How should death be explained to children?

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Death; It is a difficult phenomenon for everyone to accept. When it comes to children, explaining the concept of “death” makes it harder for adults. This situation for children; According to the appropriate age range, it should be explained in the most basic way he can understand and in the most realistic way. When death is hidden from the child and not told, the child will begin to fill in the blanks in his head and his anxiety will increase. If he learns the right information from his relatives, it will be easy for him to accept the situation.

0-6 Months

The child realizes that the caregivers around him are sad.

There may be disturbances in eating and sleeping patterns due to the stress that occurs after the loss.

6Month-2 Years

The child does not realize that death is missing and asks questions about the deceased.

He may be angry that the dead person does not come back, do not play with him, he may think that he has left him, that he has left.

He does not want to leave his caregivers, he may think that if he leaves, he will leave him.

2-6 Years

He asks questions about the deceased.

Anger may occur due to the absence of the deceased person.

In cartoons, he can tell what he will do together by believing that the deceased will come again, like the resurrection of the deceased character in the games.

Preschoolers have magical thoughts. “Did he die because I thought so?” They may blame themselves or believe that they can bring back the deceased by praying and making wishes. They can take gifts and toys to the cemetery.

6-9 Years

They begin to understand that death is an end.

Emotions such as anger/anger may occur.

They should be allowed to experience their sadness/stress.


They know that death is an end and there is no going back.

They perceive death as adults.

They seek answers to philosophical questions such as “What is life?”, “Who am I”, “What is death”, “What happens after death?”

Nothing will happen to me, the feeling that death happens to other people may occur.

What should we pay attention to when talking about death to a child?

Usually, the child can understand from the attitude of the person in front of him that something is wrong. If this situation is kept a secret and no explanation is given to the child, he or she may see the event as “a situation to hide” and his fear and anxiety may increase. Children see the news of many accidents and deaths on television, they can witness the death of their pets, or they may encounter a dead bird or cat on the street and accept it naturally.

Children internalize what you convey to them nonverbally from your demeanor rather than your words. While the death is being told to the child, if the narrator’s anxiety is intense, the child may internalize the anxiety. Generally, families can project their own death-related fear schemas to children, as a result of which the child’s anxiety and fear schema can be triggered.

The child is about death: “Will I die?”, “Will you die?”, “Did he die because I misbehaved?” or “Did he die because I wished?” You can ask questions such as Asking questions and expressing their feelings are important for a healthy grieving process. Finding understandable answers to the questions he asks will reduce his anxiety. In addition, the child may feel sad and cry after the news of death, these feelings are very normal, just as adults go through the grieving process, children also go through the grieving process after losing a close person.

When the news of death is given to the child, the family’s explanation according to their belief alleviates anxiety and fear. Statements such as “This world is over, the next world begins, life continues there, we will not be able to see it in this world anymore” reduce the occurrence of anxiety in children. If the person does not believe in the afterlife, it is told that death is an end, that the deceased can no longer see or hear or speak.

Sometimes, children do not react to your stories because they cannot fully internalize the concept of death or to deny this situation, they continue their games from where they left off, they may act as if nothing happened, in this case try to understand what your child is going through.

Sudden changes in the child’s life such as room, home, school, city should be avoided, and the old order should be continued.

What Not to Tell a Child About Death

The rhetoric “People are born, grow up, grow old, die” may cause fear of growing up and dying, refusing to eat in order not to grow up, or feeling sad because they think their grandparents are getting old and will die.

Discourses such as “God wanted it so”, “God takes his loved ones with him quickly” about death to the child who has not completed the abstract period, “God killed the person I love”, “What did he do, why did he take him with him”, “If God loves me too, me too, I will take my other loved ones with him, I will not do good, I will do mischief so that God will not take me with him” and this may change the child’s view of religion.

Alternative sentences used instead of the concept of death confuse the child more and trigger the formation of anxiety. Statements such as “He went to heaven, it’s beautiful there, good people go to heaven, and he’s in heaven now” can be confusing for a child who doesn’t know the concept of heaven-hell. The thought of “since heaven is so beautiful, let’s die and go there” may occur.

Statements such as “He became an angel, he is watching you from the clouds” can trigger the anxiety of being watched.

If it means “He got sick and died”, “He got sick and could not recover”; It reinforces the child’s anxiety that “if I get sick, I will die too”. Therefore, it should be conveyed that not every disease results in death, but that mild illnesses are cured after taking our medication and being treated.

Statements such as “He went on a long journey” also wait for the deceased person and “Why is he not coming?” , “Why did he leave me?” he may be angry with the deceased.

Discourses such as “sleeping in deep sleep” or “infinite sleep” can cause sleep disorders in children and reinforce anxiety.

Page content only for informational purposes , for diagnosis and treatment be sure to consult your doctor

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