My grandson is 4 1/2. My family attends a small church so all the families are fairly close to each other. This weekend, one family lost their 8 year old son in a drowning accident. My daughter would like some advice about informing her son about the death of his playmate. Of course she should tell the truth in a simple fashion. Are there landmines out there to avoid? Certainly when the 8 year old isn't in Sunday School anymore, or running about after service or at any of our events, the issue will come up. Should she wait till he asks or should she prepare him?
It's absolutely tragic to have a child die.
Your daughter should tell her son asap that the 8-year-old child has died. Yes, it's hard to have that conversation, because there's no easy way to talk about a child dying.
For a 4½-year-old, I would recommend that you tell your grandson that the child was involved in an accident and died.
Be prepared to explain what death is, and avoid things like "he's sleeping." You can explain that while we are alive our heart beats, we breathe, and we need to eat and drink because food is fuel for our bodies.
A concrete explanation of death could be a simple statement how this 8-year-old was in an accident that caused his heart to stop beating.
Death is a natural part of life, and be prepared to reassure your grandson that you and your daughter are going to be alive for a long time.
From there I think your grandson will have questions, and I would suggest that you not give details about the accident other than general info like it happened at the lake.
Lastly, include a discussion about your feelings about the death of this child and death in general, and explain that after a death people have different ways of showing their sadness and grief, and that it's okay for him and other children to feel sad and also to run and play and have fun.
The question is important, and i think that the kid should be the first who asks.
If kid not ask - he has no need. If he has no need - he have no thought. If he has no thoughts about this - why he need this injury information?
But i think that the most likely the mom will create situation and provoke the kid to ask. But it is less problem.
The ability to ask important questions is only good, that can be learned from this bad case.
And also better, then all of the words, if he ask, to go at the dead-kid grave and to tell that the body of the boy is there in the earth, but his soul(as i understand you go in Church school) with God(?) So, you don't have to create more drama that this tragedy is already has all the content, answer him straight and truthfully but only when he will ask. And better do it - show it, bring the flowers, say good last words on the grave. Maybe he can art something for mark the end of friend earthly life story.
But only if he ask and if he want to do this, if it is important for him.
If it is not important for him - he not need this information yet.