3 Ways You Can Help Your Preschool-Aged Child Understand Their Grandparent's Death

16 October 2015
 Categories: , Blog


If your preschool aged child has just lost one of their grandparents, it is up to you to explain to your child what has happened. Here are three ways you can help your preschool-aged child understand the death of their grandparent.

Explain What Happened In Literal Terms

The first thing you need to do is sit your child down and explain to them what happened in literal terms. At this point in your child's life, they see things as they are. Their worldview is extremely literal. Elaborate metaphors and analogies will be lost on your child.

If your child's grandparent has been sick for a long time, explain that their body stopped working and the doctors could not fix their body this time. If they were involved in an accident, tell your child that their body was hurt, could not be fixed, and is no longer working. Don't use metaphors to describe what happened; use words like "dead" and "died". This will help your child develop the appropriate vocabulary to describe what happened to their grandparent.

You also need to let your child know that this does not happen every time that someone is sick; you don't want your child to be afraid every time they get a cold that they are going to die like their grandparents did.

Let Them Know That Dying Is A Part Of Life

Next, you need to let your child know that dying is a natural part of life, and is not something that they have to be afraid of. One way to help your child understand that dying is a part of life is to point out other life cycles to your child.

Your child may not grasp immediately that their grandparent is never coming back. Young children are just beginning to develop a sense of time; as a result, it will take them a while to fully grasp what it means to be dead.

During this time, read about the life cycle of other animals to your child, such as the butterfly. Learning about the life cycles of other animals and plants will help you child understand that life cycles are a part of life.

Let Them Grieve In Their Own Way

Finally, don't expect your child to start crying or to grieve like you would grieve. It may take a while for your child to really grasp that their grandparent is gone. They may not initially be sad when you tell them that their grandparent died since they are still developing a concept of time, and loss is a whole new concept to them.

Don't be shocked if it takes weeks or months for your child to react to their grandparent's death. Their reaction may depend on how often they saw their grandparent. If they saw their grandparent on a daily basis, they will quickly notice their absence. However, if they only saw their grandparent every few weeks, it may take longer for your child to grasp that their grandparent is really gone.

You can help your preschool aged child understand the death of their grandparent by explaining what happened to them in literal terms, and by being there to answer their questions and support them as they come to terms with what it means to have someone in their life die. 

Perhaps taking them to a funeral home, such as Rose's Funeral Home Inc, could also help them understand.