Explaining Death to a Toddler

I knew this day was coming. I just didn’t realize how soon it would be here.

We were in the kitchen, discussing Father’s Day.

“Hallie, what should we get daddy for Fathers Day?” I asked her. She told me how she wanted to make a picture for him and make him some cut-out hearts. Perfect! I then asked her what we should get grandpa, my husband’s dad. She didn’t give me an answer, but immediately asked me, “Mom who is your dad?”

Toddlers are smart. They are constantly asking questions, constantly wanting to know what the adults are talking about, and they just want to feel included.

My own father passed away six years ago. She was never able to meet him. I’ve often discussed how I miss him with her, not quite knowing if she was listening or not. 

She was.

“My dad died, honey. He is now in heaven.”  I told her.

In our family, we are very religious and do believe in life after death. I explained to her that when I die, I will see him again, and we will be a family again.

“It’s okay mom. You can feel your daddy in your heart. He loves you so much.” Tears streamed down my cheeks. Father’s Day, for me, is already a hard day to celebrate. But with the help of my toddler, it’s getting easier.

I think we don’t give our little ones enough credit. They are smart! They watch and listen to every move and sound we make. Be honest with them. If you don’t believe in life after death, that’s fine! Explain to them what you do believe.

Explain to them that death is part of life. Everyone will die, but we will always remember our loved ones.

“Mom, I want to die.” My three-year-old said to me one day. I was shocked and stopped dead in my tracks. That’s something no parent ever wants to hear.

“Honey, why do you want to die? I would miss you terribly and cry.” I said.

“I want to live with Jesus and Heavenly Father again and see your daddy.” She replied.

It clicked with her. She knew that if she died, she would be with loved ones again. Although this was a deep conversation we had that night, that understood that she will die when she is older, not young, and we can still feel our loved ones near.

Death is a scary subject to talk about. I could have easily just brushed the conversation aside. But our kids are smart! Talk to them. Be honest with them. I have found my little girl encouraging and comforting me when I miss my dad. Let them comfort you.


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