Books to Help You Talk to Kids About Death
The tricky conversation you need to have, talking about death to your kids.
People ask me, When is the best time to start talking about death and dying with our child? and How to help my kids to talk about their feelings.
Now is always the best time. When your pet dies is a great time to start or seeing a dead bug. My cat brings in lizards from the garden, this is when I start to talk about what death is. Explain that the lizard can no longer move, breathe or play and is never coming back to life. Children often say, “But their friends will miss them” and queue the grief talk. This is a natural way to talk about death to children.
Books are also a great way to introduce death and start a conversation.
You might find the following list of books helpful to start conversations with your children.
Drop Dead by Babette Cole
Recommended for 4 to 8 year olds, depending on their maturity and how you handle the subject of life and death. I think it’s a humourous way to start the conversation with young children.
Drop Dead is a light hearted journey through Grandma and Grandpa’s lives, eventually dropping dead and being recycled into something else.
It’s a lovely, humorous journey through the grandparents lives, seeing how they really lived and all the mistakes they made along the way. It’s a fascinating book, letting kids know that life is fun, we have wonderful experiences and then it ends. I recommend you read this story if you believe in reincarnation or being open to talking about it. It’s an excellent way to begin conversations about the life cycle with young readers and expand their knowledge on the subject.
You can stop at any part of this book and discuss what’s happening. For example, “Then we went to school” Ask your child about what school’s like for them and how different in was in your day.
Some talking points to discuss throughout the book:
- What do you think school was like in the olden days?
- Do you know what college is like?
- Do you want to go to college?
- Share a story of how you applied for jobs and got them or not
- How you met your partner
- Having children
- Choosing the right partner
- Your life with your partner, the love, hardships and fun times
- Talk about how long people live, dying, death, reincarnation, grief and what it’s all about
Grandmother and Grandfather by Jeannie Baker
Recommended for 6 to 8 year olds.
These are two seperate books and I love them both. I love them because she takes us on a journey with two young children making memories with their grandmother and grandfather. These stories can be read to your child while their grandmother or grandfather are still alive, so they can write their own journal about being with their grandparent and take photos with them and after they die to encourage memories they have of them.
You can help them find photos of them with their grandparent and write stories about the photo. Go to Snappish (on another company) to put these memories in hard copy and when your child feels sad, lonely and missing their grand- parent, they can read the book on come to you to share their grief with you. This is a helpful way to feel that your grief is normal.
A Coat of Cats by Jeri Kroll and Ann James
Recommended for 4 years and up.
This book is about an old lady who lived happily with seven cats, until one day a man knocked on her door and told her that her house was too dangerous to live in and they would move her to a sparkling new flat across the other side of town.
They packed her up and took her away to leave her cats behind. She was sad, lonely and missed them very much. One night she packed food for her cats and a thermos of tea for herself and trekked across town to find her beloved cats waiting for her.
This is a conversation starter book. Ask your children about how the old lady felt about leaving her home and her beloved cats. What do they think the cats will do? What will the old lady do? How will she feel about living in a sparkling new flat on her own? What would she do in her flat?
When she goes back to her old house ask, What if she died? Will she go back to live at her old house? Can the cats save her? If so how? What will happen after she dies? How do you think she’ll die? What will the cats do after she dies?
What Does Dead Mean? By Caroline Jay and Jenny Thomas OBE
Recommended for 4 years and up, for parents and carers to read and explain to their children.
This is a straightforward, no-nonsense book. It asks a question, answers it matter of fact way. Your child will know exactly what death is, nothing is left to their imagination. It talks about why not all people can be saved, what a dead body looks like, the funeral and some skills to help them remember the person.
They touch on grief but don’t state it’s grief. That would be the only criticism of this book but parents can extend on the book.
You can read this book with your child or use it to answer questions your child might think of. Kids have ways of asking random questions at the most in opportune times. Be ready for them and answer them as simply as possible.
That’s Where I Find You by Norliah Syer and illustrated by Matt Howarth
Recommended for 3 to 8 years old, it’s a heartwarming of story of missing a loved one.
A beautifully illustrated book. The only problem I have with the book is they don’t mention death.
The opening paragraph is Have you ever felt so very sad when someone you miss so much Has gone away somewhere… How do you get in touch?
It could have been about a friend moving away but later in the book the illustrations seem to suggest a mother and to me it’s more about the death of a mother rather than someone moving away.
I Have a Baby sister in Heaven by Toni Tattis
Recommended for young children, probably starting at 3 years old when a baby brother or sister dies.
The story is told from the perspective of a young gal, who tells the story about the death of her baby sister, how her parents support her grief and how they share and remember her baby sister.
It lets people know that people die but the relation- ship with them lasts forever.
Ghostbear by Paul McDermott
Recommended for 7 years and older.
This book can mean many different things to different people. You could talk about climate change and what will happen to the polar bear with the ice melting. You can talk about the grief of loneliness and being lost. It’s a story that you can take anywhere you want to go. The book is based around hauntingly, beautiful paintings by Paul McDermott himself. Thoroughly enjoyable book.
This book doesn’t mention death at all. It’s a fantasy story about a bear who’s lost and lonely, can’t find any other living creature until he comes across an owl who tells him to follow him up to the sky. where he finds all his old friends. and began to shine like a bright new star like all his other friends.
It’s a sweet story, beautifully illustrated.
Jenny Angel by Margaret Wild and Anne Spudilas
Recommended for 2 years and up.
Jenny believes she’s an angel because that’s her last name, rust like” people called carpenter J and baker once sawed wood and baked bread, “no to she was an angel, Davey’s guardian angel. She believes that if she watches over him the doctors would be able to save him. It’s a story of how Jenny’s relationship changes over time with Davey. How his illness is wasting him away. Mum talks straight to Jenny to let her know that Davey can’t be saved and he will die. Davey eventually dies but it’s not specifically stated. It begins to talk about how they miss him.
This book opens conversations about all the different feelings you get going through grief, the changing relationships and how parents can help by being honest and open.
The Wrap Up
I love these books because they give openings to talking about death, making conversations natural and more comfortable. I encourage you to read books about death and dying with and to your children, so when you need to talk to your child about someone dying they know exactly what that means. You will also equip them with the knowledge that it’s a natural part of life and that it’s okay not to be okay when someone dies. It’s okay to grieve and let others know that you’re missing someone.
I hope you enjoy reading with your child and having wondrous discussions because kids have not filter and will exiting thoughts to add to your life.
Enjoy and let me know how you go and if you find more great books on death, dying and grief.