View Full Version : How do I explain death to a toddler?
My MIL and FIL had to put their dog down yesterday. DH left work early to be there and came home in an absolute state even after going back to his parents after Tess was put down. I was sad but put on my happy face for the boys. DS1 knew Daddy was sad and I tried to explain that it was because Tess had gotten sick very quickly and had to have a big sleep but wouldn't wake up. DS only turned three on Monday so I know he has problems understanding abstract things. He asked DH this morning if he could go give Tess a big hug to help make her feel better. This sent DH into tears again just as he was leaving for work.
Any suggestions on how to try and tactfully explain this to my little boy would be appreciated. I don't want him searching for her the next time we go over or upsetting DH again when he gets home.
I'm a vet and over the years have unfortunately had to perfect what to say to children. I find that even small children will understand in some fashion but will often forget and say something that seems very uncaring. I normally explain that puppy is very sick and can't get better. He hurts a lot and its not very nice but the vet gave him a needle to stop it hurting but it means that he's gone to heaven but it's a lovely place. Helps if there is already a person or another animal in heaven for puppy to talk to.
I'm not sure if this is too complex for a toddler but I hope some of it helps. Any chance of getting a nice picture of the dog for your little boy? I used to find that they loved to have something special.
Luckily I never had any parents tell me they didn't believe in heaven, I'm not sure what I would have done!
Hope you find something that works.
I don't really have the answer, but I would like to say to please stay away from explaining death as going for a long sleep, or going to sleep and not ever waking up. This can really scare a child, and can cause some sleep troubles.
I have found books generally explain things beautifully through stories and illustrations. I'm certain they would have books for children around the topic of death.
I would not. I would lie without any regrets that the dog run away, that he is in doggy hospital, that he stay there till he gets better...whatever but I won't tell him anything about the death... I was very, VERY traumatized by it when I was little so I would avoid it with my child till she is older and not 3. Good luck!
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