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  • Category: Parenting

    How do we explain death to a 5 year old?

    Finding it difficult to explain what death is and its associated grief to a small child? Get expert parenting advice on how to deal with such a situation.

    Recently there was a bereavement in a neighbor's house and the little boy was told that the person has gone to see God. Over the last week, I felt sorry for the little fellow, he knows that something is not correct and he's carrying on with his normal activities.

    I'm sure he'll be asking questions at his home about the absence of family member during pooja and other times.

    My question is how do we explain, these things to small children. If we try to tell in real terms, they may have fear/nightmares, may not understand. Elders at home might be annoyed as to why we need to discuss such inauspicious things.

    Or, should we just allow nature's way, with time they would learn themselves.
  • Answers

    9 Answers found.
  • Children would have more attachment to every members of the family and even one bereavement would shake them very much. For the age of child at 5, the word death may be unknown factor, but again he may have the sense that some thing has gone wrong as there would scores of visitors to the house and the rituals that takes place would bring him enough doubts. But elders in the family should manage or divert the attention of the child or the neighbour or relative must take away the boy for some time and then reveal the real happening one day based the maturity of the child .

    K Mohan
    'Idhuvum Kadandhu Pogum "
    Even this challenging situation would ease

  • This is what elders do. They say God has called the person up.
    But I try to keep this as raw and true as possible. So I normally say "stopped breathing".
    Children shouldn't know the true meaning of death but at the same time without knowing about death they'll have no fear. We must hence teach children about death in a very young age.

    Schools nowadays are including topics like mummification into 1st class syllabus .
    This makes children curious about death.
    They'll be able to learn without feeling bad this way.

    The stronger a light shines the darker are the shadows around it.

  • One day or other they will come to know about the death that happened in the house. So it is always advisable to tell them the fact but in such a way that they will understand the issue that the person will not come back. These days the kids are also very intelligent and they will be seeing these deaths and related matters on TVs and smartphones. So I think we need not worry that much about how to tell them. They themselves will understand the issue.

    always confident

  • The fact may be explained to the child in the manner how the child can understand. All the details may be made known to the child , including the meaning of death in a manner that the child can understand. May be examples from animals, like dogs or cats, which are around could be shown. Of course the child' s age is a factor based on that only the explanation will help. Explanations based on actual are always better than telling 'God has called' like explanations.


  • This is a really tough question. The opinion will be different because every person judges this question from his/her own perspective. I would explain death to a child as permanent sleep. I would say that after completing the assigned tasks, the person has gone to permanent sleep.

    The next natural question would be: "Then why are all crying?" I would explain that the relatives are crying because they won't be able to get the company of the sleeping person's company.

    "If you are killed in action, you go to Heaven. If you win, you rule this Earth (as beautiful as Heaven). That is why, O son of Kunti, take a firm resolve and fight!"-- Shrimad Bhagwad Gita

  • Probably the the child would not be satisfied with my answer if I say that the old man whose lap gave you so much comfort is now no more or rather he has gone under permanent sleep. The child then would look around the prevailing situation where some ladies and gents are crying loudly and such bizarre behaviour is not acceptable to him if a man is under deep sleep.
    He has been told earlier that one should not make any sound if someone sleeps. He looks at me with disbelief even though I tried my best to convince him.
    The child is pretty sure that his beloved would not hug him in the next time.

  • Before we make an attempt to explain Death to someone (even a child), we should first ask ourselves – Do I myself know the truth? Do I know what Death really is?

    Probably, what will all know is just the concept given to us. Death could be considered as the culmination of your physical body or a state of deep sleep or a door to a new life. It could be anything.

    And therefore, no matter what we explain to a child, it is bound to be a lie. And if one really has to give an explanation, at least explain it in a manner which motivates the child and reinforces his faith in God & Higher Powers.

    The True explanation will come to him at the right time

    "If you want to make real progress, you must give up all ideas of personal attainment".

  • The only advantage of them being kids is that, they will forget the matter quite soon. So, all you have to do, is manage the current scenario.
    It is only coping with the absence of the deceased person, that we find it even more difficult.
    So, at the best we can tell them, the person is called by God, and for a long time we won't be able to see him/her around.
    If the kid asks further questions, like will he/she come back, or when will he return, we have to say, that "no, we only can meet him, when God will call us one by one, and we don't know when that will happen and where god has kept him. So, we can't meet him/he as per our wish, that is why we all are feeling sad, and crying."
    If they happen to see the dead person, and ask about the lack of response in him/her, you can explain, when God calls, the person goes in deep sleep and cannot respond.

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