Explaining Death to Children

Losing an infant is devastating for the entire family. This loss can be particularly challenging for children. When a baby dies the adults in their lives are often unavailable emotionally as they struggle with their own grief. A child’s daily routines are completely disrupted. Most of all, a sibling they looked forward to for so long is suddenly gone. Explaining this type of loss to a child is extremely difficult. It is particularly challenging to engage very young children who do not yet have an understanding of what death is.  It is common for adults to struggle to know how much information a child can handle and what exactly to tell them.

When speaking to children about the death of a sibling, family member or friend here are some helpful guidelines that experts recommend:

  • Avoid saying things like the baby “went to sleep”
  • Be honest, open and clear. While being gentle you need to give them all the information they are able to process.
  • Be nurturing, reassuring and predictable for the child. This helps them feel secure and guides them through their grief.
  • Be prepared that you may need to discuss the same details over and over again. It’s normal to hear the same question repetitively.
  • Never avoid the topic when the child brings it up. Adults need to be available when the child is ready and willing to talk. Avoid pushing them into a conversation if they are not ready.
  • Take advantage of resources available to you. There are trained professionals that specialize in childhood grief that can help both you and your child.

Below is a list of books that can help explain death to children

Books specific to SIDS loses

Other books

Workbooks/Activity Books to Help Children Express Emotions