How To Talk To Your Kids About Suicide Based On Age

How to speak to your child about suicide: Age-Based Guidance

Explaining Death to Children: Do’s and Don’ts


  • How to explain things to children:
    • Use concrete terms like, “death.”
    • Do NOT say going “bye-bye” or “going to sleep” as these terms will cause anxiety every time you or her father go bye-bye or when your child goes to bed.
    • Explain that death means that their body stopped working. They may not quite understand it yet developmentally, but it is important to be very concrete and short with your explanations. 
    • Be prepared for your child to ask where their loved one is or when will they see their loved one again. This is due to not understanding the permanency of death yet and they probably won’t truly grasp the permanency until adolescence.  
  • Common Reactions:
    • These are some common reactions to loss/change in this age group:
      • Being clingy
      • Sleeping more or less than usual
      • Crying more easily
      • Attachment regression
      • Toileting regression
  • Remember to model your grief. Your child may not fully understand what is happening, but they will pick up on every emotion and tension that you are feeling, and this will influence their behavior as well.
  • Try to keep other changes to a minimum during this time. Daily routines, structure is imperative for them right now.
  • Memorial Services:
    • Include your child.
    • Explain the memorial services you are going to plan.
    • Provide them with information on what they can expect at the service. 
      • “You may see people who are sad or crying.”
      • If there is an open casket, and you decide to allow them to see their loved one, it is important that you do so privately with your partner and reiterate what death means.
    • Allow them to participate
    • Draw a picture to put up during the service
    • Pick out flowers to have at the front of the service
    • Help them light a candle
  • Grieving/Memorializing:
    • Make a memory box together where they can out things that will remind them of their loved one- pictures, drawings, notes, etc. Allow them to decorate the box. Explain it is a way to always remember their loved one.