How to Talk to Your Toddler About Death

This article was originally published in Masalamommas

Unhappy Pre teen boy in school

Picture courtesy of Masalamommas

 

“Are you going to die?” my 3-year-old asks. Caught off guard, I wasn’t sure how to respond. My daughter didn’t wait for an answer or perhaps saw the bewildered look on my face and decided to hit me with another one. “What does dying mean?” I quickly gave my husband the ‘look’ to help me answer this complicated question, one that had been on my mind for a while. It never ceases to amaze me how children can be attuned to our thoughts at times.

Six months ago the doctors informed my Nani (maternal grandmother) that her lung cancer was terminal and it was only a matter of time. My daughter and I are very close to my grandmother and consider my grandparent’s place our second home. It is often around times of life and death one is inclined to turn towards their faith; any source of spiritual or even existential guidance. I intentionally started talking about God and Heaven to my 3-year-old in as simple a language as I could. Surprisingly she took to the concept of an omniscient presence who is keeping an eye out for all of us, who is everywhere yet also lives in our hearts, pretty easily. She started saying a little prayer to Him every night before going to bed. This prayer always included a request to help her great-grandmother get better soon.

I realized then she understood my Nani was unwell. She worried about it too. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise for me that she asked about death.  I was still unprepared.

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