Many parents are not sure of how to explain death or dying to a child. Either fearing the child will not understand, or in an attempt to protect the child, adults often avoid the issue.
However, children are capable of experiencing grief and they can often accept death better than many adults. Most importantly, children also need the opportunity to grieve and to say goodbye to a loved one.
The most important things we can do to help children understand death and grieve are to accept and acknowledge their feelings, listen to them, and reassure them of our love.
It is important to tell children the truth in words they can understand as soon as possible after the death. Avoiding the topic of death and funerals may result in the child developing deep-seated fears and anxieties.
Generally the amount of interest the child shows is a gauge of their readiness to be told of an issue such as death. This will usually be expressed through the questions asked.