Yes, some of these questions are very tough and come out of the blue. But, take a breathe and take your time in answering the question.
You want your answers to be age-appropriate, so keep your responses simple and concise rather than long and detailed. Only focus on giving information that your child needs.
In some cases, your child might be asking the question due to some underlying fear. If there’s a fear or some other reason for the question, you’ll want to address that. For example, if your child asks why people die, they may be fearful of their own death or of a loved one dying.
It may help to ask your child what they think the answer is, which may give you some insight into the reason behind the question.
There will be times when you just have no answer for a question that your child asks, and that’s ok. Even if you don’t know the answer, your child only needs to know that you’re interested in the question they are asking.
How do I explain to my children that my mom and dad died? How do I explain why her daddy’s mom and dad come to visit her, but she’s never even met mine? Do they not love her?
It has always been important to me that my children “know” my mom and dad. My parents would have been amazing grandparents, so simply acting as if they don’t exist was never an option in my mind.
Don’t Over Complicate Things: I keep my answers simple. Going into too much detail or getting too complex will only confuse your child.
Don’t Hide Your Emotions: Learning that it’s okay to express your emotions is important for children. They need to know that their feelings are valid. That being said, you don’t want to completely break down in front of your child. That will just scare them, and also make them uncomfortable with discussing difficult topics with you in the future. Be strong for your child, but that doesn’t mean you can’t shed some tears while expressing that it sometimes makes you feel sad.
Understand That This Is Not A “One and Done” Conversation: You’ll have to explain this more than once, and the topic will come up again (and again). Don’t get frustrated with them. Death is a confusing concept for most people to grasp, especially young children.
Know That You Don’t Need To Be Perfect: Don’t expect perfection from yourself, especially not with this. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you could have answered something better. The opportunity will arise again. No one is perfect. Not even us moms!
Keep The Loved One’s Memory Alive: Share stories about your loved ones that have passed away that make you smile and laugh. It helps to develop the ability to grieve in a healthy manner. When someone dies, the time that they spent here on earth and the memories they left behind still matter. All of the goodness that they brought into the world does not go forgotten.
I hope this helps you feel better equipped to have those tricky conversations with your child about death. How we approach these conversations can have lasting impacts on our children and how they process and react to challenges and hardships in life. The simple fact that you’re taking the time to learn and prepare for these conversations shows what a phenomenal parent you are. Keep up the good work!
Founder of mom-thoughts.com
My 4-year-old asked me this the other day, and it definitely took me by surprise. However, the preschool years are the time of asking “why” in general, because they want to understand the world better. Also, kids at this age start to see death on tv, as cartoon characters die or people die. So, developmentally, these types of questions are normal at this age.
When confronted with this question, you don’t want to just brush off these questions even if they make you uncomfortable. However, I’d suggest not going into too much detail about the answer to this question, so be simple and concise.
I believe the best answer to this question is to be honest, but also positive. For example, you emphasize how you are going to live the best life you can, eat healthy, exercise, and will be with your child for a long, long time. If something does happen, assure them that it likely won’t happen for a while and that they will be old enough to take care of themselves.
Again, this is something my 4-year-old asked, and I immediately felt a bit guilty. I do work long hours at times because I’m in healthcare and have worked 12-hour shifts. I try to explain to her that it’s something I need to do for the family and that I’m always happy to see her when I get home. In addition, I’ve called her when I can on my breaks, so we can talk to each other and I can let her know that I will be home as soon as I can. I’ve also thought about giving her something of mine she can wear, so she feels closer to me while I’m gone at work.
Kids will hear about terrifying events through the news or on tv shows. Thus, they may wonder if the same thing may happen to them. My daughter has asked this question, and I tell her I will do everything I can to protect her. I also tell her that we have locks on the doors and windows and that we can call 911 if someone were to ever try to hurt us.
We may be baffled when our children come up with tough questions out of nowhere. However, with some general guidelines and by being honest and open, we can help our children understand the world a bit better. I hope these strategies and potential answers help you answer your child’s questions.