Telling a 3 year old about a death in the family

A1944

Well-known Member
We have recently had a death in the family. She had several great grandchildren, including a 3 year old who, I gather, has not yet been told what has happened.

I have been asked for advice on how to approach it as he is obviously going to notice her absence at social occasions, but could well be too young to understand the concept of death.

I would be grateful for sensitively considered ideas please.
 

rousetafarian

Moderator
I expect it to go in one ear and out of the other, at 3 years old I wouldn’t even contemplate explaining it as they will not remember.

Who can remember anything from being 3 years old?
 

JimmyMac

Distinguished Member
There are some well written childrens books that can help, google will find plenty

For me, it's about being honest, kids pick up on things very easily

We lost a few family members before my daughter was 5 and we learnt to talk to her openly. She asked lots of questions, she got sad and cried on occasion but she understood.

She's ten now and still reminds us memories she has of pops ( father in law) and nanny win (my Nan). All fond and often funny memories

I don't like the idea of telling them they have gone away and such as it means they are always waiting for them to come back
 

nvingo

Distinguished Member
Cemetery, and family photos.
In the photos are grandparents, aunts, uncles etc, who we 'visit' at the cemetery, to celebrate their birthdays with gifts of flowers.
Now another family member is joining them here, and we'll be bringing flowers to her too.
 

Desmo

Distinguished Member
We often talk about death with our young daughter. Obviously she doesn’t really understand it really but nothing is taboo in our house. We’re pretty blunt with it as kids aren’t daft and they’re also way more resilient than we give them credit for.

On the flip side, she wondered if she could push some family members in to a crocodile infested river because wanted their dog, so maybe she does understand death.

I don’t know wether to be proud or scared.
 

King Tones

Distinguished Member
Just be honest, we had to tell our Daughter at the start of lockdown about a family friend that she would see every week that they had died. She was 3 at the time and took it well. She had questions but understood that they were old and got very poorly and she would not see them again.

She has mentioned it a few times since but she seems to be ok with it.

The hardest thing was having to tell her that her Aunt and Uncle had lost their baby at 22 weeks as she was very excited to have a cousin. That was a tough talk but still she understood and we answered all questions. We have always just been honest and seems to have worked so far.
 

oneman

Well-known Member
Honestly, don't lie. If you have any religious beliefs about what happens to their 'soul' then you might want to follow those.

Are you planning on taking them to the funeral ?
 

noiseboy72

Distinguished Member
Sorry for the loss.
I guess it partly depends upon how close the child was to the lady. If it was someone who she only rarely saw and had little emotional connection with, then it's probably a fairly easy discussion. You will probably need to repeat it a few times over the coming months, but as others have said, the 3 year old won't really process it. It's probably more to ensure the child doesn't say something to other relatives and reveals that you haven't said anything.

If however the child was close to the lady, then a more mature approach is needed, along with a discussion about life and death - religious if required, and to give some form of closure, such as a visit to the grave or internment. Again, the message might need to be repeated a few times, along with plenty of reassurance that the lady is at peace and did not suffer.

Children can overthink things and privately worry about things we as adults might not consider. Do allow and encourage the child to share anything they are worried about, so that they can rationalise their fears and not to build them up into something they're not.
 

A1944

Well-known Member
Thanks for the additional thoughts.

No, I understand that the parents are not taking him to the funeral, he will be at nursery (or similar) at the time.

She was fairly close to him. I think she used to see him every 2 or 3 weeks.

They are not religious.
 

JimmyMac

Distinguished Member
It's about the same as I mentioned above when my nan died, daughter was 3/4 as I recall and saw her at least twice a week.
 

Ilovewaffles

Well-known Member
We often talk about death with our young daughter. Obviously she doesn’t really understand it really but nothing is taboo in our house. We’re pretty blunt with it as kids aren’t daft and they’re also way more resilient than we give them credit for.

On the flip side, she wondered if she could push some family members in to a crocodile infested river because wanted their dog, so maybe she does understand death.

I don’t know wether to be proud or scared.
Sounds like something from Inside number 9!
 

shahedz

Distinguished Member
My mum passed away in July 2019 , 2 months before my sons 3rd birthday. My son still remembers her vividly. My daughter was 4 and a half at the time too .

