"Where's your grandpa?" my three-year-old asked me one day, looking at a picture of my grandfather, who passed a way a couple of years before she was born. I could see that my five-year-old was looking at me intently. We've had this discussion before; she knew what my answer would be. But because she hasn't quite processed the information, she listens closely whenever we talk about a family member who's deceased.
Teaching children about death is a lesson that many parents put off for as long as possible. But even children who have never experienced loss eventually notice that living things die. They may notice dead bugs on the sidewalk, a bird in their yard. Or they may notice that family members are missing. And eventually, they start asking questions. It's a really hard bubble to burst, and parents often feel uncomfortable introducing their children to such a difficult topic. BabyCenter has some excellent tips for parents of young children who find themselves stumbling over these kinds of honest conversations. One of the more important things to remember is that preschoolers are very concrete in their knowledge, so telling them that a beloved pet or family member "went to sleep" or "went away" may cause more confusion and alarm. Instead, says BabyCenter, stick to the simple and age-appropriate facts.
There's advice for parents of children at any age who are dealing with or who have questions about loss. These are never easy conversations to have, but children will find comfort in the words of honest parents who take the time to help them explore this difficult issue.