Talking with Children About Death

August, 2019



The Do's and Don'ts of Talking with a Child about Death: Parenting tips to help grieving children, by Deborah Serani, Psy.D.


This short article has two lists (what to do and what not to do). I wish the author had gone into more depth about why each recommendation is made, but I basically agree with her.

From The Center for Parenting Education


This article provides more information about why each point is important. It also contains several references to other resources, and a list of words associated with death, along with definitions of terms related to death, to use with children.


How to Talk to Kids About Death, Step by Step

It will never be easy telling your young child that a loved one or a pet has died, but grief specialists suggest this step-by-step advice for laying the groundwork now.  

By Lisa Milbrand


As the opening blurb above indicates, this article explains how you can have preparatory conversations about life and death before someone close to you dies, based upon everyday occurrences, such as a plant dying, a piece of fruit rotting, or a dead creature that you might come upon. (like a butterfly, or a worm). It then goes on to discuss how to approach the death of a loved one.


How to Talk to Kids About Death


This is a nice follow-up to the previous article. It might relieve you, as it points out how much children probably already know about the concept of death, and addresses common difficulties in discussing death. It also includes a developmental timeline of how children understand death at different stages.


Dealing With Death


Yay for Mr. Rogers! This article covers much of the same ground as the ones above, and also has a section on the range of responses that children might have, depending on their developmental stage, personality, and how much they already understand.


Talking To Children About Death


This article makes the connection between how the adults in your life responded to death when you were a child, and how you feel about it and respond to it now. It points out that talking with your children about death is a loving thing to do, but asserts that you must assess the way you feel about it and deal with it now before you have conversations about death with your children.


Talking About Death With Children

Helpful quotes from an out-of-print booklet, “Talking With Young Children About Death” by Hedda Bluestone Sharapan, M.S., the assistant producer of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood; plus other helpful websites and a list of books.


Radio & Podcasts


The Dog Isn't Sleeping: How To Talk With Children About Death


This link will take you to multiple resources: it includes an article and a related seven-minute Morning Edition piece by Cory Turner. He presents lessons from Sesame Street’s famous Thanksgiving Day episode, when Big Bird finds out that the beloved Mr. Hooper has died.


It also provides an embedded link to an episode of the podcast Parenting: Difficult Conversations called, Death: Talking With Kids About The End, which you can subscribe to. (there are also links to episodes on other tricky topics!)



You Tube


Mr. Rogers talks about the death of his dog


This short talk could be a model for you!



Big Bird Learns About Death

This is that famous Sesame Street episode mentioned above.

Books and a few more general resources about supporting children when a loved one dies


• Badger’s Parting Gifts, by Susan Varley. Badger’s friends are sad when he dies, but they treasure the legacies he left them.


• Everett Anderson's Goodbye by Lucille Clifton. This short book describes Everett Anderson moving through the five stages of grief after his father's death.


• The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages by Leo Buscaglia. A story that compares the lifespan of a leaf through the seasons to the journey of the human life cycle from one life to the next.


• Good Grief: Helping Groups of Children When a Friend Dies by Sandra Sutherland Fox. A highly recommended classic.


• Help Me Say Goodbye: Activities for Helping Kids Cope When A Special Person Dies, by Janis Silverman. An art therapy and activity book for children coping with the death of someone they love. Sensitive exercises address all the questions children may have during this emotional and troubling time.


I Remember Miss Perry by Pat Brisson. A story about grieving over the death of a teacher.


• Lifetimes: The beautiful way to explain death to children by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen. Explains to children how everything has a beginning and an end and that life happens in between. Done very simply, making it easier for young children to understand.


• The 10th Good Thing About Barney, by Judith Viorst. “My cat Barney died this Friday. I was very sad. My mother said we could have a funeral for him, and I should think of ten things about Barney so I could tell them....” But the small boy who loved Barney can only think of nine. Later, while talking with his father, he discovers the tenth and begins to understand.


• Sad Isn’t Bad: A Good-Grief Guidebook for Kids Dealing With Loss by Michaelene Mundy. Loaded with positive, life-affirming advice for coping with loss as a child, this guide tells children what they need to know after a loss – that the world is still safe; life is good; hurting hearts do mend.


• Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing after Loss by Pat Schwiebert, a nurse working in the area of bereavement for over 30 years. It is a picture book but geared more to older children and adults than to young kids.


• Waterbugs and Dragonflies: Explaining Death to Children by Doris Stickney. A story for children which compares the mystery of death with the metamorphosis of the waterbug to a dragonfly, with helpful suggestions for parents from the author.


Goodbye Mousie, by Robie H. Harris


The Memory Box: A Book About Grief, by Joanna Rowland.


Everett Anderson’s Goodbye, by Lucille Clifton.


Saying Goodbye to Daddy, by Judith Vigna.


Something Very Sad Happened: A Toddler’s Guide to Understanding Death, by Bonnie Zucker.


The Funeral, by Matt Jones.


Missing Mommy, by Roberta Cobb.


When a Pet Dies, by Fred Rogers


Jasper’s Day, by Marjorie Blain Parker.


Is Daddy Coming Back in a Minute? by Elke and Alex Barber.


The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, by Judith Viorst.


Lifetimes: The beautiful way to explain death to children, by Brynn Mellonie and Robert Ingpen.


Finding Grandpa Everywhere, by John Hodge.



Here is a link to the google search I did for books on this topic:



From Family Education, a list of 12 books for children that help explain tragedies and death:



The Dougy Center provides support for grieving children and teens:



Here’s a brochure from Dying on how to talk to children about death:


From Kids Health: you can read or listen to this article.

Helping Your Child Deal With Death