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How to Tell a Child About a Dying Grandparent

Losing a grandparent can be hard to cope with especially as a child. Children don’t have the coping skills to deal with the death of a loved one, so they may show grief in different ways. A child would usually act out on impulse or experience physical discomfort. 

This may disrupt their concentration in school and in worst-case scenarios, cause prolonged grief. A child’s grief response is also based on age, their relationship to the person who died and the support they receive. So how do you help a child through the grieving process

As the parent or guardian, it’s your responsibility to guide them through the death of their grandparent. Keep in mind that you should always approach this conversation with sensitivity, honesty and empathy. With that, here are some tips for telling a child about a dying grandparent.


1. Consider Their Age and Development 

First and foremost, it’s essential to determine your child’s age and level of development. Death is an abstract concept that some children may find difficult to understand. This is especially true for younger children, whereas older kids may have more questions.

Here’s what you can expect from children of different ages:

  • Preschool age (2-4 years old): They think death is not permanent and it can be reversed. Signs of clingy and regressive behaviour are also common. This age group requires more nurturance and attention especially if they were close to their grandparents.
  • Early childhood (4-7 years old): They think death is temporary similar to the preschoolers. Furthermore, they’ll begin to ask more questions like “Where did grandma/grandpa go?” or “What will they eat when they die?”. This age group requires nurturing and attention too. 
  • Middle years (7-10 years old): They begin to understand that death is a normal occurrence. They’ll start to ask more in-depth questions about things related to death such as the burial process and afterlife. This age group might become wary about their own health and they’ll also feel more empathetic towards others. 

Taking their age and level of understanding into consideration will help you structure a conversation tailored to them. This will also prepare you for any questions they may have regarding death.


2. Explain How Death Works 

Once you’ve determined their age and level of understanding, it’s time to explain how death works. Most kids are literal minded and a good way to start is by giving a biological explanation of death. 

You may also use religious beliefs to explain death which oftentimes is a more “child-friendly” way of talking about someone’s passing. As mentioned, death is an abstract concept and your child may not fully grasp that their grandparent is not coming back. 

You may have to explain it a few times, so be sure to use clear language and, above all, be patient. Here’s how you can use the right language: 

  • Be sympathetic by choosing words that will comfort and reassure them. Nevertheless, this does not mean you need to sugarcoat the passing of their grandparent.  
  • Expanding on the previous point, you should always be honest and straightforward when talking about a dying grandparent. Tell them the truth about what is happening and what they can expect. 

Avoid euphemisms such as “sleeping” or “gone away” as it may leave your child confused. As stated, children are literal-minded and they might take these words literally.


3. Explain What Happens Next

Post death rituals such as viewings, funerals, and memorial services can intimidate children. Explain to them the process of death ceremonies and what will happen during these rituals. 

Talk about how it’s a sign of respect to grandpa or grandma and the importance of its tradition to your culture. Let them know that these ceremonies are a time when families come together to say their final goodbyes to Grandma or Grandpa. 

If your child refuses to go, don’t force them as they may not be emotionally ready to go through the process.


4. Discuss Feelings and Emotions 

It’s important for children to discuss their feelings and emotions too. Bottling up emotions can lead to anxiety which might affect their mental and physical health. However, it may be hard for children to discuss their emotions so it’s up to you to encourage them. 

Let them know that it’s okay to feel angry, sad or confused and it’s all part of being human. Reassure them that their emotions are signs that they love their grandparents and it’s important for them to express it. You should also take this time to ease their fear of death. 

It’s normal for children to experience an irrational fear of death after the passing of a grandparent. Let them know that they’ll be fine and death is a process which everyone has to experience. 


5. Listen and Comfort Them 

Last but not least, be sure to hear them out and empathize with what they have to say. Every child reacts to death differently and some may have things to say whereas some may not. Whatever it may be, it’s important to let them know that you are always there to lend an ear. 

Your child could also do with some hugs and kisses so take time to be together with them. Comfort and reassure them that their grandma or grandpa is in a better place and it’s okay to be sad. After some time grieving, divert their attention to activities that’ll help them feel better. 

Some children may take longer to heal so you should always be ready to provide care and comfort. 



The death of a grandparent can be overwhelming and telling a child about it won’t be any easier. Depending on their age and development level, some children may hide their feelings whereas some would not. Some may even be totally emotionless to the whole situation. 

Nonetheless, it’s important to help your child through the grieving process by following the tips above. At the end of the day, death is a universal experience and it’s something every child will have to learn about sooner or later.



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    Funeral Service Singapore

    24 hours hotline:

    +65 8866 3326

    22 Sin Ming Lane
    #06-76 , Midview City
    Singapore 573969

    Memorial Funeral Logo White Footer

    Funeral Service Singapore

    24 hours hotline:

    +65 8866 3326

    22 Sin Ming Lane
    #06-76 , Midview City
    Singapore 573969

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