Nobody is too young to talk about death and dying. Talking about death as early as possible will help children feel more secure and supported if they do experience a loss. 

From a young age you can use the natural environment to introduce children to the concept of death. For example by talking through the life cycle of a flower as you see a flower withering, or a tree as leaves fall to the ground, or a dead insect found on the ground.

By age eight, most children will understand that death is permanent and happens to everyone. We can still help children talk about death and help reduce any fears or misunderstandings they may have. Life events such as death of a pet can provide a good opportunity to talk about death.

How to start a conversation about death with children

When someone dies or is dying

When a friend or relative dies or is dying, it can be difficult to know how to approach this with a child. 

It is natural to want to protect children from hurt and upset - but we can't protect them by not talking about it. If we do not talk to young people about death and dying, they may develop misunderstandings and may feel confused by their emotions and experience. It may also give them the message that what is happening is too awful to cope with.

Knowing how to support a child when someone is dying can help them cope. Download our full information guide below for detailed information and advice. 

Talking to children about death and dying (full guide)

In partnership with KissyPuppy, the Sophie Rolf Trust, we provide support to children and their families after the death of a loved one. Find out more and access our bereavement support here.

Managing the difficult questions

Q: "Are you going to die?"

Inform the child that most people die when they are much older. Reassure them that you should be around for a long time to take care of them.

Q: "Am I going to die?"

Children need to know that everyone dies eventually but you can reassure them that they are young and most people do not die until they are much older.

Q:"Why do people die?"

Explain that people die when their bodies stop working and this is usually when they are much older. If people are ill usually doctors can give them medicine to make them better but sometimes when someone has a serious illness or has been in a very serious accident there are no medicines that can help.

Q: "What happens when you are dead?"

You can help a child to understand that being dead means your body doesn't work anymore. So when somebody is dead they can't move or eat or breathe or do anything. They cannot feel any pain and they will not wake up.

People have different thoughts and beliefs about death, You can explain this to a child and say for example that some people believe nothing happens when you are dead and some people think you go to a special place.

Q: "What happens to your body after you have died?"

You may need to remind a child that when someone has died that their body no longer works and that they don't need it and that is why their body is either buried or turned into ashes (cremated). You may also need to remind them that because they are dead and their body no longer works they do not feel anything/will not be in pain.

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