows she is very poorly, but I don’t know how (or if) I should explain what’s happening, or what his reaction will be. Can you help?

It is always extremely difficult to explain to small children when someone is seriously ill or dies. At this age children don’t have the same understanding of death as adults – they have no real concept of what it means and don’t really grasp that it’s permanent. But they can become fascinated by it and ask many questions, often prompted by the death of a pet for example, as they try to explore what it means to die.

The way adults discuss this with them is very much based on their own values and beliefs. If you have a strong belief in an afterlife these ideas can be quite comforting for a child. It’s best to go at your son’s pace, answering questions as they come up rather than trying to sit him down for a big chat about it. You can also be reassuring that it is highly unlikely for small children like your son to become so ill and die. You can explain that some people even live to 100, but that sometimes people are too sick – like your sister-inlaw – so she won’t manage to do that.

It’s useful if you can manage to be very matter of fact when your son asks about death, as this will allow him to go on asking questions at his own pace, and get the answers he needs. Don’t be surprised if, because small children don’t feel the same grief as adults in these matters, he seems quite harsh and casual about it.

Eileen Hayes

RELATED ARTICLES

Related Articles

Win an ultimate comfort package from the experts, Oilatum
Win
Win an ultimate comfort package from the experts, Oilatum
Win an ultimate comfort package from the experts Oilatum One lucky winner is in...
Madeleine Shaw's top healthy eating tips for kids
Celebrity mums & dads
Madeleine Shaw's top healthy eating tips for kids
Madeleine Shaw's top healthy eating tips for kids Nutritional Therapist, chef...
Win one of Three Izmi Baby Toddler Carriers
Win
Win one of Three Izmi Baby Toddler Carriers
Win one of Three Izmi Baby Toddler Carriers To celebrate the launch of the new...
Win a Joie every stage™ fx signature worth £279!
Win
Win a Joie every stage™ fx signature worth £279!
Win a Joie every stage™ fx signature worth £279! One lucky winner will...

email block

lego-duplo-launches-the-tiny-film-festivalToddlers

LEGO DUPLO launches The Tiny Film Festival

DUPLO launches the second Tiny Film Festival to celebrate the imaginative stories of children under five
toddler-wont-sleep-through-the-nightToddlers

Toddler won't sleep through the night?

It’s very common for children to have more sleep problems and start waking up again around this age
introducing-your-toddler-to-a-new-babyToddlers

Introducing your toddler to a new baby

A new baby is a wonderful thing - but tots might not be happy about sharing your time once the...
ultimate-comfort-package-oilatumWin

Win an ultimate comfort package from the experts, Oilatum

Enter this competition for your chance to win an Oilatum ultimate comfort package for baby's eczema prone skin and a...
win-a-stylish-melobaby-tote-bag-with-metaniumWin

Win a stylish Melobaby Tote Bag with Metanium

Enter this competition for your chance to win Metanium's Melobaby changing tote bag with a selection of their nappy rash...
win-a-joie-stages-fx-worth-190Win

Win a Joie stages fx worth £190!

We've teamed up with Joie to offer one lucky Gurgle fan the chance to win a Joie stages FX worth...