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?

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    It sounds like the family are Christian, considering they go to church together. Is the child being raised within the faith? If so, it would be wise to incorporate that in an answer. Jul 5, 2023 at 14:40

2 Answers 2


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.

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    In my experience, at the age of 4 - 5, a child doesn't really care for long explanations about what death is, except for the concrete consequences, if I may be so crude: his friend is no longer there and is not coming back, and the fact that everybody is feeling very sad.
    – j4nd3r53n
    Jul 5, 2023 at 13:34
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    @j4nd3r53n I lost a sister when I was 3 and can verify that, at least at age 3, concrete consequences are all that I cared about. I was upset to have lost my playmate.
    – Charles
    Jul 5, 2023 at 15:29
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    Thanks for your answer. I liked the bit about "and also to run and play and have fun." As a kid, my emotions were never validated and I tried to make sure my kids and grandkids knew it was OK to be sad and mad.
    – B. Goddard
    Jul 5, 2023 at 17:41
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    Every child's response will be different. We made sure mom, dad, and children were all together to discuss and support each other, and I think that is what is important. My almost 5 year old boy made it clear he no longer wants to discuss it because it made him sad and carried on as usual. My 7yr old daughter was not functional for 24 hours and it took a good week to return to normal, we even involved her teacher for support. The oldest grieved during the discussion but she didn't show much outwardly after that. This was after a premature birth and loss, not quite a playmate.
    – rtaft
    Jul 6, 2023 at 13:35
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    As a religious person with a child this age (just turned 5), we have explained death simply as follows: "There was an accident that hurt her body, and that made her body stop working. It doesn't work anymore so she has gone to be with Jesus in heaven instead. We won't be able to see her anymore because she is in heaven with Jesus and he is looking after her. " I emphasize that the accident caused her death (ie it's not random chance otherwise the child worries it'll happen to them too out of the blue) and i emphasize we won't be able to see them again, but they are OK and being looked after.
    – stan
    Jul 26, 2023 at 14:33

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.

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    If you wait for the kid to ask, you give up all control over when, where and with whom that conversation takes place.
    – Arno
    Jul 4, 2023 at 20:33
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    – Stephie
    Jul 7, 2023 at 14:47

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