What is the acceptable age to start talking about death?

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Patricia - posted on 03/12/2009

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Well, I teach 1st grade, and it was in my science guide that said (we were studying guppies & snails) that when one of the died, it was a good segway to bring up death.  I'm not sure if this can help.

Pattie - posted on 03/12/2009

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The acceptable time is when they start asking questions about it.  Keep answers simple; no long drawn out explainations are needed.  Young children don't have the attention span.

Amy - posted on 03/10/2009

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When my daugher died last August, (at 3 1/2 years old), I was so amazed by how all of our very young neices, nephews, cousins, and friends' children handled it.  They had followed her story throughout her treatment (she had stage IV Neuroblastoma) and had been supporting us during her journey.  My own son is 2, and he has handled things remarkably well. 



 



As others have posted, it is very important not to use euphemisms (like "sleeping" or "in a better place") when it comes to getting them to understand what death means.  Talking about feelings, allowing them to express themselves and validating those feelings is also key.  I've been so impressed with the kids who continue to express their support of our family, how proud they are to have known Arden (our daughter), and how inspired they have been (many have held fundraising events for childhood cancer.)



 



Each time I hear a story from parents about a child who remembers and talks about Arden, who visits her final resting place and leaves treasures behind, or who is brave for a doctor's visit or hospital stay because of her story, I am filled with great awe and love.  I not only admire the children, but also the parents for being so courageous and open to share her story with them.

Nancy - posted on 03/09/2009

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We just lost my 32 year old cousin at the end of Jan.  I have 3 girls and when I found out she was dying I told them she was very sick and I was very sad, because I did not want to hide my sadness from them or lie to them.  After she passed away we sat down together with a box of tissues and I told them she had died.  I answered any questions they had as honestly as I could, while trying to keep it on their level.  We cried together and talked about how it is okay to feel sad because we miss the person who is gone.  I then talked to them about feelings and how it is okay to feel whatever feelings they are feeling, but they need to act appropriately even while having big feelings.  (It is okay to feel angry but not okay to act ugly, etc.) 



They all understood at their level.  My 3 1/2 year old does not understand it as well as my almost 8 year old, but they both understood at their level of understanding.



I try to let my girls understand that feelings are okay to have and that we need to allow ourselves to feel them and then move on to the next feelings.  My grandmother kept her feelings to herself and then told her children that they shouldn't feel they way they felt (you shouldn't feel sad, you shouldn't feel angry, etc.) so they all kept their feelings inside and they all have some trouble handling feelings even today.  I don't want that to happen to my girls!



Good luck!  Dealing with loss is hard!

C - posted on 03/06/2009

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My experience is that there's really no lower limit, the only thing that matters is to sort of keeping it on level that the child can comprehend. With that I mean that it is important to talk about "death" as "death" and not through far fetched metaphors.



Through my job I've worked with kids ranging from months, through a few years and up that have taken part of death - either visiting a dying relative or following when the dead is taken farewell of. The real problem is not the kid, but all grown ups that have their own macabre ideas on death, and that more often than not in some misleading way want to protect the kid from The Unmentionable (where "detah" as a phenomena seems to be very problematic, and therefore Unmentionable, for many adults).



A Norwegian professor in clinical psychology has done some quite extensive writing on the subject of small children, grief and death. His name is Atle Dyregrov and he works at the University of Bergen. Beside science he's been involved in training teachers and parents, as well as guiding schools etc, in case of emergencies and deaths. His writings are published in English if I remember correctly, and he's quite easy to read.



Sincerely,



Harmony - posted on 03/03/2009

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My brother passed away and my 4 year old is always saying "uncle Zach" died.  He says this with a lot of sadness in his voice.  I think he understands that uncle Zach is gone.  However, I don't think he understands that "death" is forever.

Harmony - posted on 03/03/2009

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My brother passed away and my 4 year old is always saying "uncle Zach" died.  He says this with a lot of sadness in his voice.  I think he understands that uncle Zach is gone.  However, I don't think he understands that "death" is forever.

Harmony - posted on 03/03/2009

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My brother passed away and my 4 year old is always saying "uncle Zach" died.  He says this with a lot of sadness in his voice.  I think he understands that uncle Zach is gone.  However, I don't think he understands that "death" is forever.

Harmony - posted on 03/03/2009

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My brother passed away and my 4 year old is always saying "uncle Zach" died.  He says this with a lot of sadness in his voice.  I think he understands that uncle Zach is gone.  However, I don't think he understands that "death" is forever.

Harmony - posted on 03/03/2009

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My brother passed away and my 4 year old is always saying "uncle Zach" died.  He says this with a lot of sadness in his voice.  I think he understands that uncle Zach is gone.  However, I don't think he understands that "death" is forever.

Holly - posted on 03/02/2009

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They both understand that people go to heaven, but they don't fully understand!!!  They think we can call and visit heaven...and come back!  I had to go to a wake last week and  I told them I was going to say goodbye to a friend that went to heaven.  One thought the angels were going to bring me to heaven to say goodbye and the other thought I was going to call heaven to talk to my friend!

Sarah-Beth - posted on 03/02/2009

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When my daughter was 3, I took her to a wake (my friend's grandmother). She wanted to see the body, so I let her. Then I went to the funeral by myself because I thought it would be better that way. Later she asked where I was, I told her I went to the funeral. She asked where grandma was, I explained she was in the ground. For months later, she was afraid to walk at the park because she was afraid she was going to step on grandma. So handle it carefully!

Holly - posted on 03/02/2009

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Thank you for your response Amy!! I have two;ages 41/2 and 6. The 6 yr old seems to understand..somewhat, but I am not sure about the 4 1/2 yr old.  I unfortunately lost two people within a wk, and am obviously sad.  I just want to know what I can say if and when they notice.  I don't want them to be sad for me.

Amy - posted on 03/02/2009

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My grandpa passed away a couple weeks ago. My 4 1/2 year old fully comprehends it. We told her that grandpa died and was in heaven. I know she understands it because yesterday we were at my parents' house. She was telling her great grandmother that grandpa's daddy was in heaven and she asked her who else was and she said grandma's daddy and other relatives that have passed away. We had no idea that she fully understood it, but it seems she does.

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