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Sometimes young children experience the death of someone close to them. This person could be a friend or a family member. The death could be the result of a serious illness or even an accident.
Many different providers can help your child deal with the death of a friend or family member. They include:
You can also take steps to help your preschool aged child understand and cope with the death of a family member or friend.
Helping your preschooler understand death will help them cope better. If you do not explain death to them in simple, honest terms, they will be left to imagine what has happened. These thoughts can often be scarier than the truth.
Your preschool child may not understand the concept of “forever.” They may think that death will only last for a short time. Or they may think that people who die return soon.
Your child might also believe that he has done something to cause the death.
Use concrete words such as “dead” and clear wording, like “her body stopped working.”
Avoid phrases such as “passed away,” “gone to sleep,” or “taken to a better place.” They are hard for a preschooler to understand.
Remember to include your religious beliefs when you discuss death with your child.
However, avoid saying that God “took someone to be with him.” Your child may begin to fear that God will take them away, too.
Your child might have many questions about death. Be sure to answer those questions honestly, using words they can understand.
Here are some questions your preschool child might ask when a family member or friend has died.
Use clear language when answering this question.
“Dead” means that the person’s body stopped working. Their heart stopped beating, and they do not breathe anymore. They do not see, hear, feel, or move anymore.
Keep in mind: Children who are told that death is like sleeping may develop fears of going to sleep and not waking up.
Death is different from sleeping. When you are sleeping, your body still works. You still breathe, your heart beats, and your body can still move. When a person dies, their body stops working.
Young children often do not understand that a dead person no longer has feelings.
You may need to tell your child many times that the person’s body does not work anymore, and that he does not breathe, move, talk, or feel anymore.
“Forever” is a hard concept for a young child to understand.
You may need to tell your child many times that the person will not ever come back.
It is very common for preschool children to feel at fault for death. Your child may have had a fight with the person who died and may have wished that person would go away before the death.
It is important to reassure your child that nothing he could have said or done caused the person to die. Thoughts and words cannot make people die.
Every child responds to death in their own way. These are some of the most common preschool reactions:
Reviewed: September 2022