How To Explain Death To A Child

by Allison LaTona

Dealing with death is difficult at any age.  Specifically, parents often feel great anxiety when they have to explain death to a young child.  Many children first experience death when a family pet passes away and how a parent handles this situation can deeply affect a child's sense of security.  Our culture is generally not comfortable talking about death or the grieving process, and is inclined to shield children from the discussion. Yet talking with children about death, using developmentally appropriate and concrete language, is a valuable opportunity to help children embrace this reality without fear.

How To Explain Death To A Child:

One effective way to handle this is to create a personalized book.  The Twigtale pet loss book is scripted by a noted family therapist and parents are able to easily personalize the story with photos and details to their family and child.  The story focuses on what the child enjoyed about their pet and uses specific and factual language around what’s not working in the pet’s body.  The story reassures the child that, although something stopped working in the pet’s body, the child and parents are healthy.  This maintains the child’s sense of safety.  The story also normalizes the feelings of sadness and anger that naturally comes with loss, and encourages expression.  Finally, the story emphasizes that the child can hold onto their memories and engage in rituals that promote healing after loss.

Twigtale gives parents a playbook of how to handle the pet's death, while memorializing the beloved pet through photos and memories.

Written by Twigtale expert, Allison LaTona.  Allison has nineteen years of experience counseling children, families, couples and individuals, and has facilitated groups in private practice, as well as at Santa Monica’s Babygroup with Donna Holloran, MSW, for over a decade. With fourteen years in the trenches raising two young children of her own, Allison’s personal path complements her professional credentials.  To read more about Allison, click here.


How To Explain Death To A Child was originally published on June 24, 2014. Modifications to style, arrangement, and linked sources were made on December 9, 2015.