When is it appropriate to start talking to children about death? As soon as a child is able to understand what you say – and ideally before an actual death occurs in the family, suggests Kay Johnson, Director of Griefworks B.C.
Opportunities to introduce the subject are all around us, she says. For instance, think about occasions when you and your child spot a dead bug on the sidewalk, throw out a dead plant, see a dead animal on the side of the road, read a book or watch a show where death is mentioned, or look through old photos of relatives who have passed away. All can be triggers for discussing the topic and addressing a child’s normal questions and fears.
“We need to get children comfortable talking about death,” says Johnson. “If we wait until someone dies, we have to deal with not only that, but the discomfort of introducing a foreign concept.”