How Should We Explain A Death In The Family To Our Toddler?

Explaining a death in the family to your toddler can be extremely difficult. Your toddler is still at the stage where he is still trying to understand much of the world around him. Talking to your toddler about death can be difficult even when there has not been a death in the family; it can be especially difficult when there has been a death in the family. You may be trying to deal with your own grief, and this can affect the way that you talk to your toddler about death.

Even toddlers are regularly exposed to death. There is death in their bedtime stories and in the movies. Even walking down the street or in the yard, they will occasionally see a dead bug or bird or animal. Still, toddlers don’t naturally understand what it is that death means. They have a hard time understanding words like “never” and “forever.” It is hard for a toddler to understand that death is something that is permanent. On top of all of this, toddlers have very little if any awareness of their own mortality, that death is something that they themselves one day will experience.

A toddler might react to a death in the family in a variety of ways. He might regress in his behavior, or he may act out. Then again, he might not react much at all. He might cry uncontrollably because he can’t be with grandma, or he might act as though grandma had never existed. Children process death in their own way and at their own pace.

One of the things that you can do when explaining a death in the family to your toddler is to show her your own emotions. It is important for her to see how grief works, and how a death can affect a person or a family. Don’t overburden her with your emotions, but don’t hide them from her either.

Short, simplistic answers are best for toddlers when explaining a death in the family. In fact, when trying to explain any complicated subject to a toddler, this tends to be the best approach. It is important that you don’t try to pass on too much in the way of information all at once. By describing death in this way, a child can put it in real terms.

If your toddler has experienced the death of one of his parents, this can be particularly difficult. Your toddler might have concerns about who will take care of him. If grandpa used to take him fishing, he might be worried that he won’t ever be able to fish again. Make an effort to comfort his fears, and explain that there will always be someone to take care of him.

It is also important to communicate your religious beliefs to your toddler when there has been a death in the family. Rather than launching into a long theological discussion about heaven, you can tell her that we will miss the person who has died, but that the person is with God in heaven and we will see the person again someday.


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