We explained that gran had gone to the stars to be with grand dad as she was getting old and finding it hard here and that she was ready to go. We explained that the cemetery is her launch pad to the sky which is why we go there.

Watching Coco the Disney film was actually quite comforting , for all of us.
 

chief barker

Distinguished Member
I would exercise caution in telling the 3 year old child of a death. The child realising that life eventually comes to an end at a really young age can have a devastating affect on their young lives and consequently have a profound affect on their development throughout.

After all, they are the innocent years are they not?

I wish I was shielded from that.
 

DPinBucks

Distinguished Member
Two things most 3-year-olds have are resilience and a short attention span.

I would do what we did with our kids, and what they do with our grandkids:

Say something like "When people get old, they die, which means going away. Granny died because she was very old, so you won't be seeing her any more." The child may get upset for a while, but the main thing is not to let see that you're upset. There is no reason why it should escalate into a full-blown trauma.

Don't be surprised if a few weeks later she suddenly asks, "When is granny coming back?". The idea of permanence is a difficult one at that age.
 

morenish

Well-known Member
We have recently had a death in the family. She had several great grandchildren, including a 3 year old who, I gather, has not yet been told what has happened.

I have been asked for advice on how to approach it as he is obviously going to notice her absence at social occasions, but could well be too young to understand the concept of death.

I would be grateful for sensitively considered ideas please.
I’ve always tried to communicate with my children, by using their form and level of language, which obviously changes with time.

In your situation, I would do it now, but gradually and try to answer any questions that they may ask.

Best wishes to you,

Kind regards.
 

oneman

Well-known Member
I would exercise caution in telling the 3 year old child of a death. The child realising that life eventually comes to an end at a really young age can have a devastating affect on their young lives and consequently have a profound affect on their development throughout.

After all, they are the innocent years are they not?

I wish I was shielded from that.
You probably want to give them more credit about understanding life. Death of family, pets and even on TV is something they all get exposed to and rather then let them be confused and scared it better to explain and involve. As mentioned children are pretty resilient.
 

ashenfie

Well-known Member
Two things most 3-year-olds have are resilience and a short attention span.

I would do what we did with our kids, and what they do with our grandkids:

Say something like "When people get old, they die, which means going away. Granny died because she was very old, so you won't be seeing her any more." The child may get upset for a while, but the main thing is not to let see that you're upset. There is no reason why it should escalate into a full-blown trauma.

Don't be surprised if a few weeks later she suddenly asks, "When is granny coming back?". The idea of permanence is a difficult one at that age.
I think it all about phases the what phase and the why phase are painful. Really a 3 year old has no understanding and I would simply talk about the person in the past tense. If they child ask why simply say xxx is with the angels and move on.

After about five when you hold memories for all your life something more would be needed.
 

Sloppy Bob

Distinguished Member
My friends kids, when they were about 4+5, lost their grandpa who they saw pretty much daily.

It had little effect on them.

A couple of years later their rabbit died and they were inconsolable, bad dreams etc.

I'd keep it simple, but as others have said I wouldn't really expect too much other than some simple questions.
 
Last edited:

A1944

Well-known Member
I saw the youngster a few days ago in a social setting with his parents and gran (a pub garden) and though the deceased old lady would have been there, but was not (of course), he made no comment about her absence.

So hopefully best left to a later time.
 
Last edited:

The latest video from AVForums

Paramount + UK launch: Halo, Star Trek and Beavis, and all the latest 4K + Movie/TV News
Subscribe to our YouTube channel

Latest News

Netflix confirms ad-supported option is on the way
  • By Ian Collen
  • Published
Rotel announces 60th Anniversary Diamond Series Hi-Fi duo
  • By Ian Collen
  • Published
Paramount+ launches in the UK and Ireland
  • By Ian Collen
  • Published
Hisense launches A9H 4K OLED TV
  • By Ian Collen
  • Published
What's new on UK streaming services for July 2022
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published

Full fat HDMI teeshirts

Support AVForums with Patreon

Top Bottom