Life Lessons: Talking about Life and Death

For every parent, I think there are three hairy questions we have to face at some stage of our children’s lives: death, where babies come from, and religion. When Gavin first raised the question about death, I had been ill-equipped to deal with it. Since then, I’ve found an excellent book that talks about death and helps children understand it by Pat Thomas titled: “I Miss You: A First Look at Death“.

I have read it a few times to Gavin and it seems to have resolved his questions and issues about death because he hasn’t asked about it again since. He also seems to have come to terms with the idea that everyone eventually dies when we get old and that it isn’t something to be afraid of.

I thought we were successfully through this topic when we were talking about my grandfather in the car because we were on the way to his birthday dinner. We touched on the topic that Great Grandpa was really old and then Gavin pipes up with, “If Great Grandpa is really old, that means he’s going to die soon.”

Luckily he only said that in the car and to our own ears. Although we’d talked to him about life and death, we forgot to cover the etiquette about talking about death. In Chinese culture talking about someone old dying is very rude because of the superstition and belief surrounding the topic. Talking about someone dying is like wishing for them to die (almost). So it isn’t something you should say. We all know that people die, we just don’t talk about specific people dying unless they have already passed away.

What are some of your experiences talking about life and death with your child?

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

3 thoughts on “Life Lessons: Talking about Life and Death

  1. Few months back my gal said “mummy I don’t wanna grow up….” I thought it was because she didn’t want to start goig to school. Finally there was once I asked why. She said “Because I don’t want you to grow old.” I asked again “why?” she said “because I don’t want you to die” immediately tears glistened down my cheek.
    It’s hard for even us, grown-ups to deal with goodbyes in life, let alone a 3year-old child..
    I’m actually also looking for books to deal with this with my children. But I guess I’ll have to be able to handle it on my own first….


    1. Cm – my son cried, too, when we first talked about death. He didn’t want me to die either and it really upset him. Somehow it was okay if other people died, but I was not allowed to die. We read through the Pat Thomas book a few times and he seems to take the concept of death a lot better these days, though. I don’t know if it is the book that helped or whether being able to mull it over in his head has helped him to get used to the idea. It is a tough topic to talk about, though.


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