My son loved the movie The Lion King, but whenever he would encounter the scene where Simba’s father Mufasa dies, he would come to me and tell me that he’s sad. Many times he would ask me if Mufasa is indeed dead, and if he would come back again.
My son’s genuine concern for death and loss as felt through the movie never fails to touch my heart. At 4 years of age, he may not be able to fully grasp the real meaning of death, but he felt empathy for someone’s loss. In his young mind, however, death was temporary, so I felt I still had to explain to him the best way I could what really happens to someone who dies.
Death is perhaps one of the most difficult concepts to explain to our children, but as it is an inevitable reality of life, I knew I needed to talk to mine about it. It is something we will all have to deal with someday, so it would do us good to prepare our kids for life by teaching them early on how to deal with such situations.
A child's concept of death varies with age, and this must be taken into consideration. For instance, children from 0 to 2 years of age definitely have no clear understanding yet of death, while children from 2 to 6 years of age would believe that death is something temporary or reversible. Kids about 5 or 6 years old have literal views of the world they live in, so it’s best to explain death in basic and concrete terms.