Talking About Death and Difficult Subjects
Preschoolers and early elementary children are very interested in talking about death and difficult subjects. Typically, children will ask parents a variation of one of these questions:
- Why did the insect die?
- Did my cat go to cat heaven? Can I see her?
- I know great grandpa was very old and sick? Why did he die? Where did he go? Will I see him again?
- Will you die soon?
A Parent’s Response
When asked these questions, parents are typically overwhelmed about how to simply answer the question. When their great grandparents died, we told our preschoolers and early elementary grandkids that their great grandparents were very sick for a long time and that they died from old age and being very sick. We assured them that we would not die tomorrow and are taking very good care of ourselves. We also do not project fear and were very loving about the fun times the grandkids shared with the older relative.
Talking About Feelings
Sometimes, however, children lose their parent at a very young age and the entire family is traumatized from this very sad situation. Children should be reassured with love throughout this difficult time. They should be encouraged to talk about their feelings of sadness, grief, fear, and despair. Families should celebrate the happy times they have shared with each other. Parents can purchase an age appropriate book or go to the library for a book about understanding the death of a friend or family member. When their great grandparents died, the preschoolers and early elementary great grandchildren attended the memorial services and sang a song that was shared over generations. Even if it has been several years, the great grandchildren remember visiting their sick great grandparents in the hospital and talking to their family about the memorial.
Sometimes families plant a tree or go to a special place to remember their loved family members. I still go to a particular ice cream shop in memory of happy times with my family. The grandkids treasure these moments. It is a wonderful way to respect a family member’s memories!
Copyright © 2018 by GenParenting
Mary Ann Burke, Ed.D., Digital Education Expert, is a substitute distance learning teacher for Oak Grove School District in San Jose, California and the author of STUDENT-ENGAGED ASSESSMENT: Strategies to Empower All Learners (Rowman & Littlefield: 2020). Dr. Burke creates digital language arts and substitute teaching K – 12 activities for teachers and parents. She is the Cofounder of the Genparenting.com blog. Burke is the former Director II of Categorical & Special Projects for the Santa Clara County Office of Education that supports 31 school districts serving 272,321 students in Santa Clara County. She is also a previous Director – State & Federal Compliance for Oakland Unified School District, the former Director – Grantwriter for the Compton Unified School District, and was the initial VISTA Director for the Community Partnership Coalition in southern California. Much of her work focuses on creating innovative digital trainings and partnership programs for teachers and families to support students’ learning. These programs were featured as a best practice at a National Title I Conference, California’s Title I Conferences, AERA Conferences, an ASCD Conference, the NASSP Conference, and statewide educator conferences.